When Tolerance Becomes Sinful

It is incredible just how many people who call themselves Christian never actually read the Bible. Or if they do, they seem to cafeteria-style pick and choose those bits they are happy with, while ignoring the rest. They have been spoon-fed on a steady diet of secularism and humanism, and tend to think more like worldlings than like Christians.

And one of the biggest nostrums of a God-denying, absolutes-phobic and truth-illusive culture is the modern baloney about tolerance. It is the idea that we must embrace and accept every lousy thought, belief, practice, lifestyle, religion and ideology that exists.

Contra the old understanding of tolerance which said I should respect you even though I may utterly reject your ideas or your beliefs, today’s version wrongly says we must accept every foolish idea which comes along, or else we are somehow guilty of being intolerant, unloving and exclusive – all big no-noes in today’s morally defunct culture.

But the truth is, there are all sorts of things we should be intolerant of. We should never tolerate that which is wrong or that which is evil. Not only should we be intolerant of it, if you are a Bible-believing Christian, you know that we should even hate it.

Yes you heard me right. There are some things that we are commanded to hate. We are to hate them because they are so bad and so destructive that if we in any way tolerate them or seek to accommodate them, they will bring ruin to us and to others.

But I can already hear some biblically–illiterate and worldly Christians sputtering, “Where does it say we should hate in the Bible?” There are in fact plenty of such texts, but let me focus on just two of them – one from each Testament. In the Old Testament we have Psalm 97:10 as an example.

It says: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” James Montgomery Boice speaks to this text: “We do not naturally hate evil. In fact, the opposite is the case. We naturally love sin. We are intrigued by wrong in other people, and we do not want to part with the sins we ourselves are practicing. We must learn to hate sin, and we will, if we are getting to know God. If we do not, we will increasingly hate God.”

And in the New Testament we find these words of Paul in Romans 12:9: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” As R. Kent Hughes remarks, there is a morality to love: “Some might suppose that love is soft on evil. Not so! Evil is to be hated. Sincere love demands God-honoring moral resolve regarding good and evil.”

Or as Boice has written, “love must be discriminating. Real love does not love everything. On the contrary, it hates what is evil and clings to what is good. . . . Therefore, if we love as God loves – and we must if we are Christians – then there will be things for us to hate, just as there will be also things we must love.”

Thus to condone, accept, blink at, or tolerate evil is simply sinful – end of story. No Christian is to tolerate evil. If they do, they are committing “The Sin of Tolerance” as Billy Graham recently wrote. He put it this way: “One of the pet words of this age is tolerance. It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area. We have applied it, too often, where it does not belong. The word tolerant means liberal and broad-minded. In one sense, it implies the compromise of one’s convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues.

“We have become tolerant about divorce, the use of alcohol, delinquency, wickedness in high places, immorality, crime and godlessness. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs, and we are bereft of our faith.

“The sciences, however, are narrow-minded. There is no room for careless broad-mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level; it is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees, nor 211. Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees; it is never 23 degrees nor 31.

“Mathematics is also narrow-minded. The sum of two plus two is four, never three-and-a-half. Geometry is narrow-minded. It says that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points on a plane. A compass is narrow-minded; it always points to the magnetic north. If it were broad-minded, ships at sea and planes in the air would be in danger.”

Yes quite so. Tolerance in so many areas of life is simply a recipe for disaster. We must not tolerate that which will harm us or our loved ones. We must not tolerate beliefs which are false and which will lead us away from truth. We must not tolerate lifestyles which are a danger to those involved in them and to the rest of society.

And we must not tolerate lies, falsehoods, immorality and that which is evil. If you really love someone, you will wish none of these things on the beloved. Your love, therefore, will be intolerant of many things. It will be a discerning love, a righteous love, and a holy love.

As A.W. Tozer wrote about this a half century ago in Man: The Dwelling Place of God: “A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads ‘Thou shalt not disagree;’ and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins ‘Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.’ It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief. . . . Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences.”

Or as Richard J. Mouw put it in Uncommon Decency: “Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic perspective. Being civil doesn’t mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us. Civility doesn’t require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is another thing to say that they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the first of these principles. But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that all beliefs and values deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse relativism – a perspective that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice. Christian civility does not mean refusing to make judgments about what is good and true. For one thing, it really isn’t possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling someone else that she is being judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do!”

John Stott put it this way: “Tolerance is not a spiritual gift; it is the distinguishing mark of postmodernism; and sadly, it has permeated the very fiber of Christianity.  Why is it that those who have no biblical convictions or theology to govern and direct their actions are tolerated and the standard or truth of God’s Word rightly divided and applied is dismissed as extreme opinion or legalism?”

