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Should Christians be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs?

Question: "Should Christians be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs?"

In our age of “tolerance,” moral relativism is touted as the supreme virtue. Every philosophy, idea, and faith system has equal merit, says the relativist, and is worthy of equal respect. Those who favor one faith system over another or—even worse—claim a knowledge of absolute truth are considered narrow-minded, unenlightened, or even bigoted.

Of course, different religions make mutually exclusive claims, and the relativist is unable to logically reconcile outright contradictions. For example, the Bible makes the claim that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27), while some Eastern religions teach reincarnation. So, do we die once, or many times? Both teachings cannot be true. The relativist essentially redefines truth in order to create a paradoxical world where multiple, contradictory “truths” can co-exist.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). A Christian has accepted Truth, not just as a concept, but as a Person. This acknowledgment of Truth separates the Christian from the so-called “open-mindedness” of the day.

The Christian has publicly acknowledged that Jesus rose from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). If he truly believes in the Resurrection, how can he be “open minded” concerning an unbeliever’s assertion that Jesus never rose again? For a Christian to deny the clear teaching of God’s Word would indeed be a betrayal of God.

Note that we have cited the fundamentals of the faith in our examples so far. Some things (such as the bodily resurrection of Christ) are non-negotiable. Other things may be open to debate, such as who wrote the book of Hebrews, the nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” and the number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin. We should avoid becoming embroiled in disputations over secondary matters (2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9).

Even when disputing/dialoguing over prominent doctrines, a Christian should exercise restraint and show respect. It is one thing to disagree with a position; it is quite another to disparage a person. We must hold fast to the Truth while showing compassion to those who question Truth. Like Jesus, we must be full of grace and truth both (John 1:14).

Peter strikes a good balance between having the answer and having humility: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Recommended Resource: The New Tolerance by McDowell and Hostetler.

Related Topics:

Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?

What is the definition of a cult?

Why are Christians guilty of hate speech?

Does the Bible call Christians to defend the faith / argue for the faith?

What is the best way to evangelize someone who is in a cult or false religion?

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Should Christians be tolerant of other people's religious beliefs?