"Houston, We Have A Problem"

W. Terry Varner
April 12, 2015

Everyone is talking about the importance of tolerance. While the United States of America was founded upon the principles of religious and political tolerance, it appears that this nation is rapidly labeling many former social and religious customs as intolerant. Society is forcing upon its subjects tolerance; i.e. the necessity of all accepting (tolerance) of same-sex marriage, abortion, homosexuality, etc.

Christianity is to maintain and advance the high principles of God Jehovah in society. Christians are to be the light of the world and the salt of society in a world of darkness and evil influence (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). When Christians teach and advocate the necessity to comply with the teaching of our Savior, Satan, our enemy (cf. James 4:4), attacks us by culture, media, etc., as being intolerant. Christians are charged with hatred, bigotry, and fear. Faithful Christians do not hate those who practice evil, but rather desire to save their souls (cf 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

With the redefining of tolerance to mean that each and every individual’s beliefs, values, worldview, lifestyle, and truth as equally valid, this creates difficulties in practice and belief of Christians. The old saying, Houston, we have a problem” is true. Sure enough our society does have a serious problem. Few things can be said in favor of redefining of the term tolerance. The new and contemporary intolerance is by its very nature intolerant. The intolerance of intolerance is socially dangerous as well as intellectually weakening. Carson in showing the dimension of intolerance writes: “The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own. We move from allowing free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions.. . . [and] agree to asserting that all beliefs and claims are equally valid. Thus we slide from the old tolerance to the new” (4-5). D. A. Carson is right on target! Society as a whole has generally bought into intolerance.

We readily admit some small good may have come from the new tolerance, though we argue that very little good has come from it. One real problem with the new tolerance is the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is cherished, even foolish speech. Salman Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses provoking the protest of Muslims and calling for fatwa against him; i.e. assassination. Does the new tolerance mean that Christians, Jew, or secularists has no right to criticize Islam in any way? Do we curb free speech, even foolish speech, on the ground of political correctness? The Bible calls for the Christian not to be intimated by the redefining of tolerance. We dare not practice political correctness for the sake of religious and social unity.

Tolerance must be understood and practiced from a biblical perspective; i.e. our tolerance must be sifted through the teaching of the Bible. What other standard is there for the Christian to gauge his actions and attitudes? In our tolerance we must insist on a place for truth—absolute truth—not only for our minds, but in our interaction with culture. We are to treat people with dignity and respect, even those with whom we disagree; however, new tolerance insists it is wrong to say that another’s fundamental beliefs are false; i.e. it is wrong to say that it is wrong not to believe in God, not to believe in same-sex marriage, etc. The question arises now can we be tolerant in our mind and practice what God has revealed in His word (Bible) to be evil, erroneous, and sinful? We argue that there is non-negotiable truth that is to be (1) we are to hold fast biblical traditions (cf. 2 Thess. 2:15), (2) cherished (cf. Prov. 23:23), (3) and contend for and uphold the faith (Jude 3).