Friday, July 23, 2010

Redefining Tolerance

From a recent front page article in USA Today, we learn that evangelical Christians are leaving evangelical Christianity en masse, particularly children—70% of them leaving the Christian faith, no longer believing that the Bible is the infallible repository of redemptive revelation or that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

Today, tolerance is being redefined to mean that all views are equally valid and all lifestyles equally appropriate. As such, the notion that Jesus is the only way is vilified as the epitome of intolerance.

Rather than capitulating to the culture, however, Christians must be equipped to expose the flaws of today’s tolerance, while simultaneously exemplifying true tolerance. To say all views are equally valid sounds tolerant but in reality is a contradiction in terms. If indeed all views are equally valid, then the Christian view must be valid. The Christian view, however, holds that not all views are equally valid. Thus, the redefinition of tolerance is a self-refuting proposition.

We do not tolerate people with whom we agree. We tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid, there would be no need for tolerance.

Today’s redefinition of tolerance leaves no room for objective moral judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a “Mother Teresa.” With no enduring reference point, societal norms reduce to mere matters of preference; and, as such, the moral basis for resolving international disputes and for condemning such intuitively evil practices as genocide, oppression of women, and child prostitution is seriously compromised.

In light of its philosophically fatal features, Christians must reject today’s tolerance, and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that, despite our differences, we treat every person we meet with dignity and respect due them as those created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming truth, but it does mandate that we do so with gentleness and respect.

In a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity, Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty. As Jude puts it, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (vv. 22–23).

We should not be microcosms of the world—but change-agents within the world…because Truth matters.


Anonymous said...

God clearly teaches tolerence in the way he instructed the Jews to treat foreigners in their land. However, it is equally clear that the kind of tolerence people are talking about today is not what God had in mind; witness the consequences God's people reaped when Soloman built alters to foreign gods for his foreign wives.

chinyaray said...

Thank you for this Hank! I am in California and with the recent overturn of Prop 8, tolerance is a word commonly misused. This is a great source to revisit as I am constantly in defense of my faith-based opposition to certain lifestyles and behaviors.

Lightning Baltimore said...

True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming truth, but it does mandate that we do so with gentleness and respect.

Your condemnation of same-gender marriage belies your definition of "true tolerance." Demanding LGBT citizens be legally denied marriage equality shows neither gentleness nor respect.

Gentleness and respect would be to say, "My religious views are in conflict with yours, but I believe in the US Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion, due process and equal treatment under the law. While I may disagree with you on religious grounds, I respect that my views should not have legal sway over yours. May God bless you and one day show you the light."

Anonymous said...

This society is already tolerent of same sex couples. The anti-sodomy laws have all been taken off the books: we have gone from a society that prohibits this behavior to one that permits this behavior. To ask society to redefine marraige as a coupling between two people of the same sex is beyond tolerence and asking for validation and sanction of an abnormal behavior.
What is the purpose of government as regards this issue? I would suggest it is to promote the general welfare of society and to protect the innocent. I see no societal benefit to same sex marraige. Rather I see further coarsenening of society. Once we redefine marraige as coupling between two people, rather than the safest environment to raise children, we can expect to see higher rates of illegitimacy and fatherless homes and all the societal ills that accompany that situation. Marraige is about children. I think we can all agree that the best childhood involves a mother and a father commited to each each other and their children. Promoting this relationship should be the purpose of government as regards marraige.
Governments are created to restrict behavior not for the purpose of sanctioning everything that an individual may want to do.

Anonymous said...

Same sex marraige is not a religious issue. After all the USSR (the ultimate atheistic state) did not allow same sex marraige. The issue is what kind of behavior we want to promote as a society. No law can prevent an individual from a particular behavior. We have laws against murder, thievery, and drug abuse but clearly that has not prevented their occurence; all our laws do is encourage or discourage behavior.
When we create laws that allow a behavior the result is encouragement. Can anyone deny that the advent of no fault divorce has not resulted in an increase in the divorce rate? Is gambling a bigger problem since it has recieved government sanction? You increase the speed limit from 55 to 70, and now everyone drives at 80 or 85.
It seems to me that as a society we want to encourage behavior that if everyone were doing it society would benefit. For example if everyone told the truth society would clearly benefit. If everyone drove the speed limit and obeyed other traffic laws, society would clearly benefit. Can you imagine the devastation to our society if everyone were to marry someone of the same sex?
The fact that homosexual activity is prohibited to Christians and Jews is not an arguement that this a religious issue any more than is the case with murder or theft, both of which are prohibited in the Bible as well. If we were to strike down every law we have for which some precedent in the Christian Bible could be found, we would certainly be in a pickle.

Anonymous said...


Lightning Baltimore said...

So you're tolerant of gay folks, so long as they know their place, eh?

Basing an argument against same-gender marriage on the laws of the former USSR is one of the most ridiculous things I've seen yet.

Homosexuality is in no way comparable to "murder, thievery, and drug abuse."

It seems to me that as a society we want to encourage behavior that if everyone were doing it society would benefit.

If everyone were encouraged to form lasting, committed relationships, society would benefit. Promoting discrimination, however, benefits no one. In addition, it is antithetical to the founding principles of this country.

We live in the USA, not on the Animal Farm. Our Constitution does not say everyone is equal but some are more equal. That, however, is how you want it interpreted.

Do you realize how insane it is to suggest that "everyone [would] marry someone of the same sex," if marriage equality was granted? It would never happen. The vast majority of people are heterosexual. Ending legalized discrimination against homosexuals is not going to turn the entire human race gay.

John being able to marry Phil is not going to make Jenny stop liking Billy, and Billy her.

Beagle said...

The only thing children of same sex parents need protection from is the horrific cruelty imposed on them by the intolerant and ignorant and religious.

Beagle said...

The "validity" of specific points of view has nothing to do with whether or not we should be tolerant. True tolerance requires the utmost humility because it forces you to admit to the possibility that your own point of view could be wrong...a level of humility that very few Christians I've met have...and at minimum, it requires a vast degree of empathy because it forces humans to admit that all of us have a different experience from birth on. Experiences that shape us and make us who we are and what we believe & how we behave. If all of the Christians who follow this blog happened to be born in China instead of the USA you would all be atheists instead of Christians and so on. It's a matter of free will. And, by the way, each individual's right to free will ends ONLY when it impedes on others' free will (i.e. terrorism).

Anonymous said...

Lightning Baltimore I am sure you understand that I am not equating homosexuality with murder, nor am I suggesting that we emulate the former USSR. You however want to frame this as a religious issue; and it is not. Nor is it an issue of equal rights. You have the same rights as everyone else. Assuming you are a man, you have the right to marry the woman of your choice, barring incest, polygamy, and certain restrictions on minors. Your failure to avail yourself of this right does not obligate society to provide you with an alternative. You have the liberty to associate with whom you choose, but you ask for license.
You have to tell me what benefit society would reap from commited lasting sexual relationships between members of the same sex, because I don't see it. If you tell me that this would get the homosexuals off the streets trying to recruit our sons and daughters, I could give that some consideration.

Anonymous said...

actually, homosexual behavior IS comparable to "murder, thievery, and drug abuse." All are sinful and anti-social. This is true according to ALL major religions of the world.
So in demanding that society accept even validate such behavior, there comes the demand that adherents to those religions have their rights abridged.
So here is the rub. Truly, light has no fellowship with darkness.