9. Truth and tolerance,
what does Christ require?
Today's definition of tolerance goes beyond
merely respecting a persons rights.
By Josh McDowell
My son Sean was a high school senior when I asked, "Son,
in 12 years of
public school, were you ever taught that anything is absolutely
Sure," he said. Surprised, I asked him what absolute
truth he had
learned. He shrugged, "Tolerance."
I have since discovered that Sean's experience is common.
become the cardinal virtue, the sole absolute of our society,
children hear it preached every day in school and from government
the media. Yet few of us understand what society really means
tolerance, nor do we realize that it is the central doctrine
entire cultural movement. As a result, few of us recognize
the threat it
poses to us, our children, our churches and our very faith.
One word, two meanings:
The traditional definition of tolerance means simply to
respect others' beliefs, practices, and so forth without
agreeing or sympathizing with them. This attitude, that everyone
right to his own opinion, is what tolerance means to most
But today's definition is vastly different. This new tolerance
every individual's beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims
equally valid. So not only does everyone have an equal right
beliefs, but all beliefs are equal. The new tolerance goes
respecting a person's rights; it demands praise and endorsement
person's beliefs, values and lifestyle.
I believe that fundamental change in meaning - and thinking
one of the greatest shifts in history, and most people are
This new tolerance has many dangerous implications,
and unless Christian
churches and families recognize and respond to it, the beginning
next millennium is likely to be marked by the repression
discourse. For decades, I have addressed millions of high
college students about Jesus Christ and the historical evidence
life and resurrection. As might be expected, I would often
be heckled by
people saying such things as, "Prove it'." and "I
don't believe you." But recently
I have witnessed a startling shift. Now my attacker invariably
says, "How dare you say that?" or "Who
do you think you
are'?" The issue is no longer the truth of the message,
but the right to
proclaim it. In the new cultural climate, any unpopular message
labeled "intolerant" and therefore be repressed.
privatization of convictions:
Because the new tolerance declares
all beliefs equally valid, Christians
will face increasing pressure to be silent about their convictions
school, at work, in the public square - because to speak
out will be
seen as an intolerant judgement of others' beliefs and lifestyles.Such
pressure will pose severe problems not only for us, but for
families and children as well, as illustrated in the case
Berry, a first grader at Bayshore Elementary School in Bradenton,
Shannon and a classmate began talking at recess one day about
mutual faith in Christ. A teacher, overhearing the conversation,
aside both of them and reprimanded the two first-graders,
that they were not allowed to talk about Jesus at school.
The rise of
the new tolerance makes the sharing of our faith an increasingly
What does the Lord require?
It is not too late to avoid such
scenarios, but I believe doing so will
require effort in three areas.
We must humbly pursue truth.
It may be difficult to speak the truth in
today's climate, but Jesus said, "The truth will set
you free." Pursuing
truth in this context means countering the new doctrine of
means teaching our children to embrace all people, but not
It means showing them how to listen to and learn from all
necessarily agreeing with them. It means helping them courageously
humbly speak the truth, even if it makes them the object
of scorn or
We must always remember, however, that when the apostle
Peter told us, "
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks
you to give
the reason for the hope that you have," he added, "but
do this with
gentleness and respect" (1
We must aggressively
practice love. Everyone loves love, it seems, but
few recognize how incompatible love is with the new tolerance.
simply avoids offending someone; we must help our children
live in love,
which actively seeks to promote the good of another person.
says, "You must approve of what I do." Love
responds, "I must
do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior
Tolerance says, "You must agree with me." Love
responds, "I must do
something harder; I will tell you the truth, because I am
'the truth will set you free.'
Tolerance says, "You must allow me to have my way." Love
responds," must do something harder.
I will plead with you to follow the right way,
because I believe you are worth the risk."
seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance glorifies
division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love
I believe the dreadful potential of the new tolerance
can be averted,
but only with a renewed commitment to truth, justice and
love. And, as
it happens, that powerful trio of virtues can do more than
disaster, it can bring about true community and culture in
the midst of
diversity and disagreement.
Five Minutes with Josh mcDowell
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1 Is Jesus God?
2 Can Christianity be proved?
3 Is The Bible really word of God?
4 What so special about Christianity?
5 What about all the war and suffering caused by Christians?
6 If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds can I still reach Heaven?
7 What happens to those who’ve
never heard of Jesus?
8 If God is so good why does he allow evil to exist?
9 Truth and tolerance, what does