Response Idea: "When you say intolerant, can you clarify what do you mean? Do you mean where someone doesn't believe others should be allowed believe as they choose? Do Christians not allow others to believe as they choose, or do they just disagree with those beliefs? Isn't it the latter? So isn't this statement 'Christians shouldn't be so intolerant' not actually just disagreeing with the beliefs of Christians, but actually believing that Christians not be allowed believe as they choose? The statement is actually intolerant of the beliefs of Christians."
So someone making this statement is guilty of the intolerance they accuse Christians of.
A statement commonly made to challenge Christians is,
“Christians shouldn’t be so intolerant”
This is one of the current and popular challenging statements because of our culture. In today’s culture if you disagree with someone’s belief you are often labeled Intolerant.
Christians are frequently referred to as Intolerant. This claim is usually made because Christians believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, (believing an absolute truth), and that there is only one way to God (an absolute truth). Because of this, some believe that Christians aren't open minded to other beliefs and to other “ways” to salvation, (a subjective belief), and that Christians shouldn’t share their beliefs with others. People who use the term INTOLERANT to describe Christians believe that Christians don’t consider other’s beliefs to be as valid as their own Christian beliefs. The statement initially sounds pretty convincing, right? As we shall see, people who make this statement typically misuse the term Intolerant.
At www.dictionary.com/browse/intolerant?s=t we find the origin (also referred to as Etymology) of the word 'Intolerant'. It is indicated as an adjective, with the first definition being:
"Not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one's own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted."
The same page indicates the first usage of 'Intolerant' was in 1735, almost 3 centuries ago.
The online Merriam Webster dictionary indicates the current definition, very similar to the original:
"Unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters”
Considering this definition has been accepted for almost 3 centuries, do Christians qualify as Intolerant? Obviously not. Have you ever met a Christian who is unwilling to "grant equal freedom of expression regarding a religious view" that someone believes which is contradictory to Christianity? I haven't, and I've met hundreds if not thousands. But considering the possibility that there is a very small percentage, I won't use the word 'all'. Even if a small percentage could be described as 'Intolerant', the vast majority of Christians by definition are Tolerant, not Intolerant. Most Christians, while disagreeing with non-Christian beliefs, are certainly NOT “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression”.
The online Cambridge dictionary indicates the definition of 'Tolerant' as:
"Willing to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, even if you disagree with or disapprove of them."
So by this current definition, the vast majority of Christians certainly are tolerant.
From this statement used to challenge Christians, "Christians shouldn't be so intolerant", it is clear that increasing numbers of people in our culture and the world have been convinced that the definition of 'Tolerance' is not the classic definition, but a politically correct definition similar to this one:
'The ACCEPTANCE AND AGREEMENT of another person’s different beliefs as truth, even if those beliefs contradict ours."
This "new" tolerance that is being pushed is that If we don’t consider as true another person’s beliefs which are contradictory to our own, we are considered intolerant. The primary reason for this is because many believe that no one can know anything for sure (this is called Post-Modernism), and to claim to know something for sure according to them is very arrogant, especially when it comes to the Christian's belief that some won't end up in heaven after this life.
Can you see the obvious contradiction in the statement,
“Christians need to stop being intolerant”?
The statement is actually a statement of intolerance made by the person saying it. The person making the statement is not just disagreeing with the Christian’s belief, they are urging that Christians not share what they believe. In a nutshell:
They are sharing what they believe that Christians shouldn't share what Christians believe.
Let’s look at it a little more closely. Doesn't the statement show that the person making it is disagreeing with what a Christian believes as truth? If they disagree with what the Christian believes as truth, then by the modern cultural definition of 'Tolerance' they are not accepting of the beliefs the Christian holds as true, are they? If they don’t accept as truth what the Christian believes as truth, aren't they then being intolerant, according to their definition of 'Intolerant'? The statement shows that they are doing the exact thing they are accusing Christians of doing.
