The Idol of “Tolerance”
When the young French sociologist, De Tocqueville, wrote his seminal work, Democracy in America, his central thesis was the tyranny of the majority in America. This is certainly true in the present cultural climate in America. As D. A. Carson points out in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, we live in a culture that puts a supreme value on towing the line when it comes to a worldview. There is simply no room for dissent. Despite all the rhetoric about being “tolerant,” those on the left (politically and theologically) are some of the most intolerant people around.
The 2008 movie, Expelled, narrated by Ben Stein pointed this out so well when it comes to the creation – evolution controversy in secular universities. The same thing even holds true in many “Christian” colleges. When it comes to topics like evolution, the scientific community is a very closed, tight-knit fraternity that you only contradict if you don’t care about a paycheck. However, the biblical call is clear: we are to carry a so-called intolerant message that many find offensive, and we are to do so in a loving manner. As Francis Schaeffer pointed out years ago, the “mark of the Christian” is not a watered-down message, but a clear message of God’s love and wrath brought by people who love and deeply care about lost people going to hell. A message brought by people who respect and listen to others as they share God’s story from the Bible. That is true love and tolerance.
“Why are you so intolerant!?” is an accusation I’ve received on more than one occasion. Every follower of Jesus, if they’ve been obedient to share the gospel, has probably been accused of being intolerant. Sadly, the debate about Christianity has shifted from “Is it true?” to “Is anyone offended?” The problem is that the gospel message is, by its very nature, offensive.
The gospel declares that we are sinful by nature, rebels against a holy God, deserving of hell, and that we can do nothing to save ourselves. That is not exactly a consumer-friendly message in our therapeutic, feel good culture. Even in churches there is a fair amount of pressure from many to offer a message that has a positive spin to it. For example, in Willow Creek’s Reveal Survey, attenders were asked to rate how “inspirational” their sermons are. I’m not sure how high Jeremiah’s, Jesus’, or John the Baptist’s sermons would have rated on the “inspirational” scale. Tolerance is indeed a modern idol to which our culture demands we bow.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor