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Intolerance: A Christian Virtue

Aug 12, 2008
Culture in this first part of the twenty-first century might be described as "politically correct" or "tolerant." According to this paradigm a garbage man is a "sanitation engineer," a short person is "vertically challenged," and a thief is "ethically disoriented." Inclusive cultural practices can border on the insane when traffic signs are printed in 5 languages and also marked in Braille!

This paradigm might even slip into evangelical Christian thought if biblical truths like "judge not lest ye be judged" are misunderstood. That is, many feel as though to "love" means that we should never be intolerant. Certainly no believer should want to needlessly offend, but when we tolerate what God judges we have capitulated to the society we should engage.

Many Christians are appropriately intolerant toward moral "diversity" (at least rhetorically). When it comes to doctrinal issues though, we tend to tolerate unscriptural doctrinal "diversity" believing it to be "gracious." Jude, however, taught the church of antiquity to "contend earnestly for the faith." With thousands of evangelical Christian denominations perhaps we'd prefer to comfort rather than to contend. Contrary to tolerant Christianity, but in line with Jude, Paul also insisted that we not tolerate doctrinal corruption:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom 16:17-18).

Regarding Romans 16:17 James Strong explains that the term mark them means "to take aim at." Now, could the gracious and merciful apostle Paul possibly mean that Christians are to "take aim at" leaders inside the Christian church? Such a concept seems offensive and extreme when considered through today's post-modern, "tolerant" mindset. Paul, however, plainly demonstrated the lost virtue of Christian intolerance when he warned Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus whose teaching "will spread like gangrene."

Will spread like gangrene? If a Christian today said such a thing he'd be labeled unloving, ungracious or "intolerant!" It's easy to think that Paul must have only used such language with fringe fanatics, but Paul was publicly intolerant of even the most popular leader in the early church:

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs (Gal 2:14).

In Galatians 2:14 Paul critiqued Peter because when trusted preachers proclaim errors others are mislead. Being intolerant toward doctrinal deviations isn't sympathetic with modern live and let live ideology, but it is biblical. Even the Christians at the church of Pergamum in Rev. 2:15 did not need to guess about whose teaching to avoid. "You have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam," warned the Lord, "who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality."

In contemporary Christianity gracious tolerance at the expense of doctrinal integrity is often held as a virtue. In the bible, however, Jesus insists that His church test its leaders and practice the virtue of intolerance toward those who err. Tolerating an errant leader in the church of Thyatira the Christians there garnered the believers there a reproof which echoed through the generations:

But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20).

Just as the wayward doctrines of Jezebel (and even Peter) led the early Christians astray, teachers within the Christian church today go unchallenged though they too teach doctrines which cause the people of God to stumble. Contrary to the milquetoast tolerance dogmas so popular today the lost virtue of Christian intolerance is needed like never before because popular leaders with worldwide platforms stumble the servants of Christ and go unchallenged.
About the Author
Read Daniel LaLond Jr.'s public letters to Chuck Swindoll and to Dr. Tony Evans. LaLond's book, The Lying Promise, tests celebrated, but erroneous doctrine within the modern Christian church.
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