Or as I have been wont to say: “It is time to start getting intolerant about tolerance.”


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21 Replies to “When Tolerance Becomes Sinful”

  1. A great article Bill. God bless you for your courageous stand when so many in the churches shrink from making a stand against the intensity of growing evils in our society.

    Ian Ridgway

  2. Great article Bill, thank you.
    I really loved that quote from A.W Tozer:

    .”……Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences.”

    Daniel Hagen

  3. Thanks Bill for having the courage of your conviction and beliefs to speak out against the very evils seeking tolerance in our Nations and Societies.

    I must be the most intolerant person alive today as I vehemently hate all appearance of evil. I must be most intolerant as I feel disgusted at the very appearance of immorality in it’s many guises.

    I must be intolerant as like God, I am no respecter of persons. I may love my fellowmen but I do not always love or accept their acts contrary to the revealed will of God.

    I must be extremely intolerant as I don’t care what the Meat-headed Ignoramus Legislators deem to be Legal if it does not meet all the tests of being Moral.

    Is it any wonder that I have lost considerable confidence in the majority of the perverted and irreverent Philosophies of so called learned and enlightened Scholars and forward thinking Men who through lies, deceit and innuendo seek to call good, evil and seek to substitute it with that which is plainly evil as being good or seeking to call white, black or all shades of grey and vice versa.

    As God plainly stated in his Ten Commandments for righteous living, thou shalt not or thou shalt, never maybe, if or but or possibly. It was all spelled out in black and white THOU SHALT NOT or THOU SHALT so please forgive me if I am missing something as I don’t ever call to remembrance God ever repealing these Commandments or substituting them with a modified set of Commandments.

    Leigh Stebbins

  4. Hmmm, actually, I think a very recent example of intolerance was displayed by the PM who was totally intolerant of the Opposition Leader’s supposed misogyny.

    John Angelico

  5. I always liked this question I heard in a presentation years ago – “Do you tolerate the view that says you can’t tolerate all views?”
    And even more years ago I wrote a song entitled,”I Serve an Intolerant God” expressing similar thoughts to this article. Thank you for your website Bill.
    Gaye Mason

  6. Abraham Kuyper, a theologian who became Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the early 1900s, said: “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin.”
    How true.
    Jeff Meyers – Summit Min in USA just ran an Email series well worth getting – it started with the above quote.
    More at http://www.summit-courses.org/political

    Peter Stokes

  7. It is always uplifting to read the way you present the thoughts that go round in my head, in such a balanced, straightforward, Biblical way. I have often argued at our very liberal church meetings that tolerance is not a virtue, and that it has degenerated into a synonym for compromise. Keep up the good work, Bill – you are a National Treasure.
    Lorna Rogers

  8. Brilliant article Bill.
    You really hit the nail on the head. I find the tolerance of this world nauseating and yet the world is so judgmental of Christian belief.
    I smiled when I saw the last line in your second last paragraph. My daughter would sit silently among a group of people from school whist one girl regaled of her sexual exploits and her knowledge in this area if anyone wanted to know. She then turned to my daughter and said “Your judging me.” My daughter was astonished at the accusation and stated it was quite the opposite.
    How blinded the world is to it’s own sin!

    Jill Hatton

  9. “Tolerance is the virtue of man without principles” (anon).

    I am riddiculed & villified for holding to principles, something the Word warns & advises us about. Onward Christian Soldiers!

    Stewart Robinson

  10. Thanks Stewart. Actually it was G.K. Chesterton who said it:

    “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  11. Brilliant, Bill. I would like to hear this read from every pulpit.

    Will Taylor

  12. Not everyone is as wise with their words Will, this maybe why many Pulpits do not address the issues, it could sound all wrong and judgmental. Hey, no matter, I guess they can just quote the Scriptures more often.
    Good writing as always Bill.

    Johannes Archer

  13. It’s hard to beat a phrase attributed to the current pope – “the tyranny of tolerance.”

    John Hughes

  14. Thank you for this insightful and well-studied and presented article. I often listen to Christians and New Age believers talk on their beliefs. As I have been a set-free believer for 27 years and in my 60s and I am not seeing a lot of difference!!
    I have always been quite outspoken about my belief and the word of God, with no compromise!! It is so refreshing to hear this message put into such perspective!! You have just given me new wings. We as Christians need to stand on God’s Word and never compromise. And stop letting this sneak into our churches!!
    Thanks again!!

  15. Well done…now if only this was preached from pulpit but the pulpit has been bullied into avoiding the subject out of fear of losing members AND fear the nest of devils in the WH.

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