If Christians Are Intolerant of Others, How Can There Ever Be Peace?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to him.
We are using Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith as a source of questions that deal with criticisms of the Bible. Now, Dave, we’re just going to jump right into this first one because I think this one is particularly important.: “One of the things I find most objectionable about Christians is the insistence that their particular formula for finding God is the only way. Such a narrow view does violence to the sincere beliefs of millions of followers of other religions. With such intolerance from Christians, what hope is there for peace among politicians and military leaders?”
Well, Dave, this business of tolerance/intolerance seems to be a growing concern, and sometimes these people called fundamentalists, these people who look to the Bible alone as their authority, are taking some heat.
Dave: I lose a little patience with that Tom.
Tom: Well, I hope that’s all you lose Dave.
Dave: But, “tolerance.” Well, you wouldn’t want the police to be tolerant of crime, you wouldn’t want your doctor to be tolerance of disease. Why is United Airlines so intolerant that they insist that I pay for my flights? They don’t let me on for free. “Tolerant” is a word you have to be careful with. It can be used properly, but improperly as well. Now, that Christians insist that their way is the only way? No, we don’t. It’s Jesus who said, “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.” Now we have to face what Jesus said.
I remember sitting next to a young man on an airplane, and his exact words were, “In high school I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now I don’t believe anymore.”
I said what do you think of Jesus?
“Well,” he said, “I think he’s a good man.”
I said, “Well, you can’t say he’s a good man. If he’s a man, he’s not a good man because he claimed to be God. He said He would rise from the dead. He said He would judge everyone. He said that He would come again. He said, ‘I am THE way, THE truth and THE life; no man comes to the Father but by me.’ Now if Jesus is a man and He makes statements like that He’s not a good man. He’s either a lunatic or a liar, and we can prove that this is what Jesus said. We have eyewitness accounts to it. On the other hand, you couldn’t say he was a bad man. The influence of Christ on this earth is beyond that of anyone else.”
So I have to face what Jesus said. Furthermore, logically, what’s wrong with being narrow minded? I mean, I would hope that my doctor would be very narrow-minded. I wouldn’t want to go to a doctor and after he examines me, and I say, “Doc, what’s the diagnosis and the prognosis?” And he says, “Oh I wouldn’t be so narrow-minded and dogmatic as to come up with a definite diagnosis, what would you like? Open heart surgery has been very popular.”
When I get on an airplane, I’ve probably said this 100 times, Tom, but I always hope we have a narrow-minded, dogmatic, fundamentalist pilot. I don’t want a broadminded pilot who doesn’t care what button he pushes and what direction he goes. Come on, it’s absurd! In every area of life we recognize there must be rules. You’ve got to have rules even to play football or basketball game. That’s why they have referees there.
Anything goes? It doesn’t work in any area of life, except when it comes to that which is most important—man’s relationship with God, if there is a God, and what God might think about man and what man’s eternal destiny might be. Suddenly, we’ve got to be broadminded because, you know, there are all different kinds of religions out there, and if we’re too definite about what we believe we might offend someone.
Tom, I’m sorry! I lose patience with that idea! It does not make any sense whatsoever. Now, if people want to launch out into eternity based upon their own opinion, or the opinion of some religious leader, some guru, cult leader, or the pope, or Billy Graham, or Dave Hunt, or T. A. McMahon, whoever, that’s their problem! I wouldn’t want to launch into eternity—you know, I’m talking about death now, of course. It catches up with all of us, and you’d better have some better evidence! We’d better know.
Don’t we face God finally? Isn’t He the one that created this universe? Well, then, let’s find out what God said. So, tolerance? Is God going to be tolerant of every human opinion? One of the favorite sayings [is] “Oh, we are all taking different roads to get to the same place.” Well, no, that’s not broad minded. That says there’s only one destination. No matter what road you take, we’re going to all end up in the same place, and I’m not going there by God’s grace.
Jesus wasn’t so narrow-minded as to say that. He said there were two destinations: heaven, or hell. So, in fact, this tolerance puts a person on what Jesus called the broad road. “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many there be that go therein. But straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.”
Tom, it makes sense to me! We find that in every area of life. Science is rather narrow-minded isn’t it? Mathematics is narrow-minded.
