Intolerant Christianity

Everywhere in the world today cries are made for tolerance. That is the human ideal. No more war, everybody just living together in peace and tranquility. No more wars of religion; no more Muslims killing Jews and Jews killing Muslims. No more political division; let communist governments and capitalist governments dwell together in unity. Not only that but huge steps are being made toward encouraging Christianity to be tolerant: Roman Catholics dwelling together in peace with Protestants and Pentecostals. Christianity living in peace with others religions. One of the first voices for this was a man by the name of Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire. He said that of every religion, “The Christian is without doubt the one who should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.”[1] Yet this post will demonstrate how Voltaire is wrong. Christianity is perhaps the most intolerant religion in the world in various respects.

Before going into arguments for this bold statement, a definition of tolerance should be given. Voltaire defines it as such: “It [tolerance] is the natural attribute of humanity. We are all formed of weakness and error: let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly. That is the first law of nature.”[2] This definition certainly has some problems with it. If the word natural is taken to mean that which is at the very heart and basic part of mankind, than tolerance is the most basic part of humanity. Why then is there so much intolerance in the world? Why a few years after the fall of Adam, is there the first murder? Why are the wicked so intolerant of believers in God? Certainly that cannot be tolerance. Christianity, in some respects, has been the most persecuted religion in the world. Jesus Christ was put to death by the Jews and shortly thereafter His disciples were heavily persecuted both by the Jews and the Romans.  In then seems that a proper definition of tolerance that is closer to what is generally seen in the world is: tolerance is most natural to fallen and depraved man, so far as they (i.e. the wicked) are not shown to be in sin or reproofed for their sin by believers. If they are rebuked, then tolerance is thrown out the window. Generally the case is when someone in the world, or even in many contemporary churches, is told they are dwelling in sin or are doing something wrong they quickly reply back by crying out “hate crime, hate crime!”

Having examined a definition for tolerance, let us move on to arguments that show that Christianity is probably the most intolerant religion. Christianity is opposed to tolerance in this regard: Christianity states itself as the one only true religion, because it has the one only true God. It states that the only book of truth is the Bible and condemns the Koran and the Sutra Pitaka as wrong. True religion therefore is only found in the serving and honouring of the triune God. Christianity does not say that all roads lead to heaven, but the only road that leads to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

That makes Christianity very strong and intolerant when it comes to morality. Christ said in Matthew 7:13 – 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”[3] The Christian is very narrow minded when it comes to morality. The law of God is morality and anything that does not adhere to it is immorality, sin, and wickedness. Christ spends most of the whole Sermon on the Mount discussing precisely what morality is. So then, how can the Christian, as Voltaire says, “inspire tolerance [the] most?”[4]

One may here object: so then the Christian must go about killing and maiming everyone who does not agree with him? He must go about like the Muslims with their “convert or die” mentality. Or else he must be like the crusaders in the Medieval Ages and kill everybody who is not a Christian. This is really the kind of picture that Voltaire seems to paint of anybody who is not tolerant. Either he must be tolerant or he must be a fanatic with a mindset to destroy anybody who is in his way (cf. Religion and Sect). Not only is that committing the informal fallacy of False Dilemma but also that is not the kind of intolerance that the Bible inspires. The Christian religion commands an intolerance of love. This is perhaps one of the great paradoxes of Christianity. The Christian is intolerant of sin, other religions, etc. because he loves his neighbor and God. He does not want his neighbor dwelling in sin because he knows that God hates sin. Since God hates sin, He must also hate the sinner. Therefore, out of love for his neighbor and fear for the welfare of his soul, he rebukes and reproofs him. He wants to share the joy that he has found in Christ with his neighbor. That it how the intolerant Christian must behave himself in the world.

Therefore, that is what it means to be an intolerant Christian. Voltaire is wrong when he states that Christianity is supposed to be the most tolerant religion and must mind its own business when it comes to disagreeing with other religions. Christianity cannot be that, because it is the only one true religion and salvation is found only in following Christ. Yet the intolerant Christian acts in the principle of love, not hatred, or pride. He acts out of love for his neighbor and his God. That is what it means to be an intolerant Christian.

[1]Francois Voltaire, “Tolerance” in The Portable Enlightenment Reader, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1995),  130

[2] Ibid, 129

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 7:13–14.

[4] Francois Voltaire, 130

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