Vol. 3, No. 6
In the day and time in which we live, we are hearing a great deal about the word "tolerance," both in the secular world and in the religious world. There was a time when people firmly believed in certain things and they would without fear or rancor stand for those things. In the past, we had the era of the great debates, in both religion and politics, but the present climate seems to be that one should take the position that everyone can be right about everything, and that we should not question what a person believes so long as he is sincere in that belief. (One does not know how one could know of the sincerity of another unless one would accept every person's unilateral statement of his sincerity.) When one ascribes to this point of view, that means that the sincere Hindu is as much of a child of God as a sincere Christian. There may be some who claim to be Christians who believe this, but there are no sincere Hindus who do!
All of us practice tolerance to some degree or another, whether we agree with certain ideas or not. For example, those of us who are members of the churches of Christ, with but a very few exceptions believe that baptism is essential to the salvation of the human soul. Other religious bodies agree with this, but disagree on what constitutes baptism. Other religious bodies take the position that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Yet, we work together in the factory or at the office, and neither side appeals to the courts of the land to stop the other from believing what he does. We do not try to bring any kind of harm or discomfort to those people who differ on the matter, but at the same time, we hold as one of our rights to firmly disagree with them. This is true tolerance, but that is not what the postmodern man, theologian or otherwise is saying. He is saying that the two views mentioned above should be held to mean that both are right! That simply cannot be! If one man holds that the sum of two plus two is four, and another that it is seven, they cannot both be right in this matter. However, there exists the possibility that when two disagree both are wrong!
But the question that should come to the mind of the Christian is "how tolerant is God?" When we look into the Old Testament, we find that God was not very tolerant toward idolatry. In the Book of Deuteronomy alone, God insisted, perhaps as many as a dozen times, that the Jews who were about to find their new home in the promised land were to have nothing to do with the idols of the people in the land which they were to conquer. As a matter-of-fact, God commanded that the idols be torn down, that the heathen altars be destroyed and that the high places (the location of heathen altars) be torn down. God warned his people if they did not destroy the idolaters and the idols, one day they would come to worship the idols and they would have to be punished, Deuteronomy 28:47-68. From this one reference, we can learn that God would not, and did not, tolerate the worship of false gods.
Everyone knows, if he studies his Bible, that one should be as much like God as humanly possible, if he is going to claim to be a Christian. Among other things, this would involve the believer's willingness to allow God to tell him what he should tolerate. What this means, in effect, is for the believer to get back into a serious study of the nature of God. Does God have the kind of character that will forever tolerate sin? Well, go back to Genesis chapters Six through Nine, and let Noah answer that question for you. When the Bible says that the "Spirit of God" would not "always strive with man," the Bible means that God reaches an end to his tolerance. Why does he do that? Because man has a way of growing worse and worse once Satan deceives him into going down the broad way of life. There comes to the heart of God a point at which he can no longer tolerate the sin of mankind.
Would it be fair to take the position that what God can do I can do, if it is humanly possible? What did Paul mean when he said that we are to be imitators of him as he was of Christ? He meant that we are to follow, both in attitude and action, the way that Jesus lived. Was Jesus tolerant of false religion? The Pharisees surely did not think so! What about the cleansing of the Temple in John Two? Did that activity by our Lord indicate that one should tolerate anything that another person wanted to say or do? Was Jesus wrong when he cleansed the Temple? Was he wrong when he refused to tolerate the fact that the Jews had made the House of the Lord (Temple) into a den of thieves? All that Jesus did on the occasion was acceptable in the sight of God.
But the society in which we live will not tolerate that kind of intolerance! Thus, without saying so in so many words, they condemn, that is, refuse to tolerate the actions of God and of Christ. In the current society tolerance means to say that everything is right!
David L. Sowers, in an article entitled, "The God of Tolerance," in an Independent Christian Church magazine called Christian Standard (January 10, 1999) made the following comment with which we agree one hundred per cent, "The contemporary view of tolerance has gone beyond merely allowing another the right to disagree. Today, tolerance means that a person does not even have the right to strongly assert that something is true." David Sowers is right! And what he describes as "tolerance" in our society will not be tolerated by God!
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