Need Help? Call Now

The Icon Of Tolerance

The Icon Of Tolerance poster

There’s One Thing Modern Tolerance Will Not Permit…

To hear some people talk, you’d think that sin no longer exists in our society; but if there were one sin left, it would be intolerance. Once a person is branded intolerant, nothing else need be said. They are bigoted and need to be shunned.

But let’s examine some of the definitions of this word tolerance closely.

Legal tolerance is the basic right of everyone to believe whatever they choose to believe and say whatever they want to say. This kind of tolerance means we have freedom to worship or not worship, to be a political conservative or a political liberal. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech must be defended, even when we are offended by what others might say.

Second, there is social tolerance, a basic respect for people of all races, cultures, and economic levels. Here in the United States, we have a blend of people from different countries, religions, and backgrounds, so we must be tolerant in our acceptance of these differences. This kind of tolerance is virtuous.

But today, tolerance often means something very different: It means to be tolerant of almost every kind of aberrant behavior, and it insists that those who disagree with these viewpoints are intolerant. If you oppose radical sexualism, such as same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and abortion, you are intolerant and deserve to be shamed. This kind of tolerance loathes moral absolutes and is tolerant only of those who march in step with the self-defined, “tolerant” crowd. In short, this kind of tolerance is viscerally intolerant of those of us who hold to biblical values.

This new definition of tolerance is sometimes spoken of as a philosophy of “inclusion” and not “exclusion.” But, quite obviously, truth is not inclusive; it is exclusive. Follow carefully: What is the sum of 2+2? There is only one right answer to that question, but an almost infinite number of wrong answers. Truth is stubborn, it can’t be stretched to include a variety of viewpoints. Yes, moral matters are not the same as mathematics, but if there are moral absolutes as the Bible teaches, those absolutes cannot be inclusive of other viewpoints. A.W. Tozer put it plainly in Of God and Men, “Truth is a glorious but hard mistress. She never consults, bargains, or compromises.”

I grant that we as Christians should be tolerant of other believers who differ with us on peripheral doctrinal matters, but we cannot compromise on the essentials. This has practical implications for our witness. If on a talk show you said, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” that would be considered tolerant; after all, you are just sharing your private beliefs. But if you added, “I also believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God for all people,” you would offend many and be branded as “intolerant” and certainly not “inclusive.”

My bottom line: Let us rejoice if we are labeled intolerant, if that means we are intolerant of what God has condemned; we are intolerant of the notion that all religions lead to God; we are intolerant of those who call evil good and good evil. Blessed are the intolerant!

Let us stand before the altar of truth, not kneel at the altar of tolerance; let us stand before the altar of exclusion and not the deceptions of inclusion; and let us bow in worship before the One who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

To speak and live in opposition to misguided ideas of tolerance is difficult, but that is our calling. In our society, we are not allowed to discriminate between what is good, what is best, what is right, what is wrong, what is virtuous, and what is evil. We are scorned if we say we are tolerant of good and intolerant of bad as defined in the Bible.

Wisdom and courage are needed to proclaim absolute truth in an age that prides itself in tolerance.

The New “Tolerance” And The Church: How So-Called “Tolerance” Distorts The Gospel And The Dangers Ahead

Pastor Lutzer charts the path by which America moved from its founding principles to a me-centered culture, in which the search for personal happiness has become, for many, the “chief end of man.” He discusses how the culture has invaded the church, changing how we present the Gospel, and pressuring believers to surrender on crucial moral concerns.

Q: The United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. What is the philosophical basis for the rejection of this heritage and our lurch toward a morally degrading form of tolerance?

A: Yes, America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, but we should reject what is sometimes called “Christian nationalism.” That being said, as a nation, we have moved from a God-centered mindset to a man-centered mindset. That means we have shifted from the question, “What honors God?” to the question “What brings me happiness?”

There was a time when it was generally believed that we existed for God, but today, God is redefined to exist for us. A me-centered worldview will always lead to people doing “what is right in their own eyes.” In other words, they will be tolerant of evil and perhaps even promote it.

Q: What pressures are there in our culture that have led to the acceptance of misguided ideas of inclusion and tolerance you described in your article?

A: I marvel at how discerning the Bible is! Paul says that the day will come when men and women will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth” (2 Timothy 4:3–4). In other words, we are living in a day when our theology is often derived from our passions and not from God’s Word. Because as fallen creatures we want to fulfill the craving of our fleshly passions, therefore we can be easily duped into false but enticing, theories of tolerance and inclusion. There are other pressures, of course, but unbridled human desire is the chief culprit.

Q: So, how do we balance the biblical teaching about sexuality with the fact that we are to be loving and merciful?

A: A great question. We have to be loving but also discerning. There is a kind of love that is evil. The Bible warns about those who are lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of money. Jesus said, “This is love that you keep my commandments” (see John 14:15, 21). So yes, we must balance biblical truth and biblical love. It’s difficult but not impossible! Jesus Himself models how this can be done.

Q: Has our culture affected the way in which the Gospel is presented in evangelical churches today?

A: Yes. Today, the Gospel is often preached in a way that emphasizes how salvation benefits us in this life: it leads to a better marriage, it helps us become prosperous, and brings us personal peace, etc. That may of course be true as fruit of the Gospel, but the essence of the Gospel in the New Testament is that salvation shields us from the wrath of God.

Today, church consultants tell us that we should preach to people’s “felt needs.” Perhaps that’s true—but when unbelievers stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment, their greatest “felt need” will be for the righteousness of Christ. We must see that the primary purpose of the Gospel is not our happiness but God’s glory.

Q: What do you see for the future of the church in our culture?

A: Too often, the church succumbs to the culture rather than resisting it. And there is no area in which we are more vulnerable than in the matter of sexuality. So, there will be increasing pressure to accept same-sex marriage and tolerate other forms of immoral lifestyles.

But, sadly, many churches are substituting social justice teachings in the place of the Gospel. This is a tragic loss. Social justice can be defined in many different ways, but even at its best, it is not the Gospel. The Gospel is not what we can do for Jesus, but rather, what Jesus has done for us as needy sinners. That is the message that is most needed.