Is It Intolerant to Claim Christianity Alone Is True?

bible-study-young-adult

A couple of years ago I visited Canada to record television interviews about my book Christian Endgame. Prior to the recording, some of the Christians in the green room told me to be cautious about saying that Christianity is the exclusively true religion. When I inquired why, I was told that it is considered intolerant in Canadian society to claim Christianity is the only way to God. The Christian program executives were concerned about receiving legal reprisals from the Canadian government for broadcasting “intolerant” religious statements.

I don’t know exactly what Canada’s laws are concerning alleged statements of religious intolerance, but it appears the Western world (including America) has allowed political correctness to run amuck.

So, how should Christians respond to the challenge that their belief of exclusivity reflects intolerance? Here are five ways to handle this increasingly tricky topic.

  1. We can point out that truth exists and that it really matters. Respect and tolerance should never be divorced from truth, especially the concept of ultimate truth. All denials of objective truth are ultimately self-defeating.1 For example, to claim there is no objective truth would itself constitute an objective truth.
  2. We can point out that cold, hard logic requires that contradictory religious truth-claims cannot be simultaneously true. For example, Christianity affirms that Jesus Christ is God incarnate (God in human flesh); but traditional Judaism and Islam both assert that Jesus was not God incarnate. The law of noncontradiction states: A cannot equal A and equal non-A at the same time and in the same way.2 Based on this law, Jesus Christ cannot be both God incarnate (Christianity) and not God incarnate (Judaism, Islam) at the same time and in the same respect. Affirming the dictates of reason does not violate any acceptable standard of tolerance.
  3. We can make an apologetic case for the truthfulness of Christianity. Believers can present persuasive arguments for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3) and point out difficulties in alternative, non-Christian belief systems (2 Corinthians 10:5). For example, the Apostle Paul made an affirmative case for Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3–8) and the Apostle John criticized the Docetist heresy that claimed Jesus hadn’t come in the flesh (1 John 4:1–3).
  4. We should admit that societies significantly influenced by Christianity have at times promoted or permitted genuine intolerance (e.g., anti-Semitism in twentieth-century Europe). Christians are forgiven sinners and they should personally and corporately admit their constant struggle against sin. They can, however, point out that Christianity itself affirms genuine tolerance as a virtue via the biblical view that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) and are thus deserving of respectful and dignified treatment. Jesus himself set a moral example of treating people with respect and tolerance when he initiated a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7–26). Usually rabbis didn’t speak to women in public and Jews avoided interacting with Samaritan people (see John 4:9).
  5. Christians are called to witness to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ with both their words (preaching) and their lives (ethical conduct). The world needs to see the power of lived truth. These two things can be accomplished when believers are personally and socially tolerant of people while simultaneously intellectually intolerant of conflicting truth-claims.

At the heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Mark 12:35–37; John 20:28; Romans 10:9–13; 1 Corinthians 8:5–6; 12:3; Philippians 2:11). Remember, the exclusive claims of Christ’s Lordship are no more politically correct today in Canada (or anywhere) than they were 2,000 years ago in the ancient Roman Empire.

Endnotes

  1. For a discussion of why denials of truth are self-defeating, see Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 161–67.
  2. See Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 42–44.

  One thought on “Is It Intolerant to Claim Christianity Alone Is True?

  1. Thomas Schiel
    February 24, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Yes, it is intolerant!
    Why should one tolerate lies?

    • February 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Hello, Thomas.

      I think there are clear logical problems with your two rather abrupt statements.

      1. Even if Christianity were false (to use your words “lies”) that wouldn’t necessarily make the belief that it is the one true religion an intolerant belief.

      2. Your second statement: “Why should one tolerate lies?” Is a good example of the informal logical fallacy known as the complex question. It is fallacious because it assumes Christian truth-claims are lies and then asks a question based upon that assumption. It is kind of like the question: Have you stopped beating your wife?

      By the way I’m curious whether you actually read my article before posting your statements?

      Sincerely,

      Ken Samples

  2. February 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    There is a point at which this kind of apologetics becomes gaslighting. Having a theoretical rationale for aggressive behavior doesn’t change the behavior.At their core, questions about (in)tolerance are about behavior, not theory.

    • February 25, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Hello, Daniel.

      Thank you for your comments.

      With the new emergence of postmodernism and political correctness it seems now that it is not just behavior that is considered intolerant. Some people think that even to believe your religion to be exclusively true is itself intolerant.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  3. james archbold
    February 25, 2016 at 4:26 am

    Is it right though,however convinced you are to try to influence laws based on that belief. There are those who identify themselves as christian who would seek to limit or deny the rights of certain other minority groups based solely on percieved biblical moral precepts.Even if you are 100% sure in your own mind is it right that you would seek to limit the freedom of others in deference to a narrative that has now become widely regarded as superstition,myth,legend?

