Question: How do we voice our belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven [Acts 4:12], without being viewed as intolerant of someone who thinks differently? Considering our current political climate and as November’s elections approach, that question seems even more relevant today. Serving as an intern while attending Stanford University, Scott Scruggs developed a thesis published by Campus Crusade for Christ entitled Truth or Tolerance. In the preamble of his publication, Scruggs asks: “If I were to ask you what our culture deemed more valuable, truth or tolerance, what would you say? Are we not called to be confident carriers of the truth of the Gospel? Then how do we voice our belief that Jesus is the only way without being considered intolerant of someone who thinks differently? This is one of the difficult dilemmas facing Christians today.”
The answer, however, is not simple. Responding to a renewed “tolerance revolution in our culture” requires careful and articulate analysis of the nature of the argument. Why do I say this?
Because evangelicalism’s accusers have developed new tactics taking aim at a target more difficult to defend or support. Arguing against Christians for being intolerant is no longer an accusation of false teaching, but rather of false practice. Scruggs clarifies: “This new attack doesn’t challenge the
truth of [the Bible’s] moral claims, but the legitimacy of making such claims. Christians are being silenced, not by superior ideas, but by our culture’s impeachment of moral absolutes and inauguration of moral openness”, meaning relativism.
In our culture, many people believe that the only real sin is to not accept or to be intolerant of other people’s beliefs. “Openness” or “uncritical
tolerance” has become our moral standard. Consequently, people who seem intolerant are simply labeled as “wrong.” According to the Barna Report, nearly 70% of our population believes “there is no such thing as absolute truth.” The result of this philosophy in our society is that we have replaced truth with relativism. According to a national poll (Postmodern Times) 88% of evangelical Christians claim that the Bible is the “written word of God and accurate in all it teaches,” yet 53% also believe “there are no absolutes!” When such contradictions exist—even within the church—a standard of tolerance becomes arbitrary and variable because it is subject to interpretation of an underlying bias. Listen: “If our goal is just more tolerance, then discrimination isn’t wrong in a moral sense, it’s only offensive” (Scruggs, p. 4).
As Christians we are called to action. So how do we reach a world that is choking on its own tolerance? We must be reminded of the authority and power of God’s truth. As instructed in Eph. 6, we must “resist and stand firm.” In a culture bearing down on Christians, we must remain steadfast and resist evil. The late Ray Stedman said it this way: “Truth is reality, the way things really are. Therefore it is the explanation of all things. You know you have found the truth when you find something that is wide enough and deep enough and high enough to encompass all things.
That is what Jesus does.” The writer of Hebrews says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and yes, forever” (Heb. 13:8). If you are walking in the truth, you will discover there is a time for both tolerance and intolerance. Jesus associated with the sick, the poor, the marginalized, and the rejected. He shared meals with tax collectors, prostitutes, and criminals. Christ doesn’t judge us by our skin color or social status, but by the condition of our hearts. Yet, as accepting and tolerant as Jesus is, He is very rigid about the exclusiveness of His claims. Of all the choices in life, He tells us there is only one way, one truth, and one life – His (John 14:6). That means sharing truth is sharing Christ, regardless the legitimacy of making such a claim.