Is Christianity Intolerant?

This is one of the most loaded questions you could ever ask!

Typically when the issue is brought forth, it comes bearing the pain of a hot-button issue such as homosexuality, the fair treatment of women, the exclusion of other religions, or something similar. Each of these important issues deserve their own discussion. But in order to stay brief, I’m going to remain general.

I almost find it odd to address this question because no one is really asking it.

Most people are already quite decided whether or not they believe that Christianity is a tolerant religion.

One of the reasons we don’t find common ground is because we aren’t using a common definition.

The word “tolerance” has shifted greatly in meaning over the years. The traditional, old-school definition of tolerance is to recognize and respect and value the other person regardless of whether his/her views differ from your own. This is fully endorsed in Bible. We are to live at peace with one another (Heb. 12:14), to show love and compassion for one another (1 Pe. 3:8), to forgive as Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:32). In fact, there is no other worldview which places as much value on a human person, because only in the Judeo-Christian worldview do we believe every person is made in the very image of God Himself (Gen. 1:27)!

The modern idea of tolerance is quite different, because it doesn’t make a distinction between a person’s belief and the person’s dignity. If I say that I disagree with your view on religion, morality, marriage, etc., and I try to show you why this viewpoint is flawed, I’m attacking you as a person. The Bible does make explicit true and false statements about religion and cultural issues of our time. So in this way it is very intolerant. But the Bible is only intolerant of certain ideas and beliefs, never of people.

I find that the modern idea of tolerance is not very consistent with itself. When you engage with someone on a political debate, does that mean you are intolerant because you do not accept the other person’s beliefs about something like immigration or tax plans? If you condemn Christianity or Islam because they are intolerant, does that mean you are also intolerant because you don’t tolerate their intolerance? Such a modern view of tolerance might look good on paper but nobody really lives by those standards, nor can we, nor should we.

I believe you really can express a real disagreement with someone and still value them as a person. I think the real problem is that we have forgotten how to do so.

We’ve forgotten how to speak truth in love.

Please realize: Nobody wants to be a bigot. (Maybe some do, but they are few and far between!) If I am convinced that the Bible is true, and that Jesus is the only way to God as the Bible says He is (John 14:6), and I go up to my friend and sayplainly, “Jesus is the only way to God,” I do so at great risk! I am fully aware that this could damage our friendship. I’m fully aware that I could be perceived as intolerant. If I didn’t care about the person, why would I tell him that Jesus is the only way to God? Why the drama? But I do care. I care very deeply. I am disturbed that this valuable human being, this image bearer of God, is living a life completely unaware of the joy of knowing the love and saving power of Jesus Christ.

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