Friday, 23 April 2010

Redefining Tolerance

At Amy Orr-Ewing's series at #nwa10 we looked at the answer to the question 'Isn't it intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God?'

It seems that in British society today, tolerance is one of the most highly prized virtues. It's something that all seem to aspire to - anyone who seems to not be tolerant, any claim that seems intolerant leads to rejection and a lack of respect for what someone has to say.

But we have to dig deeper into the issue to see if that's a fair thing to say. Let's just examine what tolerance is. Here are a few definitions:

Collins dictionary: the quality of accepting other people’s rights to their own opinions, beliefs, or actions.

Oxford dictionary: allow (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) to exist or occur without interference

That seems far from how the word is used today. In society today, tolerance is to believe in relativism. Tolerance means saying that everyone is right. But of course that in itself is a very intolerant thing to say - for you to say that everyone is right is to say that I am wrong, as I don't beleive everyone is right - you're being intolerant!

But if you believe that all paths lead to God and so do I, then there's no need to be tolerant. Agreeing with someone isn't tolerance.

Tolerance, apparently (and ironically!), is a concept that was first introduced by Augustine - perhaps it's not the great enemy of Christianity. I would argue that tolerance is something that we as Christians should fight for in society. We want freedom to disagree. You believe that Jesus is just another prophet? I disagree, but I want you to be able to think that, because I want to be able to believe that Jesus is God, and that he is the only way to God.

When it comes down to it, the question that we need to ask is not "do I like Jesus' claim that he's the only way to God or do I think it's intolerant?". The question we need to ask is "Is it true?".

1 comment:

Ben Parker said...

That old Voltaire attitude (apparently not a quote) springs to mind 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'