Religious Tolerance – What is it?
Religious tolerance in many philosophical circles is now known as the “New Tolerance.” This is the politically correct position that all beliefs and life styles should be accepted no matter how illogical or misguided. It seems that the only exception to New Tolerance is Christianity, because of its so-called “exclusive” nature. The biblical and traditional position of tolerance in Christianity is to be tolerant of all people and religious beliefs, but intolerant of sin.
Religious Tolerance – Traditional Meaning of Tolerance
Webster defines tolerance as “to recognize and respect (other’s beliefs, practices, etc.) without sharing them,” and “to bear or put up with (someone or something not especially liked).” This attitude is basically what Paul expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:7 when he said that love “always perseveres.”
Traditional tolerance is perfectly compatible with scriptural commands such as the following:
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
- "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).
Religious Tolerance – What is New or Different Today?
The emergence of the New Tolerance philosophy, by simply changing the definition in a subtle way and merging the behavior that requires tolerance with the person himself, has turned the concept of religious tolerance upside down. This subtle change in the definition is based upon the philosophy of relative truth. Relative truth negates the belief that some beliefs are true and some are false. As a consequence, all beliefs are equally valid and all must be accepted. Combining the behavior with the person makes anyone not accepting the behavior “intolerant.” Consequently, by accepting the New Tolerance we’ve gone from rejecting bad behavior to accepting it.
The New Tolerance not only expects us to accept all behaviors, values, and beliefs, but also expects us to approve of them, and in some cases to celebrate them.
Religious Tolerance - Conclusion
Religious tolerance and the New Tolerance philosophy is built on a foundation of relative truth and cultural relativism. However, proponents of the “New Tolerance” seem to be intolerant of Christianity. As Christians, we’re called to a higher standard than “tolerance” -- we’re called to love our neighbor. Simply, we must love the sinner, yet remain intolerant to the actual sin.
The New Tolerance is just the latest byproduct of religious tolerance and moral relativism, both of which continue to bolster the firming foundation of secular humanism in our culture.
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