By Bob Waldron
In an article by George Cornell, AP religion writer, we learn that a Presbyterian scholar, Dr. Arthur F. Glasser, has discovered that religious tolerance indicates a spiritual vacuum. Sounds good! Let me quote. “We’ve become so mushy-headed and tolerant in America that people say any religion is okay, but the fact is that they can be demonic. Such relativism is the curse of Biblical faith.” Several of his statements are worthy of circulation. “Many people are so jaded that they uncritically accept any idea that comes down the pike.”
Much of what the dean of Fuller Theological Seminary had to say was addressed to the mass suicide in Guyana. “In all this tide of relativism, the flood of eastern cults and the assumptions that any religion is okay as long as it’s sincere, we’ve tried to face the situation and say plainly that there is truth and there is error.”
In my experience it is such a novel thing to hear such statements from denominational leaders that I would like to encourage this thinking among them. Therefore, I want to avoid the temptation of sarcasm and yet point out a few problems for denominational preachers and leaders who would reason in the manner of Mr. Glasser.
Let me quote once more: “Tolerance, in its best sense, is a virtue” and “we must allow for a measure of differences, listening to one another, and learning, a principle of the ecumenical movement.” Frankly, this last statement, in the ecumenical context, means that whereas we should not be mushy-headed enough to tolerate the far-out cults, we should be mushy-headed enough to continue tolerating enormous differences on everything from organization to what is necessary for salvation.
Tolerance and ecumenism are like father and son. The grandfather is a lack of respect for the authority of the Bible. The existence of ecumenism demands tolerance. The movement the ecumenical unity has involved the discounting of more and more that might be important enough to differ over. In other words, when there are vast differences between two or more parties, they can achieve togetherness in three ways. (1) One side can be converted to the other side. (2) Both sides can give up their positions. (3) Both sides can be converted to the truth. The ecumenical movement has been accomplished primarily by the second method. Such a course, however, creates more and more tolerance for different ideas and directly fosters as “anything goes” attitude. When this attitude boils over in the acceptance of such cock-eyed cults as the Peoples’ Temples, we are shocked. Trying to keep ecumenism alive while not tolerating cults is like trying to have a mild fatal illness.
Those denominational leaders who have taught that “one religion is as good as another” and “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere” are going to have to count the cost. If they say it does matter whether one is sprinkled or immersed, whether one is “once saved always saved” or not, and whether one is born totally depraved or not. If, on the other hand, it does not matter which one of these positions one holds, then they will need to decide which of the possible following answers is the reason why. (1) Everything is true. There is no false doctrine. Two plus two is one, two, three, four, or whatever. One is saved by faith only as well as not by faith only. It is all true. (2) Everything is false. There is no truth. Anything one believes is false, so it does not matter.
If it does not matter what one believes, these are the only two valid possibilities why not. If we once grant that both truth and error exist, then they differ, men can tell the difference, and we cannot blithely ignore the difference.
What a dilemma: on the one hand to see the proliferation of personality cults or to give up the beauties of ecumenism. There is an alternative. Reject denominationalism and make the Bible the sole rule in faith and practice.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 41, p. 663
October 18, 1979