    • February 25, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Hello, James.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      Three points in response:

      1. All people (religious and non-religious) vote for policies or laws that possibly restrict the behavior of others based upon their moral convictions. Secularists act no different in this regard. This is the way democracies work.

      2. Historic Christianity has affirmed that since all people are made in the image of God then each and every person should be accorded dignity and respect. If Christians have genuinely denied people respect and dignified treatment then they have acted inconsistent with a critical biblical principle.

      3. I don’t think it is true that Christianity is now widely considered superstition, myth, or legend. Pew research studies indicate most people in the world believe in God and/or religion and Christianity is by far the world’s largest religion with approximately 2.2 billion adherents. Some contexts of society are more secular but in my area of study (philosophy), the largest subset of the American Philosophical Association is the Society of Christian Philosophers. So some tough-minded professionals find Christian truth-claims quite probative.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • james archbold
        February 26, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        Thank you for your responding Ken.

        1. And as a democracy this should really indicate that all interest groups are occupying an even playing field. Curiously though in many countries religion enjoys a privileged status, and privilege is necessarily unfair and unjust. If one group is treated favourably then another groups treatment is diminished.

        Regards

        James

      • February 26, 2016 at 4:37 pm

        James:

        The Judeo-Christian affirmation that all people are made in the image of God provides justification for what you are asking for (treating all people fairly and equitably). In fact, the democracies of the West have had their view of human dignity deeply shaped by the biblical religions.

        But I’m not sure that secularism can ground a similar principle that guarantees respect and dignified treatment for all. Thus it seems that moral values like fairness and justice require an objective anchor beyond mere subjective claims.

        Respectfully,

        Ken Samples

  4. james archbold
    February 27, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Hello Ken

    I don’t feel I can speak for how secularists as a whole account for a’ moral anchor’ but for me personally I would say that we make decisions based on what we feel will best guarrantee our own ‘well being’ and at a genetic level will help our survival as a species.’ And attributes such as generosity, justice ,caring, thoughtfulness, fairness, love etc.. are all attributes that will contribute to our own well being.and that of the wider society. Attributes such as hate , selfishness, lying, greed, intolerance in the long run do not contribute in a positive way to our own well being, those around us or at a genetic level our survival as a species. I think this would be a fairly reasonable and not implausible assumption to make.
    I wonder,If you were a secularist how would you explain it ?

    Kindest regards
    James

    • February 27, 2016 at 10:21 am

      James:

      Greetings.

      I think that it is noble that you desire to be loving, just, generous, and fair. And that you repudiate hate, selfishness, lying, and intolerance. I wish more people were like you and would reflect upon the importance of living an ethical life.

      As a Christian I believe there are objective moral principles built into life and into the human conscience. Thus I think morality is discovered not invented by human beings. Ultimately I think these ethical principles flow from God’s moral nature. So I have a reason to be moral because I am a morally responsible being and I live in an ethical world made by an ethical God.

      With regard to secularism, I find it hard to understand how there can actually be objective morality. I know secularists affirm moral principles and, like you, seek to live with moral integrity but it seems that secularists have invented morality. And invented morality lacks a prescriptive (ought, should) nature. Moreover it seems other secularists could easily reason that since life is an accident of nature then they think it prudent to seek after self-interest and be selfish, greedy, and intolerant. But lacking an objective basis for morality either secularist opinion would be acceptable for neither position is morally and prescriptively right or wrong.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • james archbold
        February 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

        Thank you Ken.

  5. March 30, 2016 at 9:18 am

    It’s both arrogant and unprovable.

    • March 30, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Amelia:

      Did you actually read my article or is this simply your passing assertion on the web?

      If you are genuinely interested in evaluating evidence for the truth of Christianity, here’s a link to a brief article on Five Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection: http://ow.ly/ZYiem

      Cheers,

      Ken Samples

      • March 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

        Yes I read your article and it made me sad.

        Sad that people like you exist in 2016.

      • March 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

        Amelia:

        So you insist that exclusive Christian truth-claims are “arrogant.” Then you state: “Sad that people like you exist in 2016.” Your comment doesn’t seem very respectful or tolerant. What irony. I would never say something like that about you.

        I’m curious, is it also arrogant and unprovable to claim that all religions are false and that atheism alone is true?

        With respect,

        Ken Samples

  6. NICK TAVANI
    January 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Ken, I commend your one on one replies, exemplifying 1 Peter 3:15. Lord grant me that kind of longsuffering patience.
    n

    • January 30, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks, Nick. I view you as a very gracious person and as a good friend. Best regards. Ken

    • Donna
      October 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      I totally agree with Nick. My husband is teaching about apologetics (“I Don’t Have ..Be an Atheist”). We have been focusing on being gracious when defending our faith. Too often we focus on the “Be prepared” portion of I Peter 3:15 and not the “with gentleness and respect.”

