Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Use intelligence about intolerance

It's been a while since I've written here - sorry!  Things have been particularly busy lately.  I want to issue an appeal in this post, and it springs from a conversation I heard on the Unbelievable? radio show a while ago between David Robertson (Christian) and Mike Lee (atheist).

Mike asked if David thought Mike would go to hell if he didn't believe in Jesus, because if he did then he would be "intolerant".

This is becoming so common that it almost seems pointless to raise a voice of objection against it anymore, but I will, and I'll just pray that someone gets it - "That's not what intolerant means!" 

If a Muslim said I'm going to hell because I don't believe Muhammad was a true prophet, or if a Roman Catholic said (as they used to but don't anymore) I'm going to hell because I don't accept the authority of the Pope, I don't believe in the perpetual virginity or bodily assumption of Mary, I don't believe in the Mass, and I do believe in salvation by faith alone, I would never say those people are intolerant, I would just say they're wrong and then explain why.

Now if they said they were going to kill me or put me in prison if I didn't change my beliefs then that would be intolerant - they would be denying me the right to have my own beliefs and convictions.  That is the atheism of the East - the way Russia was, and China / North Korea etc. are.  Again, if they said I shouldn't get employment or be allowed to raise children unless I gave up my beliefs then that would be intolerant, and that is the atheism of the west - the way Europe and the USA is getting. 

Intolerance isn't stating what you believe and expressing your conviction that others are wrong.  Intolerance is a refusal to allow people to believe differently.  Christians have to be tolerant because we recognise that if people do need Christ to escape hell then we cannot force that belief on them.  They cannot be bullied into true repentance.

Let me just say a word about the way the question was framed.  It made it sound as if believing in the Lord Jesus was an arbitrary requirement, and God could have said "If you don't spin round three times and touch the ground you're going to hell."  Believing in the Lord Jesus in the Bible sense of the expression is not arbitrary or merely intellectual - it means to trust in the Lord Jesus to save you, and the reason we need to do that is because He is the only one who can save us.  He alone can deliver us from our sins because He alone was delivered up for our sins (Romans 4 v 25).

God is intolerant - intolerant of sin, and the only way our sins can be forgiven and our souls saved is through Christ - that is why you need to believe in Him (John 8 v 24).