Is Religious Tolerance Biblical?

By C. Eldon McNabb

Recently "religious tolerance" has become a prominent term in the U.S.A. I might say, the concept has a certain ring to it. What a nice idea. However, the reality of the relationship between the different religions of the world does not allow for that. As much as Christians like to favor the Jews in their view of them being "God's Chosen," the Jews themselves, nineteen-hundred years plus after the advent of Christianity, are as anti-Christian as they were when they delivered Jesus Christ, the Apostle and Bishop of our souls, to the Romans to be crucified.

In setting up the "Church" and outlining its mission, and the mission of its converts, Jesus told them to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." He asserted that everyone who should believe and be baptized would be saved, and whoever did not believe their message would be condemned. They were to present the message in mercy and love, teach the ways of Christ to those who believed, and go onward to reach others. They went forth as Jesus commanded them and often those who did not believe their message became their persecutors, much as did the Jews who first heard it.

Those who genuinely follow the teaching of Christ do not force their religion upon anyone. They present the offer of life in Christ Jesus, and, if it is rejected, they simply present it to someone else. It is the other religions which bear the characteristic of intolerance. They cannot tolerate the idea that there is only one man in whom rests the source of eternal redemption. They resent the call to repentance before God by Jesus Christ, and take offence at the messenger who brings them this good news. That is usually true whether the person who is hearing the message is religious or not. But when the hearer is of another religion the matter is made worse, because of the perceived dishonor of their own god. Yes, their god.

The gods of the Egyptians was obviously not the same as the God which the children of Israel worshiped. The same was true of the gods of the Greeks and the Romans, in their turn. Today we must consider the gods of the peoples of China, India, Japan, and the gods of the Middle East and the gods of Africa, Australia, and North and South America, and so forth.

When the Apostle Paul went to Athens and stood on Mars' hill, among their gods, he said, "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Wherefore he said to them, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."

Jesus claims "exclusivity" in the matter of redemption from sins and the granting of eternal life, but He does it in love and gentleness and mercy. By contrast, other religions such as Islam display none of these characteristics. One of my close "Muslim" friends of many years standing, when I mentioned that Jesus is the son of God, began to pace back and forth in frustration and anger, railing upon me that God could not have a son. Another time when I referred to Jesus providing forgiveness of our sins, he literally ranted at me in rebuttal, declaring that no one can get their sins forgiven. I thank God that He has forgiven mine.

Five to six hundred years after Jesus the Christ had brought forth the New Covenant and sealed it with His own blood when they murdered Him on the cross, a new religion arose in the Middle East which claimed to believe in the ancient prophets, including Jesus. That religion is Islam which actually means "submission." I have had close acquaintances among the Islamic community for thirty years, and at least two of them, whom I have known for most of that time, have told me that everything which those prophets wrote was a lie. Also they insist that those who have written for and about Jesus, in particular, have twisted everything which He had said into a lie. When pressed, they would not actually say that the prophet Himself had lied, but that the writer had lied about what He said. (This Islamic approach to the Christian Bible is well illustrated in the book "Christ in Islam," by Ahmed Deedat.) Islam was soon spread around the world in a manner befitting their name, by war and suppression and oppression. Those who would not submit swiftly felt the fierceness of their wrath, especially the Jews and Christians.

Islam is different from most Non-Christian religions in that it was inspired and developed specifically in opposition to Christianity. To try to persuade a Muslim to be tolerant of Christianity or Judaism is to ask him to cease to be Islamic. Also, the U.S. Government is even now making some effort to convince China to be tolerant of Christianity. (Christianity is outlawed in China, at least some Christian sects in particular are.) However China is warning foreign governments not to meddle with its business as they press ahead, even as I write, with plans to prosecute a Hong Kong businessman who allegedly carried thousands of Bibles into mainland China for distribution to a banned fundamentalist Christian group.

When you get to where you can see through the smoke, it is obvious that all of the effort which is ostensibly being made to bring harmony to the world's religions is really an effort to silence the message of the living God which is being carried by true Christian ministers. We heard with sadness how that the government agents silenced the voice of Franklin Graham, causing him to greatly modify what he had said publicly of Islam.

Pressure on Christian ministers to tone down the truth in general will not cease. Rather, the day will come when the pressure will be so great that the gospel of Jesus Christ will cease to be preached in the world. As it is written, "false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory." It is the preaching of the gospel which is giving light to this world and is here referred to as celestial bodies. This cannot be the literal heavenly bodies, because after it happens, Jesus shall appear in His glory.

Because of the Christian influence in early American development, great latitude was given in our laws for the exercise of all religions. However, those other religions, including the religion of Atheism and self creation (Secular Humanism), have grown to the point that they are boldly showing their "intolerance" of Christianity. This trend will only intensify. What must we do? We must come together in the unity of the faith. Come, let us reason together to find the truth and the will of the most high God, and see if He will deliver and hide us in the day He pours out His great anger upon this ungodly and rebellious generation. (Zeph. 2:1-3)