Tolerance, Intolerance, and Truth
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption….” (2 Peter 2:19)
In the recent dispute over whether the chaplain of the House of Representatives would be Roman Catholic or Protestant, conspicuously absent was any concern for the soundness of either candidate’s doctrines. Transient political expediency outweighs eternal truth. Much Protestantism is just as heretical as Catholicism, but who cares anymore what God has to say? In today’s view, only intolerance would suggest that religious belief must conform to God’s Word.
Suppose a true Christian became chaplain. He could hardly forget that he must please the members of Congress to retain his $138,000-per-year salary. To declare that all who would not believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation were eternally lost would be intolerable intolerance. Any Congressmen who publicly agreed would likely be voted out by their constituents. To examine anyone’s moral or spiritual beliefs on the basis of Scripture, facts or logic is now prima facie proof of bigotry. Satan must be laughing. We can be honest and frank—except about that which is most important.
Presidential candidate George W. Bush, Jr. was severely criticized for having spoken at Bob Jones University, because BJU exposes Roman Catholicism as unbiblical and hopes to win Catholics to Christ. BJU’s concern for the lost, though sincere and loving, is labeled “anti-Catholic.” To test Catholicism by God’s Word is automatically regarded as “Catholic bashing.”
Succumbing to pressure, Bush apologized. Whether Catholicism is true to Christ and His Word, and whether BJU’s position is biblical, was treated as apparently irrelevant. To confront that vital issue, no matter how carefully, would be political suicide. Catholics would take offense and their votes would be lost—too great a price to pay for their eternal souls.
The “Festival of Faith,” held in Phoenix, Arizona, January 15, 2000, drew 35,000 people from about 400 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches. When asked why Mormons were excluded, Paul Eppinger, executive director of the sponsoring Arizona Ecumenical Council, explained that full unity among all religious groups, including “Latter-day Saints,” would come in time. Never mind that Mormonism has an ascending hierarchy of numerous gods who are physical men, each a former sinner, each redeemed by one of many Jesuses on different earths, and that “salvation” involves secret rituals which exalt Mormons to become gods ruling over their own earths, each with another Adam and Eve, another Satan and fall, another Jesus to die, etc.
Mormons seem to be good family people with conservative values. And they talk about God, Christ, salvation, resurrection, eternal life—but why pretend they mean what Christians mean? How else could Jimmy Carter, prominent Southern Baptist and Bible-class teacher, insist that Mormons are Christians and not to be evangelized?
The Battle for God, which made best-seller lists, discusses “commonalities” of Jewish, Muslim and Protestant fundamentalism. Of course, it carefully avoids the “bigotry” of deciding which view might be correct. That one could write an entire book about “fundamentalists” without concern for whether the fundamentals they teach are true is a reflection of our time.
Common sense tells us that the tolerance required today toward religious beliefs would be madness if applied to any other issue. Should police be tolerant of crime, doctors tolerant of disease, judges tolerant of false testimony, etc.? Yet a tolerance is mandated in spiritual matters which in any other context would be lunacy.
Imagine a doctor who thinks it’s narrow-minded to give a definite diagnosis and suggests that one medicine or surgery is as good as another. That would be as ridiculous as an NBA or NFL player accusing referees of “intolerance” for enforcing rules! Yet God is not permitted to have any rules that we can’t bend or revise to suit our selfish ends! No wonder that we have an epidemic of cheating in schools. If it is each person’s privilege to set his or her own standards in the realm of eternal and spiritual values, then why not in everything else? Retired school teacher B.D.L. Weide warns that “every unchecked cheater or successful rule-breaker weakens the overall mesh of society.” What does “cheating” God do?
Undeniably, the entire physical universe is bound by laws which God, its Creator, has imposed. Were that not true, utter chaos would reign and nothing could exist. We see God’s hand also in the animal world in the instincts He has given the smallest creatures, instincts without which they could not survive. Nor can human conscience be explained apart from God.
One often hears the complaint, “There’s no justice in this world!” How do we recognize the absence of a perfect justice we have never observed? The famous “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, confronts us with a love so pure, so beautiful, so wonderful that it is beyond human capacity. Yet we recognize that this is love as it ought to be. We innately know that perfect justice, love, truth, etc. exist which are not of earth—proof that man was made in the moral and spiritual image of God and that the memory of that from which he has fallen is stamped indelibly on his soul and spirit.
Whatever he does and wherever he goes, man must act within the physical laws God has established to govern the physical universe. Logic, factual observation and conscience agree that God has ordained equally definite spiritual laws. It is therefore the utmost folly (though it passes for sophistication and academic prowess) to imagine that one can defy with impunity God’s moral and spiritual laws. All of the evidence we see in nature and in our own hearts shouts to us that the consequence of breaking God’s spiritual laws is far more severe than that of violating physical laws. One is eternal, the other temporal.
Einstein acknowledged the intricate design of the universe, but he credited this to mathematics rather than to a personal Creator. That’s an appealing idea, because mathematics holds no one accountable for sin. Even though mathematics may express the design and function of atoms and molecules and thus of living cells, it could not have brought either itself or the material universe into existence. Mathematics possesses neither energy, creative power nor intelligence to cause anything to happen. Furthermore, mathematics has no formulas to express (much less to explain) soul and spirit, thought and emotion, justice and truth, right and wrong, love, joy, sorrow, and anger. Einstein surely knew this, but even the most brilliant minds can be blinded by the proud passion to escape accountability to a personal God. The folly is even greater, however, of those who profess to believe in this God and yet imagine that He accepts every religion.
