By Not Known
Bigoty of all kinds is out of fashion presently, especially when it comes in a religious
guise. Having strayed into the abyss of strongly held and intolerant opinions, the
civilised world rightly says 'no thanks'.
Some get confused at this point. They confuse truth and tolerance and act as though
the only way to have tolerance is to abandon all truth claims. Within this, all
religions are seen as equally true (different paths to the same God) or as equally
invalid (a post-modern view).
This fails to treat the claims of each religion seriously. Christians, Muslims, Jews,
Hindus, Buddhists and such like, make competing claims. Are God and the creation
separate or fused? Is God Father, Son and Holy Spirit or just One? Is Jesus the God-man,
or just a man? Which is the true holy book? Who is the true prophet of God? Is
humanity sinful? How do we have peace with God? There is no way that the answers
to these questions from different religions can be harmonised. Different religious
have different beliefs and create different cultures.
Christianity certainly makes some startling claims to exclusive truth. The God of the
Bible is not the same as other gods, for he is incomparable (Is 40:9-25). Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) and the only one through whom salvation is possible. (Acts 4:12, 1 Tim 2:5).
However, making claims to exclusive truth is not the same as being intolerant.
Luke's account of Paul's visit to Athens illustrates this (Acts 17:16-30). Paul did not shout the message about Jesus to his hearers with bigoty. Nor did he seek to
suppress their existing religious beliefs. Rather he engaged with his hearers. He
started from their practices and literature and went on to speak about Jesus. His
message was clear and direct, but not rude or bigoted.
The skills of a balanced engagement, that is both tolerant and also truthful, are rare.
Most of us fall to one side or the other. We are either intolerant as we stridently
force our truth on others, or we surrender our truth claims in order to be tolerant.
We need to work at this balanced engagement, for it is both vital to being effective
witnesses for Jesus and to making our contribution to a civil society.
May God help us to be both truthful and tolerant.