September 22, 2017

Intolerant Tolerance

By Connie W. Adams

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). But like Pilate, many cynics raise the question “What is truth?” It is thought to be so nebulous that anyone who thinks he knows the truth on anything is surely a bigot of the worst kind. (Surely if there are degrees of truth, there must be degrees of bigots as well.)

We are supposed to be tolerant of all forms of denominational error without being so overbearing as to compare that error with the truth of God’s word. Again Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). How dare anyone oppose a false position espoused by a well-known and much loved brother! The culprit here is not the one who teaches error to the destruction of souls but, alas, the one who is so intolerant as to point it out. Any such attempt is sure to elicit numerous articles or lectures punctuated by knowing glances and nudges from some in the audience, on the subject of love, kindness, and understanding.

In the realm of morals, it is recommended that we have “openness” and that we be “broad-minded.” After all, adultery has been around a long time and many good people have given in to it. Why be so judgmental? And who would not lie about it to save embarrassment, or pain to family and friends. In such a case with such mitigating circumstances surely a lie is understandable, even if it is told in court under oath.

In the church, such “tolerance” has led to the acceptance of people in adulterous marriages, or who practice social drinking, gambling, and indecent attire. Woe unto that elder or preacher who is so intolerant as to speak out against all such. Especially in language that can be understood.

On the political field, those who advocate the high road in moral behavior are scrutinized to find some skeleton in their closets. When all else fails they can be branded as “right-wing religious extremists.” Sometimes even their sanity may be called in question. Such is the intolerance of the tolerant. Liberalism of whatever sort is insufferably arrogant. It claims for itself privileges which it refuses to extend to its detractors.

While we all have the civil and academic right to espouse whatever view we might choose, that does not mean that the Lord honors such choices. We all still have the right to search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). Should it be clear from the Scriptures that a given doctrine or practice is not according to truth, that does not mean that those who have advocated them are the objects of hate. What it means is that their teaching or practice does not meet the divine standard.

It is fair to point that out without being accused of sowing hate or discord and of challenging the personal honor of those who advocate such views.

Those who have expanded Romans 14 to include more than Paul did and who have viewed it as elastic enough to cover all forms of doctrinal and moral error have unwittingly contributed to some of this intolerant tolerance. We have been told that there are five or six different views which brethren have taken on marriage, divorce and re- marriage (as if that subject belongs in Romans 14 at all). Surely we should not be so intolerant as to exclude those honest and sincere brethren who have differed on this. That subject is not addressed in Romans 14 but it is dealt with in other passages. Is it intolerant to insist that we faithfully adhere to what those passages say?

In American society at large, those who hold to the Bible as a standard of morals are variously identified as “Biblical fundamentalists,” “literalists,” “right-wing extremists,” or simply “nuts.” In entertainment they are portrayed in the most uncomplimentary light. In the news media they are misrepresented and regarded as unworthy of serious consideration. In education they have been sidelined and excluded from the process. We will have to exercise care to be sure that the same intolerant tolerance does not surface among us when there are doctrinal and moral issues at stake.

It is my conviction that some have already bought into it.

When men of knowledge, ability and character are marginalized by oblique references to their character as though they were sinister and out to promote some personal agenda, and all that without evidence, then intolerant tolerance has set it. It would be far more honorable to identify these men by name and cite the evidence to support these claims than to continually speak in an ever-widening circle of brethren as being “dishonorable.” Who are they? Do they have names. What is your evidence? While you are engaging in such besmirching of character, how about addressing forthrightly the issues at stake. Men of principle will not be silenced regardless of what names you call them. If that is the price for standing for truth, then so be it. Our Lord endured far more. We have not resisted unto blood!

What is truth? “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

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