Of Toleration

Intolerance is one of the charges leveled most consistently at the heart of the church which has the calling before Jesus Christ, as King of the Church, to remain pure in doctrine and in practice. When this purity of doctrine and uprightness in practical liv­ing is maintained in the church and in the lives of the saints respectively, then she is pronounced intolerant and she becomes an offense to those who are wicked and rebel­lious.

Many philosophers and writers have taken the pen and have extolled the virtues of the tolerant man. They have made every attempt to promulgate a philosophy of life which has at its very heart the toleration of all religions and of every creed. “Only in the way of toleration and eventually emulsifica­tion and unification of all religions and every creed can this society continue to exist.” they say. Two of the early writers con­cerned with toleration are John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. In “A Letter Con­cerning Toleration” John Locke writes:

. . . however clearly we may think this or the other doctrine to be deduced from Scripture, we ought not therefore to im­pose it upon others as a necessary article of faith because we believe it to be agreeable to the rule of faith, unless we would be content also that other doc­trines should be imposed upon us in the same manner, and that we should be compelled to receive and profess all the different and contradictory opinions of Lutherans, Calvinists, Remonstrants, A­nabaptists, and other sects which the contrivers of symbols, systems, and con­fessions are accustomed to deliver to their followers as genuine and necessary de­ductions from the Holy Scripture. I can­not but wonder at the extravagant ar­rogance of those men who think that they themselves can explain things necessary to salvation more clearly than the Holy Ghost, the eternal and infinite wisdom of God.

To me it becomes very evident that Locke, who was a broad churchman, does not really recognize the absolute authority of Scripture as being perspicuous concern­ing the doctrines which should be taught by the church. He would wish that this be left to the discretion of the individual and that no hierarchy of values be super-im­posed on any man. It is also true that Locke is an empirical, pragmatic philosopher who denied the existence of absolute moral principles and was more concerned with the preservation of society than he was with the preservation and development of the true religion. All religions that tolerate others are to be tolerated but those cults or religions that have tenets or practices which violate the doctrine of toleration are in­tolerable and may not be permitted to exist within the “free society.”

This is the prevalent philosophy of life of the man of the street, generated by the lie of the Devil in our American culture. This is that which is proudly referred to as our common American heritage, boldly promul­gated is the doctrine that all forms of religions are to be tolerated. These concep­tions, 1 claim, arise very naturally from the totally depraved heart of reprobate man. One who is a believer can even detect these motions of sin within himself. It is so much easier by nature to tolerate than to con­demn; it is so much more natural to deny than to maintain the cause of Cod and of his Christ in midst of the world.

Rousseau also has something to say on the matter of toleration. In The Social Contract, he writes:

“Those who distinguish civil from theolog­ical intolerance are, to my mind mistaken, the two forms are inseparable. It is im­possible to live at peace with those we regard as damned; to love them would be to hate Cod who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them.

Wherever theological intolerance is ad­mitted, it must inevitably have some civil effect; and as soon as it has such an effect, the Sovereign is no longer Sovereign even in the temporal spheres: thence­forth priests are the real masters, and kings only their ministers.

Now that there is and can no longer be an exclusive national religion, tolerance should be given to all religions that toler­ate others, so long as their dogmas con­tain nothing contrary to the duties of citizenship.”

Rousseau argues that the neutral ground of toleration is the only workable solu­tion to an otherwise insoluble problem. This Godless humanist will have nothing of a God who either loves or hates nor of a Christianity which has these as fundamental and inherent tenets of doctrine. This Mod­ernist would “water down” the position of Christianity to the point that it contains no revealed truth and is absolutely lacking in all that is distinctively Christian. All truth becomes subject to a relative standard estab­lished by depraved man; and this is no standard for judging the validity of the dogmas of the church.

I should like to think that tolerance is the product of the imagination of men that “hold down the truth in unrighteousness.” These men are those described by David as the “fools who say, ‘NO’!!! God.” Those who advocate the doctrine of tolerance ad­vocate a cold impossible neutral ground in the battle of the ages. One cannot simply tolerate; he is either for or against; he must either love or hate. His rationality and mor­ality prohibit such an attitude.

In Matthew 10:34 the Christ of the Scrip­tures, the originator of true Christianity says: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword”. Here Christ refers to the fact that he is the rock of offense, the stone at which men stumble except they receive the unction of the Holy Spirit and be drawn out of darkness into his marvelous light.

It is evidently set forth in the Scriptures that Christ was an exceedingly intolerant man. He could not tolerate the lie or any mitigation of the truth. Even though the injunction of God is that “we should love our enemies,” it remains a fact that the wrath of God is upon “his enemies” and we cannot love those enemies of God and of His Word. The ethical principle of discipleship and of Christianity is a leaven that works through all of life. A Christian cannot love that which God hates and cannot hate that which God loves. God hates all that which is not to His honor and His glory; all that does not exalt Him above all the Crea­tion and above all other gods.

There is no place, therefore, for tolerance or toleration in the world and life view of the Christian. The spiritual life of the Chris­tian is directed by principles which arc antithetically opposed to all wickedness. It is ethically impossible for the Christian to hate righteousness or to love wickedness and toleration of incorrect doctrines is likewise impossible. All that mitigates the principles implicit in the life of the Christian must be hated and those things that are in conform­ity with the principles of Christianity are to be practiced, because they are upheld by the doctrines which are part of the Chris­tian’s world and life view.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift and for revealing the better way, the wholly different way which leads to Glory.