What has happened to tolerance?

George Orwell’s dystopian vision, expounded in his novel Nineteen Eighty-four, appears to be slowly and inexorably taking shape around us.  The thought leaders of our society have constituted themselves into an unofficial Ministry of Truth, changing the meaning of words and inventing new words.  The result — and make no mistake about it, this is the intended result — is that we are gradually losing our ability to think clearly.

Some of the same women who deplore the supposed subjugation of women to men in marriage will proclaim that the degradation of women by prostitution is evidence of the liberation of women, because a woman’s body is her own and she has a right to use it as she pleases.  Orwell labelled this kind of thinking as doublethink: the ability to believe two opposing ideas at the same time and to believe that each one is entirely true.

In like manner, it appears to be possible to be an advocate for women’s “liberation” and at the same time be a supporter of the application of Sharia law in western society.

When it comes to homosexuality, the only acceptable point of view in our society today is unqualified approval and admiration.  This is called tolerance, and no other point of view is tolerated.  This sounds remarkable like the old definition of intolerance.  Those of us who do not endorse the homosexual lifestyle but who harbour no hostility or ill will towards individuals caught up in that lifestyle are labelled intolerant.  The meanings of tolerant and intolerant have been completely reversed.

Christians are labelled as intolerant if we actually believe and live as the Bible tells us.  Any hint of disapproval of things approved by society is called intolerance.  How can I be tolerant of things that I know to be wrong?  I believe that it is right and good to be tolerant to the extent of not using force to prevent others from engaging in immoral conduct.  That is not the same as approving such conduct.  “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

On a slightly different aspect of tolerance, is it enough for a Christian to be tolerant when it comes to cultural differences that are neither right nor wrong?  The apostle Paul wrote: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

If Christ is all, and in all members of the church, then cultural differences (not sin but ordinary differences in outlook and practice that distinguish cultures) should not be seen hindrances to Christian fellowship, but as evidence of the grace of God to all mankind.  They are significant in allowing us a broader vision of how saving faith in Jesus Christ is, and always has been, accessible to all people, anywhere, in every era

6 thoughts on “What has happened to tolerance?

  1. Well, in what way do you think me more intolerant than you? I have a sexual orientation which means, if I am not celibate, you must disapprove of my lovemaking. You have an opinion which I consider false, that God disapproves of my lovemaking, and I find that opinion leads to bullying and suicide.

    So. You disapprove of my lifestyle, I of your opinion. You are at least as intolerant as I am. I might discuss other matters with you, courteously, but if you disclose that opinion to me I am entitled to tell you I think it vile.

    Also, women who dislike “complementarianism” in Evangelicalism may also oppose prostitution and pornography, finding these oppressive too. One view does not necessarily require the other.

    • You have a valid point in the last paragraph and I have changed the second paragraph to say “some of the same women . . .”

      I have had to accept that God’s judgement on the sin and sinfulness in my own life is just and right in order to receive the forgiveness and grace of God. I do not find a hierarchy of sins in the Bible, any willful transgression of God’s standard of righteousness is sin. Pride, self-righteousness, complacency and lukewarmness, in all of their forms, are probably the most dangerous, since they are the most deceptive.

      I do not consider myself a better person than you or anyone else, I fully concur with the apostle Paul’s lament: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:” Anything that is good comes not from me but from God, the source of all that is good and pure and holy.

  2. Thank you for this and for your comment on an earlier post. You should see a Follow button on the right that will allow you to follow this blog by email. There should also be an RSS Feed button at the top right.

  3. Was Jesus Christ tolerant or intolerant? It seems to me that He was entirely intolerant of sin. Tolerance of sin in an ungodly nation becomes the expected norm and leads to an expected end. How can a Christian live his faith and speak out against sin as taught in the Scriptures and yet be seen as tolerant and loving. I think that, as a Christian, I want to be loving without partiality and intolerant without hate or hostility. That intolerance would be a fruit of Christ’s love in my heart. With Christ’s love, being intolerant of sin would be based upon a true love and respect for the human soul and a deep wish that the soul of every human would be saved and know the peace of God. Does this make sense? Or does this sound hateful and intolerant?

    • This is what the Word of God teaches, but I don’t think it computes in the mind of many people. To hate sin and hypocrisy while harbouring no animosity toward the sinner and the hypocrite requires a mind transformed by the love of God.

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