      • October 4, 2017 at 2:37 pm

        Thanks, Donna. Endeavoring to do apologetics in a gracious manner is so very important.

        Best regards.

        Ken Samples

  7. Charles Kong
    August 22, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Ken, read your article it was great! You have a background in Philosophy too that awesome! You’re a great Christian Apologist. Many atheists I find make claims of truth, but can never justify it. Absolute truth, by definition is exclusive and exists, Objective Moral Values also do exist, Intelligent information found in living DNA, The Fine Tuning of the Universe to Support Life, historical authenticity of the Gospels, etc. Atheism is Self-Refuting – If there is no GOD, then there is no Objective Morality. If there is no Objective Morality, then no basis for judgement. If no base for Judgement, then nothing can be true. If nothing can be true, then Atheism is not true.

    • August 22, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Thanks for your helpful comments, Charles.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  8. Chris Galactic
    August 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Hi. you mention about objective truth and on your timeline you mentioned, “Morality is discovered not invented by human beings. Ultimately I think these ethical principles flow from God’s moral nature”. . I see atheists these days ask, “To demonstrate objective morality”. Are they asking to show an example it exist independently of the mind, therefore God being the moral law giver, or is it something else? Trying to understand their view when this question is asked. Thank You

    • August 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

      Hello, Chris. Some older atheists (e.g., J.L. Mackie) believed that objective morality would have to be connected to God but Mackie denied God and therefore denied objective morality as well. Some of todays atheists want to affirm objective morality but attempt to ground it in something other than God. However, I think this attempt fails.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  9. Roger Wolsey
    September 11, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    “So, from a progressive Christian perspective, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and all who follow Jesus’ way, teachings, and example — the way of unconditional love, of radical hospitality, of loving-kindness, of compassion, of mercy, of prophetic speaking truth to power, the way of forgiveness, of reconciliation, and the pursuit of restorative justice – by whatever name, and even if they’ve never even heard of Jesus, are fellow brothers & sisters in Christ and his Way.”
    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/04/jesus-isisnt-the-only-way-they-cant-all-be-true-except-when-they-are/#wgJtzWALlYhpwcbA.99

    • September 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

      Hello, Roger.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Nobody can perfectly follow Jesus’s teachings, example, and virtues as found in the Gospels. The fact that Jesus could live that way shows he was much more than a mere human being (the God-man). So that’s why from the traditional Christian perspective Jesus came as Lord and Savior to save us from our sin.

      This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • Roger Wolsey
        September 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

        Yes, of course we cannot follow Jesus way, teachings, and example perfectly. Thank God for grace. However, we are called to do our best to follow in that way. That way is the way that allows us to experience wholeness/salvation.

  10. October 4, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Roger:

    Since we can’t follow Jesus’s way, teaching, and example perfectly we’re sinners who need a Savior. In so-called “progressive Christianity” Jesus is a moral example but not Lord and Savior.

    Ken Samples

    • Roger Wolsey
      October 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Did you not see my remark above “thank God for grace”?? Progressive Christians do not deny that humans on our own our pound for failure, rather we embrace that God is with us, and so is God’s grace. Jesus is Lord and Caesar isn’t!

      • October 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm

        Roger:

        Thanks for your comment.

        But just so I understand what you mean by “progressive Christian,” do affirm such historic Christian doctrines as the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, Christ’s atoning death on the cross as a sacrifice for human sin, and Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave?

        Ken Samples

      • Roger Wolsey
        October 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm

        Progressive Christians don’t require that people embrace any of those concepts. We allow for them but they certainly are not required. That said, most progressive Christians reject the substitutionary theory of the atonement. You should know that there is no Church council that has ever met to deem any one theory of the atonement as “the one, right, true, official” one. Many of us embrace either The Christus victor theory of the atonement or the moral example theory of the atonement. Most all Progressive Christians embrace the humanity of Christ, and most all of us embrace the divinity of Christ as well and also of you.

      • October 4, 2017 at 4:57 pm

        Roger:

        If you don’t mind me asking: Can you personally affirm the Nicene Creed?

        It is affirmed by all conservative branches of Christendom (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant).

        Thanks.

        Ken Samples

      • Roger Wolsey
        October 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

        Certainly. I affirm it as beautiful Christian poetry that attempts to articulate the ineffable.

      • October 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm

        Thanks, Roger. I think I have a better understanding now of what you mean by “progressive Christian.”

        Best regards.

        Ken Samples

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