The Intolerance of Tolerance

I disagree with many of you.

Likewise, many of you disagree with me.

At least hear me out. My theology would mostly fall into the Reformed category. My Christianity would not be defined as liberal. I am not a Universalist. I don’t believe there are many ways to God. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  I hold a complementarian as opposed to an egalitarian view of manhood and womanhood. I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. My Christianity would not be defined as progressive. I believe Jesus loved deeply, perfectly, and sacrificially but He did not condone. And culture often damns me for it.

In a culture obsessed with–an interestingly defined–tolerance, my beliefs make me the “intolerant”.

I believe something different from what you believe. And that is not okay. My beliefs are intolerable.

I want to, humbly, challenge this idea of tolerance. Because it’s cheap.

Those who worship tolerance are, in their “tolerance”, being intolerant. Those who preach “Everything is relative” are making a definitive statement about how nothing is definite.

Tim Keller writes,

“Theological tolerance of religions is absolutely impossible for anybody. When you say to me, “You mustn’t try to convert people to your religion, as if your religion is superior,” what you’re really saying is, “I want you to abandon your inferior view of religious truth and take my superior view”…[saying] that your view of religious truth—that all religion is relative—is superior to my religious truth—that some religious truths are absolute. And so you’re doing the very same thing you say I shouldn’t do…What you’re immediately saying is, “Your road doesn’t go the same place.” You’re actually saying, “My view of religion is superior to your view of religion.” So to say all religions are relative is a religion…To say you can’t judge between religions is to judge between religions. To say you can’t determine right and wrong beliefs is a determination of right and wrong beliefs…To insist that no religious truth is superior (and by doing that insist that your religious truth is superior) is completely inconsistent.”

Now, I am not much of an apologeticist. And I’m not writing out my religious argument. I’m saying that I, possibly, disagree with many of you. And, yes, that means that I would think that you are wrong. And, I’m saying many of you probably disagree with me and think that I am wrong. And, I’m saying that that is okay. I’m saying let’s be friends. I’m saying let’s grab a cup of coffee, sit down and chat sometime about it. Not heatedly argue. Not bash. Rather listen and discuss. Many people often say that they could never be friends with “people like me” because we are so intolerant. How is that, in and of itself, not intolerant?

My beliefs often place me in categories of “unloving” and “judgmental”. I am the hater of all things gay people and, more than likely spend my free time burning abortion clinics (Funny thing is, one of my gay friends told me I was the least judgmental person he’d ever met). My beliefs make me the despiser of Muslims and “that person” blowing up your social media feeds with statuses and articles telling you how you’re all going to hell. And, my beliefs make me lack all logical reasoning and sense. I am the intolerant.

And, I’m saying that isn’t true. Many of my friends and family members are atheist or agnostic. Some of my best friends growing up, throughout college, and to this day are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. I have spent time in Hindu temples and Mosques. I have friends who are Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim. I have celebrated Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish holidays and observed their customs. I love them. It hurts how much I love them. I love them so much. And they know that I do. I love them and I respect them. And they love and respect me. But, when it comes to religion, we do not agree with each other. I do not agree with them.

I am not esteeming myself as superior to you if you disagree with my beliefs. I am the chief of sinners, desperately in need of God’s grace every moment of every single day. And this also doesn’t mean that I will not fight what for I believe in (i.e. against abortion). But, I’m talking about the actual definition of tolerance.

As I learn more each day, I wrestle with the text of the Bible, knowing God’s authority trumps my feelings and the cultural leanings of the day. This would lead me to disagree with many people. However, tolerance does not mean that I have to agree with you in order to love and to respect you. In order to be your friend. In order for you to be mine.

Loving someone and agreeing with everything they believe are not a package deal. You can love someone and not agree with them.

This article most likely won’t go viral. Many people probably won’t agree with me. And, that’s okay. I really don’t want this to become a breeding ground for angry arguments. Please don’t make it about that.

The dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with”.

There are opinions and behaviors that I do not agree with. And there are opinions and behaviors that you do not agree with. Tolerance is not the same thing as agreement. I think the Star Wars movies are boring. MANY of you will disagree with me. But, I bet you have friends who aren’t huge Star Wars fans. In a very small way, that is tolerance. You would probably think it would be ridiculous to refuse to be someone’s friend because they don’t like Star Wars.

I had a boss one time who, after talking about his Catholicism, asked me what I believed. I shared with him, and he listened. He asked questions and he listened. Afterward, he told me I was crazy, but we still respected each other and our relationship was not destroyed by this conversation.


My prayer is that we can do more than just exist around each other. I pray that we can respect each other and also be willing to talk to and to listen to each other’s beliefs without angrily dismissing them. How about I read some of the Qur’an and you read some of the Bible? How about we talk about it afterward. How about you tell me your views on gay marriage and I’ll tell you mine. How about we leave Starbucks afterward, likely, agreeing to disagree, but still friends. Still holding each other up with dignity and respect. Still loving one another.

I’ll end, again, with my man Tim Keller (Y’all. I love him so much).

Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”

I love you. I respect you. And I disagree with you.


2 thoughts on “The Intolerance of Tolerance

  1. To have an opinion is to be intolerant, it is exclusive by its nature of being something to be believed.
    Christ said “I am the Way…” That doesn’t seem the metaphorical, easy to take out of context, Christ-and-all-the-others-have-a-lot-in-common sort of statement that some try to argue with to “pare the claws of the Lion of Judah.”
    Tolerance is not our calling, Judgement not our responsibility, only Death our birthright. Through Christ it is by Grace we are saved, with Obedience we serve and with reckless Love we offer anything. …Perhaps? #secondguesses #ithinkthatmadesense

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