Just as politicians have learned to couch their enticing promises in ambiguous phrases, so religious leaders, too, have learned that one must not be “narrow-minded” if one hopes to attract a large following. Spiritual and moral generalities tickle ears and can be made appealing even to atheists. Robert Schuller, master of this strategy, declares with apparent sincerity, “That’s what sets me apart….We know the things the major faiths can agree on. We try to focus on those without offending those with different viewpoints….” Practicing what he preaches, Schuller adroitly manages to please a weekly TV audience which includes (he says) more than a million Muslims, thousands of pastors (Catholic and Protestant) and hundreds of rabbis.
Never mind that the “major faiths” don’t agree even on God or heaven, much less on Christ or the gospel. It is apparently more important to avoid offending those in false religions than to rescue them from hell. Politicians in both podium and pulpit are experts at political correctness for popularity’s sake. The very phrase “politically correct” is a damning indictment of politics—and now it fits many church leaders as well!
One is reminded of Pat Robertson’s try for the Republican presidential nomination. He was challenged by reporters who complained that as an evangelist he would, if elected, push his evangelical beliefs. Robertson protested that he was not an evangelist, but a talk-show host, and wouldn’t push a religious agenda on anyone. How quickly expediency swallows professed convictions!
Commenting on the Bush/BJU fiasco, The Jerusalem Post deplored what it called “Catholic-baiting.” Careful not to take sides, it also criticized “slinging aspersions on evangelical Christian leaders” and faulted John McCain for calling Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance.” The Post opposed “bashing religion—any religion.” It seems that disagreement, no matter how sincere or factual, with anyone’s religious beliefs (other opinions are fair game), is “bashing.” In religion, one must be “tolerant” to a degree not otherwise required. Such is increasingly the atmosphere today. True believers must confront this folly firmly for the sake of the many being led astray.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by phone on “Spiritual Seeker,” a popular radio program. The host boasted that for two hours every Sunday night they take time to talk about God, religion and spirituality and feature a panel of “experts” to do so. “Experts” on God? I tried to suggest that instead of our talking about God, we ought first to consider carefully what God has said about and to us. That simple logic was dismissed.
Recently Hal Taussig, Jesus Seminar founding member and United Methodist pastor, called for “new creative myths” to replace the Bible’s outdated mythology. Modern “scholars” prefer one myth over another and even create their own? Is this a joke? Why persist in scholarly studies of myths and lies? We didn’t invent Christianity, so we can’t reinvent it.
The Bible is our only source of what Jesus said. This is where we learn of Him, and if that record is not true, then we know nothing of Him. To speculate about whether Jesus might have said or done this or that is a complete waste of time.
Many so-called scholars call Jesus “a good man” but ignore His claim to be God and the only Savior. If His claims are not true, then He was either a self-deceived egomaniac or a deliberate liar, but surely not a good man! By modern standards, Jesus is the consummate bigot for saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Had the followers of Jesus simply presented another god to add to the Roman pantheon, that would have been accepted. But they declared, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must [not may] be saved” (Acts:4:12). On that point they would not compromise, because they loved the lost and they knew that the gospel of Christ offered man’s only hope of salvation. For that intolerant attitude many were tolerantly thrown to the lions.
The watered-down gospel many preach today is of a tolerant “God” who exists solely for our benefit. We are not told to come as repentant sinners confessing our guilt under the just condemnation of a Holy God. Instead, we are persuaded to “make a decision for Christ” because everything will work out better for us if we do. That is not the gospel.
To believe Christ died for our sins is to acknowledge that we are vile sinners, that God’s penalty for sin is just, and that Christ’s death has paid that penalty in our place. Trusting Jesus for salvation involves turning from one’s sin. It is irrational to imagine that Christ took the penalty so that we could continue in sin. As Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid” (Rom.6:1-2).
The promise that whosoever believes in Christ “shall not perish” (Jn.3:16) implies that if we do not repent by turning to Christ through believing in Him, we shall surely perish. The promise that he who believes in Christ “shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (Jn.5:24) is only good news to those who realize that they are under condemnation. Yes, unrepentant sinners are “condemned already” (Jn.3:18).
The insistence in so-called free societies upon an irrational tolerance actually exerts an intolerant totalitarian pressure. We see this with homosexuality and evolution. One may make statements only in favor of these beliefs and is branded a bigot or hateful or “antiscience” for saying anything to the contrary. Homosexuals influence a huge voting block, and evolutionists control the schools; hence the power both wield over society.
“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame…” (Phil.3:19) perfectly fits those who reduce man to an animal and/or hold “Gay Pride” parades to flaunt practices that cut life expectancy nearly in half and would destroy the entire human race were we all to embrace them. In their intolerance of correction, whatever they crave to satisfy their lusts becomes the rule. No higher authority than one’s basest desires is acknowledged. Seemingly, man has evolved into a little god. We’re back to the lie of the serpent in the Garden. In fact, that is what this “tolerance” is all about: rebellion against the God who created us.
God’s laws and His way of salvation are not ours to revise. Christians must preach an uncompromising gospel, totally relying upon the Holy Spirit to reach and convict the lost. This is the only “intolerance” of which the world should be able legitimately to accuse a Christian—and it ought to be our badge of faithfulness. TBC
- Seduction: A Primer for Persecution? (pilgrimpassing.com)