When I say that what is most striking in Christianity is not the culture, the history, the church, but rather the fact that Christianity is the ultimate truth, I always get questions like: “Aren’t you to be considered intolerant for saying that?”
Before answering this important question, however, we must try to understand what those asking this question really mean by intolerance. This is important because in the overwhelming majority of cases, the view that Christianity is intolerant in based upon a misleading conception of what tolerance really is. Let’s see.
- Tolerance is not thinking that anything you say must be true
Being tolerant is not taking anything that is said to be equally true. This would be lack of logic. If I say, for example, that Christ died and rose from the dead (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20) and another person says that he’s not risen, we have here two views of a historical fact that are incompatible with each other and, therefore, they cannot both be considered true. At least one must necessarily be false, since they are contradictory.
Does the other person have the right to think, say, and write whatever she thinks about the subject of the resurrection of Christ or any other matter, even though I know it’s false? Of course, he or she does. In fact, tolerance is accepting that everyone should have an equal right to say whatever he or she believes to be true, and it does not mean that everything that is said is necessarily true.
We know that two people can have irreconcilable beliefs among themselves and defend that those beliefs are both true but by force of logic they cannot both be true. One belief has to be true and the other false, or both false, but never both true. As said before, two irreconcilable worldviews cannot be both true for the simple reason that they are irreconcilable. This does not configure intolerance. It’s just an inference from logic.
- All religions (and even atheism) are exclusivist
I must also clarify that not only Christianity, but all religions of the world are exclusivist, that is, they attribute to themselves the exclusive truth. That is, all religions ascribe to themselves the characteristic of being the only truth, being the others false.
Buddha, for example, strongly attacked Hinduism, including criticizing the caste system, so that exclusivism, as I said, is not a peculiarity of Christianity as many people think. We can find exclusivism in every system of thought that intends to be true.
Even the atheistic ideology is exclusivist because it accepts only naturalistic explanations about the world. Once you bring any supernatural explanation for the world, they say it is false, even though the evidences show otherwise.
In short, saying that Christianity is the only truth doesn’t imply intolerance. Intolerance would be not accepting the right other people have to profess the religion he or she understands to be true (or even atheism).
Everyone should have the freedom of thought and the right to express this thought, respected the limits imposed by law. As we know, one’s freedom to express his or her thoughts cannot interfere with the freedom of others to express theirs.
What many people don’t realize is that Christianity can be considered as the most tolerant religion in the world.
Indeed, what most differentiates Christianity from other worldviews is that biblical Christianity is tolerant for excellence. The Bible, in particular, is so tolerant that states that no man is permitted to try to force another person to believe in your commandments. According to the Scriptures, biblical conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit in the human hearts.
Anyone can become a Christian because he or she can be convinced that this is the true view of the world and the Bible states that faith is even rationally defensible (1 Peter 3:15). Christianity affirms that the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:14) and that it is a historical fact like any other that can be investigated in the same way historians investigate passages in the life of any other history character.
In short, Christianity declares that it is the only true religion and it has nothing to do with the analysis of whether or not it is tolerant. We realize that Christianity is tolerant when we see that it’s not proposing for anyone to be forced into Christianity.
According to the Bible, we should respect what others say and even defend that they should have the right to think whatever they want and have the right to express his or her thoughts.
Christianity differs from other worldviews because it give scientific basis for the investigation of its claims, which makes Christianity, in addition to being exclusivist like other religions, it is the only one that does not only accept but even encourages people to examine and investigate the truths it exposes.