Published July 27, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Tolerating Toleration"

What does today's society consider its greatest and highest virtue?

Honesty? Fidelity? Love? Faithfulness? Life? Liberty?

Nope. Judging from secular society's words and actions, the highest virtue today is "tolerance." To put it the other way around, liberal society's greatest sin is "intolerance."

What does "tolerance" mean? The Random House Dictionary says it is a "permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own."

A Christian doesn't have to look far these days to find "opinions and practices that differ from one's own." It seems every day brings some new revelation, some new ruling, some new government policy that is completely contrary to what Christians believe based on God's inspired Holy Word.

But that's OK. We're supposed to be tolerant of all that, you know.

But "anything goes" is not a Christian philosophy. Rather, it is a clear characteristic of Satan's ongoing war against God. It started in the Garden: "Just go ahead, eat that fruit. God won't care. He really didn't mean what He said. Do whatever you want... I mean, hey, it's your life... You're in control."  (It's no wonder the Antichrist is called the "lawless one.")

Unfortunately, this "anything goes" concept resonates with today's "me first" generation.

Chuck Colson illustrates how far it's gone: "Tolerance used to mean an open market for the free discussion of everyone's truth claims. Not anymore. Over the past few decades, it has been redefined to be the notion that not only should I have the right to do what I want to do, but you have to approve of it, as well."

But Christians are not to buy into this fallacious notion. We are not to approve of actions we know are wrong. We are called to take a stand for what's right – God's truth. To our great shame, though, it's just not happening as much as it should. Many churches, for whatever reason, have set aside clear Bible teachings in favor of "tolerance." "If we can just all get along..." "Let's just concentrate on the prosperity God wants for you." "Sure, God calls your lifestyle an ‘abomination,' but, hey, no big deal, we're all friends here... Surely, God really didn't mean what He said. What the Bible says is clearly outdated, anyway..."

The liberal intelligentsia love nothing more than to ridicule Christians, illustrating clearly that they are "intolerant" of Christianity for being "intolerant." Paul admonished the Corinthians that because they considered themselves "wise" they chose to "tolerate the foolish gladly" (2 Cor. 11:19) rather than to correct their false doctrines. "For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face" (v. 20, NASB). It all goes back to the source, Paul said: "Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder his servants can also do it by pretending to be godly ministers..." (vs. 14-15).

This spiritual toxin continues to infect today's church. The Browders have a popular song out called "Message of the Cross," the first verse of which sums it up well:

The pulpit has lost power
In churches of today
Seeking to appease the masses
Leaders compromise the faith
They refuse to defend
The truth by which we're saved
But there are sinners lost
Without God's atoning grace.*

Dr. Woodrow Kroll, speaking recently on the "Back to the Bible" broadcast, said, "A church of tolerance is a church that allows into its doctrine and into its practices the things that it's supposed to be against. In the 21st century society, we don't want to appear to be negative. We don't want to appear to be against anything. So while we may believe the Christian doctrine as we find it in the Bible, if we don't speak out against other doctrines that are not found in the Bible, then we're tolerating those doctrines – and that's an example of the universal church of toleration." It's the kind of church Christ criticized at Thyatira (Rev. 2).

Wherever truth is sacrificed , wherever Biblical standards of right, wrong and personal responsibility are set aside in the vaunted name of "tolerance," you can be sure God is not in it. G. K. Chesterton, a great British writer from the last century, said, "Tolerance is the virtue of the people who don't believe in anything." And, as Alexander Hamilton famously said, "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." (Doesn't that describe today perfectly?)

Society has been preaching "tolerance" for so long that it's clearly having an impact on Christianity – especially today's younger generation. A recent Barna study found that today's Christian teenagers are far less likely to share their faith with peers. A 1997 study found 63 percent had done so, whereas a 2009 study found that number had dropped to just 45 percent. A Barna researcher explains it this way: "Christian teenagers are taking cues from a culture that has made it unpopular to make bold assertions about faith or be too aggressively evangelistic..." Columnist Thomas Sowell notes that American school children have long been indoctrinated in such a way as to induce "acceptance of alternative values...."

Behind this trumpeting of "tolerance" is the New Age belief that all religions are valid, that there are "many paths" to heaven or utopia or nirvana or whatever. As a result, when a Christian says he alone has the truth, he is, by definition, branded as "intolerant."

But it's been said that tolerance toward all faiths is obedience to none. And we as Christians clearly have no choice in the matter. Jesus unambiguously said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). And Peter boldly asserted, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). If this is the truth — which, of course, as Christians we believe it is — then everything else is false.

Part of the problem today is that so many Christians don't know the fundamentals of the faith. They don't really know what they are to believe! As a result, they either accept false teaching as truth, or, at very least, don't know how to refute it. Don't let that describe you. Jesus had the answer: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). In order to defend the truth, you first have to know it. The better you know it, the better you can defend it with conviction.

So read the Bible regularly, devour good Bible preaching in church and on the radio. Read trusted Bible-based teaching books. Participate in a solid Bible study group. Know what you believe. Know the truth. And miss no opportunity to stand up for it in love.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).

- Paul

*Lyrics by Matthew & Sonya Browder, BMI

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