The objection of Christians being intolerant or narrow-minded is one of the more popular charges thrown down when discussing some of the moral issues of our day. Christians in many cases, are painted with broad strokes to be the “horse with blinders on its eyes, limiting its vision of the world; or that of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand, completely oblivious to the surrounding world.” But is this true?
In my daughter’s homeschool apologetics training, we have spent a great deal of time working through the objections coming against believing absolute truth exists. One of those objections that we see and hear every so often is with reference to the matters of Christians being intolerant or narrow-minded. Whenever these objection emerge, I find it to be the opportune moment to discuss it and show her how to apply the claim to itself and demonstrate how it breaks down.
Because it has been a crazy month at work, and this topic is so relevant in our home discussions and my workplace, I would like to present four reasons why the “intolerance” objection is false. And how this accusation of Christians being “narrow minded” is really not a bad thing. As I share this post, I am wanting us to bear in mind that those who make these statements do not possess a biblical worldview and think very differently about truth and reality.
How to Break it Down
The first reason this objection is self-defeating is because truth by definition is that which corresponds to all of reality. By its very nature, truth is narrow and at times, divisive by its definition and application. To give an example of how truth corresponds to reality at least today, let’s suppose that there is a blue 2010 Mazda 3 outside my house and in my driveway. If we were to get up and go outside my house, look in the driveway, look at the registration corresponding to the car and see that the color of the Mazda 3 is truly blue, then all the other claims of the car being different year or color are false.
Another illustration I like to use with college students who deny truth is absolute is the illustration of the true/false section of a test or quiz. Have you ever taken a quiz where the answers are true or false? Did you ever get a question wrong and argue with the teacher? Is the teacher narrow minded for marking the answer wrong? Absolutely not! That is because there are statements that are true, and statements that are false. As divisive as it might sound, those statements correspond and cohere to reality whether we like them or not.
There is a second reason, and that is that the person making the statement “absolute truth is too narrow” is actually making an absolute statement that is true for them. If this truly the case, then the one making such a claim is equally narrow-minded or intolerant as the one they accuse. This is when and where we can turn the claim on itself. In recent days, there have been some conversations at work where I have demonstrated this. It is pretty interesting to see the response from the person when this is pointed out to them. Thankfully it has remained cordial. There may be times where that may not be the case.
Thirdly, those charging the Christian with intolerance, because of holding to morals being absolute, are confused about the meaning of the word “intolerance.” “Intolerance refers to the manner or attitude in which one holds truth, not to the truth itself.” This means that this claim of intolerance confuses what one holds to be true with the attitude of how he holds it. That is, if holding to absolute truth makes one intolerant, then one accusing the Christian of intolerance is equally intolerant.
Fourthly and lastly, to be labeled as one being intolerant just on the basis of disagreeing with someone is very mistaken. To be “tolerant” of other views implies that there is a real disagreement between viewpoints. Think of it this way. No one tolerates something that they already agree with. The accusation of intolerance is always on the basis of a disagreement; and it is an attempt by the person who charges intolerance because they want us to accept what we disagree with under the disguise of “tolerance.” If we were to apply the same definition to our accuser, who are the ones really being intolerant?
Do not be afraid being challenge with being called “intolerant” or “narrow-minded.” It’s okay, truth is narrow and at times divisive. If it is divisive, it is only natural that the tolerance or narrow minded name calling will come up. We need to remember that we must be gracious in our response, showing our accusers how their statement break down making them equally narrow-minded or intolerant. Hopefully we can bring them to a “come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) moment and iron things out.
There is another thought that comes to mind here, one that I have experienced in a conversation with the Rev. Barry Lynn. There is an attitude with some that those like Lynn think that it is okay to be intolerant to those who they accuse of intolerance. When I asked Barry Lynn if he found that problematic, he told me “No not at all.” I bring this up in the conclusion because I think we could be writing more on this as the days grow “interesting.”
We need to hold our ground, and understand that they are the ones whom the “god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbeliever” (2 Cor. 4:4). We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom as we engage the objections, and be used by Him to remove them those blinders so that they can see the true truth and turn away from this dangerous delusion.
 Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden, Truth Quest Living Loud: Defending Your Faith (Nashville: Broadman Press, 2002), 36.