Tom: Dave, I’ve been listening to one of your tapes. It’s been really frustrating, because it’s a debate with a Roman Catholic apologist, and, as you know; my background for thirty years was Roman Catholic. And the reason it was frustrating was because many, in this day of tolerance and ecumenism and so on, many people want to put all Christians in the same—it relates to this question—they want to put them in the same melting pot, as it were. But as I listened to this debate with you and Dr. Robert Fastiggi, you were laying out a perspective—he calls it “your perspective.” Well, I know from listening to the tape, this is what the Bible says from an evangelical perspective. He’s taking a Roman Catholic perspective, and . . .
Dave: But tell me, . . . now the question is: “What does the Bible say?” And the problem with the Catholic perspective is you have to accept what the Church says. The magisterium—that’s the authority. No, the Bible is the authority! I’m sorry, I interrupted you.
Tom: Well, the frustration is, he’s . . . you can hear it. He’s frustrated with you because you’re giving a perspective that doesn’t agree with his Church. And I’m sure you were a little frustrated with him because you’re trying to explain the scriptures, and he doesn’t see it that way. He sees it from the perspective of his Church to the point of definitions of terms. “Justification”: he has a different definition. “Grace”: there’s a different definition there.
Here’s my point. As I listened to the tape, I’m saying, these guys are on . . . not opposite sides of the same coin. There’s a gap between them. They both can’t be reconciled—both views. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, what this guy is asking for, or at least what he is hinting at, [is] “Why can’t all these religions come together?” They can’t all be right, Dave! Especially if the perspective, the teachings that they present, are diametrically opposed one to another.
Dave: That’s exactly right, Tom. First of all, they don’t agree. Well, then, how can you make them agree? Something has to give, something has to change. For example, there are about 330 million gods in Hinduism, but Islam claims there is only one god, Allah. Judaism claims there is one God, Yahweh. Christians say, yes, there is one God, but He is a Trinity—three persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now, they don’t agree. Buddhism is basically atheism. There is no god. You can talk about “heaven” or the “destiny,” the happy hunting ground of the North American Indian witchdoctor, or the sensual paradise of the Muslim martyr in jihad with eternal sex and rivers that run with wine and so forth. Although they claim to be very Spartan in this life, that’s their heaven, but heaven for a Christian is something else. There’s no sex there at all.
Tom: Dave, so this is where it gets confusing, and I think whoever asked this question is terribly confused. But the different leaders in Christianity so-called, or professing Christianity today, are exacerbating the problem here. You have, again, with your debate with Dr. Fastiggi, he’s laying out a clear and distinct and separate gospel according to Rome.
Now, let’s go to Rome. What did we just have recently? What did we have in 1986? You have the gathering, the collecting, the gathering of all these different religions to pray to . . . it must be the same god, even though they all don’t believe in one god.
Dave: Well, that’s what the pope said. He said we’re all praying to the same god. He brought together fire worshippers, spiritists, snake worshipers, animists, Buddhists, Muslims, North American witchdoctors . . .
Tom: Dave, how can they all be right? How can that be?
Dave: Look, Tom, they obviously are not all right, any more than . . . Look, you go to school—let’s say you study mathematics. You take a test. There are the right answers—and that’s it! Each question has a right answer. Now, the problem is that when you get into the social sciences, and they do not deserve (I’m going to offend somebody out there) but they do not deserve to be called science. Psychology, for example . . .
Tom: Because they’re subjective.
Dave: That’s right. Psychology is not a science. You can’t make a science out of human behavior. If you could, then you could predict exactly what each person was going to do, and you can’t, because we have the power of choice, all right? So you get into . . .
Tom: We’re unpredictable.
Dave: That’s right. You get into the social sciences—well, “any answer is good, you know?” And of course, this is permeating our schools now, where it’s more important to try to build up someone’s self-esteem than teach them facts of history and competence in math and science. So that’s what this person is about: “Well, why do some people have to be wrong? Why can’t everybody be right?”
Well, first of all (and I’ve belabored the point), it isn’t rational. It doesn’t work that way, even in a game it doesn’t work that way! There are rules. They keep score, and somebody wins and someone loses. You can’t say, “Well, you know, we’ve got ten guys running the 100-meter dash in the Olympics. Why can’t they all get a gold medal?”
