Tolerance vs. Relativism

James Kushiner, editor of Touchstone, gives a succinct refutation of that strange assumption that tolerance requires relativism:

I can tolerate Muslims, Jews, Buddhists well enough, and expect them to tolerate Christiants, when at the same time I believe Jesus, and no one else, is the only Name whereby a man can be saved. We disagree greatly with the other religions, but we can tolerate them. If they were all the same, there would be nothing we would have to tolerate, nothing to put up with.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • billye

    My question:

    If they do not believe that Christ is the only way to be saved, how can they call themselves Christians?

  • billye

    My question:

    If they do not believe that Christ is the only way to be saved, how can they call themselves Christians?

  • Trey

    billye,

    You are absolutely correct. God has spoken that there is only one God, and that His Son is the only way to the Father. Jesus explicitly states that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6.

    Peter also affirms that, “[T]here is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

    Basically, if a person does not believe Christ is the ONLY WAY then they do not sincerely believe He could pay for their sins. For their belief is disingenuous and mythological.

  • Trey

    billye,

    You are absolutely correct. God has spoken that there is only one God, and that His Son is the only way to the Father. Jesus explicitly states that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6.

    Peter also affirms that, “[T]here is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

    Basically, if a person does not believe Christ is the ONLY WAY then they do not sincerely believe He could pay for their sins. For their belief is disingenuous and mythological.

  • billye

    It just seems strange that they would call themselves Christian, yet not believe. Our culture wants to call itself Christian, but refuses to hold to what scripture tells us is the truth. As scripture tells us, the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt 7:13-14

  • billye

    It just seems strange that they would call themselves Christian, yet not believe. Our culture wants to call itself Christian, but refuses to hold to what scripture tells us is the truth. As scripture tells us, the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt 7:13-14

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    When I hear the word “tolerate” all I can think of is one day in my childhood when my little brother was being particularly annoying. I was whining about how I couldn’t stand my brother. My mother told me that I must “tolerate” him and shut up. Basically, I didn’t have to like him or like what he was doing, but I had to put up with him and not whine about it. he he he

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    When I hear the word “tolerate” all I can think of is one day in my childhood when my little brother was being particularly annoying. I was whining about how I couldn’t stand my brother. My mother told me that I must “tolerate” him and shut up. Basically, I didn’t have to like him or like what he was doing, but I had to put up with him and not whine about it. he he he

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Right. The point here is that you can ONLY have tolerance if you have disagreement or other strong differences. Without them, there can be no toleration. Believing that everyone is the same is NOT tolerance; rather, it is insisting that people all conform.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Right. The point here is that you can ONLY have tolerance if you have disagreement or other strong differences. Without them, there can be no toleration. Believing that everyone is the same is NOT tolerance; rather, it is insisting that people all conform.

  • Don S

    What bothers me is the blurring which has occurred between tolerating people and tolerating ideas. Christians cannot tolerate Islam because it is wrong, deceptive, and will cost billions their immortal souls. We must oppose it with the truth of Christianity. Similarly, we cannot tolerate sinful ideas or actions. However, we must not only tolerate, but love, all persons, including (and perhaps especially) those who hold wrong religious or sinful ideas or who engage in habitual sinful practices. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” has been interpreted by the world as “Christians hate sinners”. Partially, this is due to intentional mischaracterization by those who hate Christianity, and partially because of mighty poor communication, or actual hate of certain people or groups, by certain Christians.

  • Don S

    What bothers me is the blurring which has occurred between tolerating people and tolerating ideas. Christians cannot tolerate Islam because it is wrong, deceptive, and will cost billions their immortal souls. We must oppose it with the truth of Christianity. Similarly, we cannot tolerate sinful ideas or actions. However, we must not only tolerate, but love, all persons, including (and perhaps especially) those who hold wrong religious or sinful ideas or who engage in habitual sinful practices. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” has been interpreted by the world as “Christians hate sinners”. Partially, this is due to intentional mischaracterization by those who hate Christianity, and partially because of mighty poor communication, or actual hate of certain people or groups, by certain Christians.

  • billye

    Sarah,

    I do not like the word tolerate either.

    One time my DH sent a letter to the editor about a Christian men’s group he was involved in. He recieved a personal letter about how christians are part of the KKK. There were a number of other hateful remarks included in the letter. What really made this interesting was the return address label had the words “Teach tolerance” written above his name. That sure gave credibility to his whole letter! Seem tolerance only goes one way.

  • billye

    Sarah,

    I do not like the word tolerate either.

    One time my DH sent a letter to the editor about a Christian men’s group he was involved in. He recieved a personal letter about how christians are part of the KKK. There were a number of other hateful remarks included in the letter. What really made this interesting was the return address label had the words “Teach tolerance” written above his name. That sure gave credibility to his whole letter! Seem tolerance only goes one way.

  • CRB

    “Hate the sin, love the sinner”
    Where is this in the Bible and does such a statement apply to God’s view of sinners?

  • CRB

    “Hate the sin, love the sinner”
    Where is this in the Bible and does such a statement apply to God’s view of sinners?

  • Don S

    CRB: I’m not aware that the statement is in the Bible. As far as I understand, the statement was originally that of Ghandi. Are you in disagreement that God loves the sinner? What about John 3:16?

  • Don S

    CRB: I’m not aware that the statement is in the Bible. As far as I understand, the statement was originally that of Ghandi. Are you in disagreement that God loves the sinner? What about John 3:16?