I've never heard a Christian say that a person of another belief shouldn’t be so intolerant just because they believe different than the Christian. Have you?
When you think about it, doesn't everyone have a belief they accept as true? By the culture’s mistaken definition of intolerance, that any belief a person holds is true for everyone, than any two people who have contradictory beliefs are automatically Intolerant of each other. If anything, Christians are the ones showing Tolerance, because we allow all beliefs. We just don’t consider beliefs that are contradictory can be TRUE. We allow, we just don't agree. This fulfills the definition of tolerance.
A single question clearly illustrates this truth. Do people tolerate things they like? Do we tolerate a person being kind or generous or loving? Do we tolerate a great dinner, or a beautiful sunset? No, because we like and agree with these things. We can only tolerate things we don't like or agree with, like pain after seeing a dentist, or a person being rude and inconsiderate, or someone eating that last piece of pie we were saving.
The person stating that “Christians need to stop being intolerant” really believes that Christians shouldn’t share their beliefs. After all, they wouldn't say it if they didn't believe it. So, can you see how the person saying it is trying to impose their belief on the Christian, that the Christian shouldn’t share their Christian belief? The statement is self-contradictory because the person stating that “Christians need to stop being intolerant” is demonstrating an intolerance to the beliefs of Christians. By doing this the person making the statement is demonstrating a misunderstanding of the word Intolerant.
When a person claims that you are intolerant, they do so because they are offended that you think you are right. As we have seen, the truth in this situation is that they think they are right too, otherwise they wouldn't criticize you, would they? Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason (www.str.org) uses the following conversation he had with someone claiming Greg was intolerant, to demonstrate how to respond to someone making this claim. This should effectively show them in a non-confrontational way that they are the ones actually demonstrating intolerance.
Challenger: “You’re intolerant!”
You: “Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you consider me an intolerant person?”
Challenger: “Well, it’s clear you think you’re right about (__fill in the blank__), and you think everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.”
You: “I guess I do think my views are correct. It’s always possible I could be mistaken, but I don’t think I am. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Don’t you think your views are right?”
Challenger: “Yes, I think I’m right, too. But I’m not intolerant. You are.”
You: “That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing?”
Greg Koukl also indicates that when asked for your opinion about a controversial subject when in a conversation with someone hostile to Christianity, you can be labeled intolerant if your response is not given skillfully.
He recommends that you not give your answer without first asking a few questions. The questions will then provide you the ability to offer your answer without being cornered by the person asking you your opinion.
The following conversation example shows this technique and is taken from the articles at the following links.
HOW TO DIFFUSE THE ACCUSATION OF INTOLERANCE
HOW TO GET OUT OF A CORNER
(longer version of the same article)
Greg was asked by a friend how she might to respond to her boss, who had asked her point of view about homosexuality. The boss of the friend was a lesbian. Greg was able to give her the excellent counsel indicated in the article.
If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will cause you to be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, then do something a little unexpected. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue, preface your remarks with a question. Say to the person,
“You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views.”
“So let me ask you a question. Do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from your own?”
Now when my friend gives her point of view, it’s going to be very difficult for her boss to call her intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too. This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view she thinks is right and everybody passes judgment at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in morality.
THE NEW TOERANCE AND MORAL RELATIVISM - Jay Wegter
DECONSTRUCTING LIBERAL TOLERANCE - Francis Beckwith
How to Defuse the Accusation of Intolerance
How Can We Answer People Who Say We’re Intolerant?
With Greg Koukl - Intolerance
(How to Answer Those Who Say We're Intolerant?)
Greg and Tom Gilson talk about the accusation that Christians are intolerant
Interview: Sean McDowell – The Beauty of Intolerance
If you have a younger child, there is a good probability that they are already being challenged or even shamed in what they believe. This link indicates 5 prominent challenges and helping your children respond to the challenges.
A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian
Next Section: All Roads Lead To God