This is basically what this person is saying. Well, then you can throw the whole thing out! There are no rules; there’s no significance. Everybody gets a gold medal. Then what is the point?
Tom: Yes, and God is dethroned! He’s just . . . well, it’s just somebody going along with whatever we come up with.
Dave: That’s exactly right. God has no right to any opinion; we’re not going to consult Him; we’re going to force our ideas upon Him, and one day when we stand before God, we’ll say, “Well, we took our own way, Lord, but that’s just as good as any other way. I mean, Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ but we don’t really believe that.”
Tom: Dave, let me throw John:3:16 in here, because this is why you said you get a little angry . . .
Dave: No, no, Tom, now don’t make it worse. I said I get a little impatient, didn’t I? (Laughing) I have said I get angry!
Tom: Yes, you have. But I understand what you’re saying, because—look, if God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son, and we know the penalty that his Son paid, and people are saying well why can’t we just have it this way? Why can’t . . . ?” I mean, we’re talking about a gift that’s . . . “Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, wouldst die for me?” That’s the issue here, and people are saying, “Well, come on. There’s got to be some other way.”
Dave: Well, yes, the Bible gives it to us over and over. Jesus wept in the Garden. We’ve talked about that a number of times as well. He wasn’t concerned about nails being driven into His hands and feet. He was no coward. What He was concerned about, He was going to pay the infinite penalty that His infinite justice required for our sin. And I don’t understand what that would be, but it was horrible beyond our imagination, and that’s what . . . it says, “He who knew no sin was made sin . . . ” He was made to become—He would become—the sin offering. It says, “It pleased Yahweh, Jehovah, to bruise him. God, You put him to grief when you made His soul an offering for sin., okay? Now Jesus is pleading, “Father, if there’s any other way, don’t make Me go through with this.” The Father says, “There is no other way.” Jesus says, “There is no other way.” The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, says, “There is no other way.” All the Old Testament sacrifices, for example, were just pictures of the Lamb of God, who would come and bear the sins of the world.
But now we have people saying, “Oh yeah, but Jesus was wrong. God was wrong. The Bible is wrong. That’s narrow-minded and dogmatic. I’m not going to go along with that. I think anything I can come up with is just as good as anything God comes up with. I’m not going to submit my will to Him. I’m not going to believe.”
I think those people have a very serious problem. First of all, they’re not just rebelling against a referee. You know, you can imagine, some football star—and he steps out of bounds on his way to the goal line, and the refs call him out of bounds. Well, he insists he made a touchdown! “Who are you guys to order me around?” and so forth. That’s a pretty poor example in comparison with God. Are you going to say, “God, who are you to order me around?” I mean, it is God’s heaven, isn’t it? It is God’s universe. He did create us; we are accountable to Him.
I mean, I would just plead with people out there.
Tom: And He offers them an indescribable gift.
Dave: I would just plead with whoever is listening to us. Let’s be sensible about this! You think you can just take any road you want to get to heaven? You think you know what awaits you when your body is laid in the grave? What awaits you beyond this life? Think very carefully about it, and don’t just take anyone’s opinion. Don’t take my opinion.
We often demonstrate on this program that the Bible is true. We can prove it. There’s no doubt about it, that the Bible is true. If you have any questions—of course, that’s what this book In Defense of the Faith is about. We’re taking question after question after question that the skeptics have put forth to show that the Bible isn’t true, and I think we answer every one of them.
Well, then, why not take what the Bible says? I think a person has to be very, very stubborn, Tom, to persist on their own path, insist on their own way, and demand that the God who created us step out of the way—they’re coming through, and “we’re doing our own thing!” Tom, it’s going to lead to very serious disillusionment.
Tom: Well, Dave, let’s talk about one aspect of that. You have just said—and we have over many, many weeks, and along with other materials that we have here, other writings that we have—that we’ll demonstrate very clearly that the Bible is God’s Word. So, what we’re saying is, is that you can look to this book, God’s Word, for assurance.
Now, my question to anybody else out there with their own ideas: what’s your basis for assurance? Is this just kind of a feeling or an idea or a thought? You wouldn’t buy a house on that basis. You wouldn’t make a major investment.
Dave: What is your authority? What is the evidence supporting your opinion? They don’t have any.
