Lately, it seems, I’ve been talking with those around me about toleration. It always seems to be that most people think toleration is only possible with acceptance. The premise that, in terms of faith, everyone is right, and no one can say anyone is wrong. That all truth is relative. Therefore, their thinking concludes that Christians are right, Muslims are right, Buddhists are right, atheists are right etc. (I think you get the picture…hopefully).
Now, most people I converse with know I’m a Christian – whatever they think that word means. Some even know I’m an evangelical, even if they confuse the term with evangelistic (not that the two are mutually exclusive). What they do understand is that all Christians are commanded to love everyone, although the possible motivation for that love is a mystery to some and possibly misunderstood completely by others. So far so good they think, as this doesn’t appear to contradict with what they think about tolerance.
Imagine their surprise when I say that truth is absolute and that Jesus Christ is the only truth and that conversely, all other religions are fundamentally false. If the bible is true and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, nothing else can save us from our sin. Not only have I not accepted what other religions say as truth, I have emphatically stated absolute truth. This confuses many – how can I not accept the beliefs of others as truth and still love them? How is it possible for me to have friends who are atheists, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists etc.?
Apart from the logical absurdity of the concept of all truth being relative, why should I have to accept that what other’s believe is true, especially when what they believe directly contradicts what I believe? On the flip side, why shouldn’t I love those who disagree with me? Why do people think we should all agree before we can live in peace with each other? After all, if you really think about it, people disagree on lots of things without coming to blows. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and should be free to disagree with me and be allowed to say so. This doesn’t mean I should beat anyone who disagrees with me.
So toleration of other’s beliefs is not the same as accepting their beliefs as truth. Similarly, not accepting someone else’s belief doesn’t mean I should go out and physically attack them.
After a short chat with most people, they’ve changed their ideas on tolerance and acceptance. I do wonder why they thought like that in the first place though…