Vice President’s Challenge – The Real Tolerance

Dr. Robert Booker, NBBI Vice President

In his 1998 book, “The New Tolerance,” Josh McDowell gives the definitions of “traditional tolerance” and “the new tolerance.” He defines the new tolerance by quoting Fernando Savater who wrote, “Tolerance… is that all opinions are equal… and all should be respected or praised.” I agree that this cancer of unbelief was permeating society and is even more so now, fourteen years later.

But what is real tolerance and biblical tolerance, and how does it fit Christianity today. Is there room for it in our doctrinal and practical standards? The Oxford Dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability to accept things one dislikes or disagrees with.”

The Christian tolerance that I think needs re-defining is the tolerance needed between brothers and sisters in Christ that allows us to disagree on matters that are not critical to our faith without dividing us in regard to fellowship. For example, if I think the new vinyl siding on the parsonage should be white and another thinks it should be gray – does it matter? Should I be disgruntled or upset? Never! Yet, sometimes we let insignificant things divide us. Paul says in I Corinthians 13:5-7, “Charity… seeketh not her own,… beareth all things,… endureth all things.” This simply means that true godly love toward others is not selfish, always finds a way to forgive, and is strong and durable.

Paul strengthens his proposition about how we are to get along in our relationships in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Very likely, if this command was practiced, our tolerance for each other as Christians, in Christian matters, would be high. Of course, Paul goes on to show us the perfect example of humility and grace – Christ Jesus. The Creator of the universe took on Himself the form of a servant and then gave His life and shed His blood because He loved us so much. How can we do any less than love one another and exhibit biblical tolerance, “real tolerance.”

Post by: Robert Booker

This post appears in the April 2012 Open Bible Bulletin.

One Response

  1. Monty
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    William Lane Craig, in “In Intellectual Neutral” (Jan. 3, 2010, Reasonable Faith website), said
    “In “The Closing of the American Mind,” Allan Bloom argues that behind the current educational malaise in this country, lies the universal conviction of students that there is no absolute truth, and therefore truth is not worth pursuing. On their view, all truth is relative: “True for you, maybe, but not true for me.”
    Bloom writes,
    “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. … The danger they have been taught to fear, is not error, but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness. … The point is not to correct the mistakes, and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.”
    Since there is no absolute truth, since everything is relative, the purpose of an education is not to learn truth or master the facts, but rather simply to acquire a skill so that you can go out and obtain wealth, power and fame. Truth has become irrelevant.
    Now this relativistic attitude toward truth is totally contrary to the Christian worldview. As Christians, we believe that all truth is God’s truth, that God has revealed to us the truth, both in His word and in Him who said, “I am the truth,” John 14:6.
    Therefore the Christian can never look upon the truth with apathy or disdain. Rather, we cherish and treasure the truth as a reflection of God Himself.
    Nor does a commitment to truth make you intolerant. The traditional understanding of tolerance is that while I may disagree with what you say, nevertheless, I will defend to the death your right to say it.
    The problem is that the understanding of tolerance in our politically-correct society has now changed. Today, tolerance means, “I dare not disagree with what you say, lest I be branded bigoted and intolerant for daring to do so.”
    But this new understanding of tolerance is logically incoherent, when you think about it.
    Think about it – if you tolerate a view, then the very concept of tolerance presupposes that you think the tolerated view is not true. Otherwise, you wouldn’t tolerate it; you would agree with it! You can only tolerate a view that you regard as false. So the very concept of tolerance entails a commitment to truth.”

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