We now move to the next lens crafted by the enlightenment through which we westerners view the world. It is the lens of tolerance. Of course, the enlightenment did not create the idea of tolerance, for it is indeed a Christian virtue. Unfortunately, coming out of all the religious strife of the 16th and 17th centuries, tolerance was not seen to be a particularly Christian trait. Out of this failure, the philosophers of the enlightenment were convinced that religious convictions were absolutely at odds with peace. Standing above the religious quibbling, the architects of secular society styled themselves as the apostles of tolerance. Today their progeny are tolerant of almost everything except Christianity, which at heart is completely adverse to the secular agenda.

Again, tolerance is a Christian virtue that manifests itself in true love, respect, and compassion for other people. We have all seen the popular bumper sticker ‘coexist” written in various religious symbols. Surely we can and must embrace others who have completely different world views and religious convictions than we have, and to this extent, there is some truth to this bumper sticker. There is absolutely no room for an intolerance that demeans or disrespects others. All intolerance that arises out of fear and desperation to control others is evil.

“Tolerance” is such a kind and wonderful concept that it is easy to miss something very dark hiding in its shadows. First of all, tolerance can be a code word for moral laxity, especially the breaking down of sexual boundaries established by nature and Scripture. Secondly, the kind of tolerance our society espouses inevitably leads to religious indifference. If there is nothing worth dying for, is there really anything worth living for? Christians must be on fire; ready to die for what they believe. A mind numbed by secular tolerance passively retreats into its own little world, bullied by the world into submission.

The secular world tells us that if religious belief is worth dying for, it inevitably means that it is worth killing for, and shames Christians with past examples of this. I think we Christians have to take this criticism to heart without losing our fire and conviction. Are not many of the divisions among us the result of the failure of our fathers of the 16th and 17th centuries to iron out their differences in a godly fashion? How come Protestants are so intolerant of Catholics, and Catholics so intolerant of Protestants? Why must we drag around the balls and chains forged in old 16th century controversies? Why cannot we study deeply what each other is saying, not for the purpose of argument, but for the purpose of understanding? Why is it that the whole idea of Christian unity is of little or no value to us?

I am absolutely convinced of two things: 1) If our fathers in the time of the Reformation worked out their differences in all love and humility, there never would have been the so-called Enlightenment. 2) If we now abandoned our intolerance by focusing all of our energy into Christian unity, secular humanism would dry up and wither away before our united front. Our fathers on both sides of the isle will be judged for the schism of the 16th century. We will be judged for not working toward mending the fences.

One Response to “Tolerance”

  1. A couple of thoughts:

    Thanks for outright stating that tolerance is a Christian virtue- in fact I don’t think tolerance goes far enough- we are told to not just tolerate our enemies but love and pray for them. This is irrational for the natural mind yet is a perfect result of life of Christ in a person. We can’t help believing and loving so strongly because it is the inward compulsion of his love flowing outward. Some it seems have lost the difference between dying for what one believes in vs. killing for it. Again I agree that it must start within the faith as we display charity regarding our non-essential differences.

    It never ceases to amaze me how those who champion the enlightenment so easily miss that many of its principles are in some way derived from the Biblical view of humanity and are ironically in direct contrast to the dearly held Darwinian philosophical world view. Talk about irrational- All the more reason for us to press on in our radical Love and Reason to help liberate those who do not believe in Ultimate Truth, yet bet their everyday lives on its existence.

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