In order to begin to answer this question, please join me on a very brief historical journey of philosophical thought to see how we got to where we are today...
Pre-Modern Thought (Up until about 275 years ago)
- Objective, ultimate truth
- Same standard of truth applied to everyone, everywhere
- This reality or truth is knowable
- Almost universal belief in the supernatural realm
- Authority comes from God - The foundation for ultimate truth is supernatural
- All authority is derived from God
Modern Era (Up until about 25 years ago)
- Objective, ultimate truth
- Truth is universal - If it's true, it's true for everybody
- Ultimate truth can only be gained by scientific means
- Spirituality regarded as superstitious and out-dated
- Popular worldview being Deism - "God" created the universe, and then let it be
- Authority came from science and human reason - Not God
- Therefore an attack on Biblical Christianity was created
Post-modern Era (Where we are now)
- Ultimate truth is unknowable
- No authoritative revelation
- Subjective personal feelings and experiences rule
- God can be whatever you perceive him/her to be
- Truth can be whatever you perceive it to be
- No ultimate authority
- Every man does what is right in his own eyes
- People define themselves as "Spiritual"
- Radically at odds with Biblical, historic Christianity
Four Essentials of the Christian Worldview that Post-modernists cannot stomach:
Objectivity - Post-modernists believe all truth is subjective, relative
Clarity - Post-modernists believe meaning is determined by reader/hearer, rather than author. It's completely self-absorbed, the author's intent is irrelevant
Authority - Post-modernists insist there are no foundations for knowledge, all opinions are equally valid
Certainty - Post-modernists believe you can't know anything with certainty and consider you arrogant if you claim to know anything for sure
All this boils down to one thing... In our Post-modern culture today you can't tell someone that their belief is wrong. You will be branded as INTOLERANT.
What is tolerance?
Traditional Definition - A sympathy for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own. Or the act of allowing something: tolerating something or someone. Tolerance does not require agreement or acceptance, merely allowance. Tolerance requires that every person is treated courteously, no matter what their view, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth. Over the past few years a new definition of tolerance has emerged -
This new tolerance is what evangelist Josh McDowell calls "positive tolerance."
Positive tolerance goes beyond allowance to acceptance. Take for example the issue of homosexuality. We recognize a person's right to be a practicing homosexual, which is what tolerance means. If we went around beating and killing homosexuals, that would obviously be intolerant.
Now positive tolerance goes a step further and says not only do you have to recognize an individual's right to be gay, but you have to say there is nothing wrong with it. I would even go as far as to say our society is demanding that we not only accept it, but celebrate it.
The irony is that according to the classical definition of tolerance, you can't tolerate someone unless you disagree with him first. We don't "tolerate" people who share our views. There's nothing to "put up" with. Think about this, you must first think someone is wrong in order to exercise tolerance, yet doing that brings an accusation of intolerance. It's a "Catch-22." According to this new definition - tolerance is impossible.
Greg Koukl says, "Most of what passes for tolerance today is intellectual laziness. Those who brandish the word "intolerant" are unwilling to be challenged by other views, to grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult - "you intolerant bigot" than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. Contemporary tolerance is self-contradictory. The "you think you're right and others are wrong" version is offered as a corrective to our views. However, a corrective is only given when one thinks their view is right and another view is wrong. In the very act of correcting Christians, they do what they say we shouldn't do."
In the context of evangelism - Can you see the problem that is before us?
Christians are people who follow the man who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" John 14:6 and there is salvation in no other name. Acts 4:12
On top of that, He charged us with, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:15-16
Those who argue, "You're trying to get me to change my beliefs." We say YES! Our religion is an evangelistic religion. Jesus left us with The Great Commission. Part of our religious view is that we tell other people, because we are concerned for them. So are you telling me not to do what my religion tells me to do? Are you trying to get me to change my beliefs?" Why can't you be more tolerant?
When it comes to the beliefs of other religions, we can be tolerant in the classic sense of the word, but not according to positive tolerance which says every view is equally true. We can't say something is true if it contradicts Jesus' words. John MacArthur said, "If there were 40 ways to be saved, I'd preach all 40, but there is only one." If bringing this message requires that we be branded intolerant, ask them what they mean by "intolerant"...