  • CRB

    No, God does love the sinner in Christ. However, outside of Christ, He hates the sinner. Remember, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”?

  • CRB

    No, God does love the sinner in Christ. However, outside of Christ, He hates the sinner. Remember, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”?

  • Don S

    Fair enough, CRB. But the fact remains that God loved the world, therefore He sent Christ to redeem the world. We need to be careful about how we interpret the scripture you quote, in my opinion, because it is making a very specific point about the lineage of Christ, and not really making the point that God hates sinners. He hated Esau’s choice, and it cost Esau the opportunity to be a part of Christ’s lineage. A very serious consequence, indeed.

    I would be interested in hearing further whether you really believe we should be “hating” sinners.

  • Don S

    Fair enough, CRB. But the fact remains that God loved the world, therefore He sent Christ to redeem the world. We need to be careful about how we interpret the scripture you quote, in my opinion, because it is making a very specific point about the lineage of Christ, and not really making the point that God hates sinners. He hated Esau’s choice, and it cost Esau the opportunity to be a part of Christ’s lineage. A very serious consequence, indeed.

    I would be interested in hearing further whether you really believe we should be “hating” sinners.

  • CRB

    Here’s a clearer text than the one I offered above:
    Psalm 5:5 “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight, You hate all workers of iniquity.”
    Also, John 3:16 states, “in this way, God loved the world”. We cannot ever try to speak about his love apart from Christ.
    Wrt to your his last sentence, what does this have to do with us? We are not called to judge the world, are we? This has to do with judgment and condemnation.
    God hated Christ in our place. The world is reconciled, IN CHRIST. We cannot speak of God’s love to the world apart from Christ.

    Psa. 119:113 I hate the double-minded,
    But I love Your law.

    Psa. 139:21 Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
    Psa. 139:22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

  • CRB

    Here’s a clearer text than the one I offered above:
    Psalm 5:5 “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight, You hate all workers of iniquity.”
    Also, John 3:16 states, “in this way, God loved the world”. We cannot ever try to speak about his love apart from Christ.
    Wrt to your his last sentence, what does this have to do with us? We are not called to judge the world, are we? This has to do with judgment and condemnation.
    God hated Christ in our place. The world is reconciled, IN CHRIST. We cannot speak of God’s love to the world apart from Christ.

    Psa. 119:113 I hate the double-minded,
    But I love Your law.

    Psa. 139:21 Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
    Psa. 139:22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

  • Don S

    But CRB, I was speaking of Christians, not God, in my original post. So I guess I don’t understand why we went down this rabbit trail.

  • Don S

    But CRB, I was speaking of Christians, not God, in my original post. So I guess I don’t understand why we went down this rabbit trail.

  • Don S

    Sorry, I hit “submit” on #13 before I was done.

    I get your point, but Christ said, in Matt. 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you”.

  • Don S

    Sorry, I hit “submit” on #13 before I was done.

    I get your point, but Christ said, in Matt. 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you”.

  • Don S

    I’m always surprised, on this blog, at which posts raise a controversy. I didn’t really think my post @ #6 would be at all controversial. Makes it fun.

  • Don S

    I’m always surprised, on this blog, at which posts raise a controversy. I didn’t really think my post @ #6 would be at all controversial. Makes it fun.

  • Trey

    Don,

    You are correct in your assertion that God hates sinners. This is most evident by Christ’s suffering and death, not to mention Old Testament examples Sodom and Gomorrah. The cliche phrase hate the sin, love the sinner is false in that it is predicated on the belief that some rightiousness exists in a person. Basically, a person can sin without being a sinner. However, a person sins because they ARE a sinner not the opposite.

    The crux is original sin, which we are all born with (Psalm 51). Thus, we are born enemies of God and dead in our trespasses(Ephesians 2). Nonetheless, we become sons of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit creating faith (John 3:5-8) . In essence, we apprehend God’s grace by faith which He alone engenders.

  • Trey

    Don,

    You are correct in your assertion that God hates sinners. This is most evident by Christ’s suffering and death, not to mention Old Testament examples Sodom and Gomorrah. The cliche phrase hate the sin, love the sinner is false in that it is predicated on the belief that some rightiousness exists in a person. Basically, a person can sin without being a sinner. However, a person sins because they ARE a sinner not the opposite.

    The crux is original sin, which we are all born with (Psalm 51). Thus, we are born enemies of God and dead in our trespasses(Ephesians 2). Nonetheless, we become sons of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit creating faith (John 3:5-8) . In essence, we apprehend God’s grace by faith which He alone engenders.

  • CRB

    #13 Don,
    Point taken. My bad!

  • CRB

    #13 Don,
    Point taken. My bad!

  • Don S

    Trey:

    Yes, I don’t disagree with you, and you state the point very well.

    I still think the “cliche” has value from our perspective, however. We are to love the sinner — that is the commandment of Christ. However, we are to hate the sin. It is very helpful in the present day to remind folks of the difference in an easily understood way, as both Christians and non-Christians get very confused on this point. So to sum up, the cliche is inaccurate if applied to God, but, I think, accurate if applied to believers, as to how we should act.

  • Don S

    Trey:

    Yes, I don’t disagree with you, and you state the point very well.

    I still think the “cliche” has value from our perspective, however. We are to love the sinner — that is the commandment of Christ. However, we are to hate the sin. It is very helpful in the present day to remind folks of the difference in an easily understood way, as both Christians and non-Christians get very confused on this point. So to sum up, the cliche is inaccurate if applied to God, but, I think, accurate if applied to believers, as to how we should act.

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