Does a Different Perspective Mean Christians Are Intolerant?

Christians Are Intolerant

My son shared a one-panel comic on Facebook showing two men standing on either side of a digit on the ground. One points at the image and says, “six!” The one on the opposite side points at the image and declares, “nine!” The point of the cartoon is that everyone sees things from their own perspective. We should be “tolerant” of other’s viewpoints because we don’t know what caused them to reach their conclusion or the perspective that they bring to the argument.

Admittedly, the version of the comic my son shared pointed out, correctly, that despite the reasons for the viewpoints, one was right and the other was wrong. It encouraged the two to try to place the numeral in context. Were there other integers nearby that would clarify the bottom and the top? Couldn’t the creator have placed a line below the digit to indicate its orientation?

The Meaning of Tolerance

In today’s postmodern culture, it is considered a virtue to be gracious to views once considered unpalatable. The meaning of tolerance has been twisted to mean something different than it meant originally. Formerly, I would have been considered tolerant if I thought that Buddhists, or Mormons, or secular humanists could write books, produce movies, or lecture in a public park. Today, I must not only allow them to propagate their message, I must agree with them unless I want to be labeled “intolerant.”

By today’s standard, I must not only accept that opinions contrary to own exist. I must also approve of these contrary ideas. It is thought that their opinion, their viewpoint, or their “truth,” is just as valid as mine. If I should dare to contradict their opinion, I am being bigoted, discriminatory, and oppressive.

History shows us the danger of exclusive truth claims. When someone who claims an exclusivity to the truth and they become powerful enough, they can, and often do, suppress minority viewpoints. Take for example, Hitler, who claimed the superiority of the white, Aryan race. He brutally attempted to exterminate those who were not a part of his blond, blue-eyed club. There was also Pol Pot, whose brutal Khmer Rouge killed more than two million of their own country’s inhabitants. This occurs when people who claim they know the truth, who claim they are right, achieve power.

Unfortunately, so-called Christians have also been guilty of oppressing contrary views. The crusades, the Spanish inquisition, and the Salem witch trials are disturbing examples of groups that have sought to purify themselves through violence and force. These aberrations, however, fly in the face of Jesus’ clear teachings to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to submit to the governing authorities.

What is Truth?

So the answer becomes a humble endurance of other viewpoints. This doesn’t mean that we deny that truth exists. We can’t allow truth to become simply a matter of someone’s opinion. “If it works for you, it must be true,” is not a philosophy with which I can agree. Truth must be grounded in reality, not wishful thinking.

Truth is not the exclusive property of any one person. We can’t claim that we know the whole truth and nothing but the truth this side of heaven. Paul declared, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1Co 13:12 NKJV. We have to face the fallibility of our own knowledge.

Christians must not proclaim their own truth, but God’s truth. We must hold our perspective loosely, no matter how sincerely we believe it to be correct. Our beliefs, even those we believe sincerely, are subjective. The only truth that is objective is God’s truth. We can help others to find our truth or they can help us to see their viewpoint. As Martin Luther put it, we are all just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.

My wife and I have a favorite breakfast place. It is Louis’ Diner, a short walk from our home. The food is excellent, the service prompt and attentive, and the prices are a great value. Whenever someone wants to meet for breakfast, you can be sure we will recommend the diner. However, we are not angry if someone wants to eat somewhere else. If we haven’t eaten there before, we look forward to trying someplace different. We don’t feel a disloyalty to Louis, if we eat breakfast somewhere else.

How Can We Know?

So back to the cartoon, is it a six or a nine? If it is a six, it can’t be nine. One precludes the other. Someone is right and someone is wrong. It can’t be a nine and a six. If something is true, the opposite view is false. It is not useful to say, “You can believe it is a six and I will believe it is a nine. It doesn’t matter.”

To say it doesn’t matter is simply avoiding that there is an absolute, an ultimate, truth. It has to be one or the other. While we may not have enough information to determine what’s correct, there is a correct answer. We need a revelation from someone that knows the answer. We need someone who knows to explain it to us.

“No One Comes to the Father, Except Through Me”

While our grasp on the truth may be tenuous, this was not the claim that Jesus made. He declared that he was the very embodiment of truth. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6 NKJV

For Jesus to make such a scandalous claim proves that he was either deluded, lying, or God. We can say that Jesus was an egomaniac, who simply thought he was God. There have been plenty of false messiahs that have believed that. We can say that Jesus deceived everyone that followed him because he wanted their adoration. Others have done that, also.

Or we can accept his claim of transcendence. He claimed, not only that he knew the truth, but that he was the truth. Sure, you can say it is all myths and fables. You can say that Jesus never existed or his words were simply clever stories. But, if you believe the history, the testimony of people who would rather die than say they had made it up or that they were just playing a prank, you have to either accept it or reject it. Did God come to earth and show us the truth? If he did, saying that you see it differently is simply wrong.

4 Comments

  • Beatrice Bruno

    January 17, 2017

    I love the way you put this. Everyone has a point of view. It’s not up to us to change their point of view. That’s God’s position. It is our opportunity to give them a different side and, hopefully, point them in the direction God wants them to go. Thanks and God bless! Beatrice

    • Chuck Livermore

      January 17, 2017

      Thanks, Beatrice. I know some would say I not standing up my beliefs… for God. But I have not found it useful to proclaim I have everything right and other viewpoints are just plain wrong. We must remember that Peter told us (1 Pet. 3: 15) to give an answer, but do it with meekness and fear, or reverence and respect as another translation puts it.

  • David Rupert

    January 20, 2017

    The concept of “truth” is so foreign today, and yet people are clamoring for it — they want authenticity. Well if there is no truth then there is no authenticity! I think we should calmly, firmly continue to write and present and speak about truth and that will draw the seekers.

    I’ll be on KRKS Saturday, talking with Dr. Peg about this very concept in writing. Write truth and we will be set free!

    Good post here…

    • Chuck Livermore

      January 20, 2017

      Thanks for the good words, David. I’ll be tuning into KRKS on Saturday. For those who will want to listen in, Living Well with Dr. Peg is on the FM side of KRKS, 94.7FM at 1PM.