Tom: But in normal business, or everyday kinds of affairs, they certainly look for those things. But what about eternity?
Dave: That’s the point we’re trying to make, Tom. That this idea: “Well, there are different religions, many different religions. Why can’t they all be right?” It just goes counter to human experience! It goes counter to rational thought, to logic, to common sense. It won’t work anywhere in this life!
Try it! You’ve got a sign that says: Speed limit 55.You just decide you’re going to drive 155. It won’t work in any area of life. You want to get a college degree? You have to give certain answers on the tests. Are you going to rebel? “I don’t think that’s fair! I think I should be able to give any answer I want! I mean, my opinion is as good as somebody else’s.”
We’re belaboring the point, Tom, but—and then, you’re going to say this to God? Wait a minute! You better find out, does God exist? Has He given us a record of His view of man? Does He have any opinions? I mean, it’s rather likely that God who created the universe would have had a purpose in mind; would have had a purpose for mankind, and that maybe we’d better check it out and find out what is His purpose?
Tom, just rationally, if God, who is infinite—I mean, and I don’t even understand that—no beginning, no end, knows where every subatomic particle of every atom ever was or ever will be; every thought that every person ever thought or ever will think! He knows everything, and I mean He is so great! And to think that He didn’t have some reason for creating man? He didn’t have some purpose and plan in mind for man? That doesn’t make sense! Now, if you miss God’s purpose for your life, you miss the whole reason that you are here. That’s pretty serious! I think you would regret that for eternity.
Tom: Dave, that’s why we call the Bible, The Manufacturer’s Handbook. Everything—all things that pertain to life and godliness are there for us to live a life pleasing to Him. Pleasing to Him, not for salvation! Okay? That comes as a free gift, God’s Word says.
You know, that was one of the aspects of your debate that I referred to earlier that just frustrated me. Because your opponent kept saying, “No, we do works by grace,” —and you laugh now, but it was really sad because it was frustrating! You were trying to explain to him, “How can you work for a free gift?” You were trying to explain to him the law, the end of the law—is what? It brings us to sin to recognize that we can’t live it. And then God provides the solution, which is faith. Wow!
Dave: He provides a solution, which is salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ having paid the penalty. We trust Him, we have to believe. What else can we do but believe? You can’t earn it, you can’t merit it. All I can do is receive the gift, and in order to receive the gift, I must believe that a gift is being offered to me. I must believe what this gift is, or I can’t receive it by faith. That’s what it is. It’s that simple.
And to insist on something else—back to the question, “Why can’t all religions be reconciled?”—well, try it! How are you going to reconcile atheism with a belief in one true God? How are you going to reconcile the idea that, for the Muslim, when you get to the end of life, you come to judgment day—all your deeds will be put on a scale. And if the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, then you made it. Now, how are you going to reconcile that with the teaching of the Bible that says, “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.” If you break one commandment, you are guilty of all. “By the works of the flesh, no one can be justified in God’s sight.” Now, you can’t possibly reconcile those.
Furthermore, the idea that Islam proposes, and that Roman Catholicism proposes, that good works will somehow appease God and earn His favor, earn salvation—it’s not rational! Because you can’t make up for breaking the law in the past by keeping the law in the future. This is why the Bible says, “By the deeds of the law, no one can be justified.” The law can only tell you where you failed. It can’t make up for the fact that you failed.
So, Tom, these are irreconcilable differences, and for someone to insist that they’re not going to follow what God says, they’re not going to follow the Bible, they’re not going to follow logic—but just like a person who’s driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and they are insisting that they are going in the right direction even though they’ve got arrows pointing in the other direction—I have found, Tom, and it’s a sad situation . . .
Tom: Dave, just to jump in—this one way street—the problem is there are a lot of people on it going the wrong way.
Dave: Unfortunately, right.
Tom: And that makes it look feasible.
Dave: I have found that—and I have to be careful that I don’t become like this myself—most people believe what they want to believe. You watch two people having a debate or a discussion, even. Neither one is listening to the other very often. Each one is just waiting for the other one to pause for a breath to jump in and say what he wants to say. No one is being convinced. I find that people generally believe what they want to believe. It’s like that old sign when I was in the business world fifty years ago—we used to have it on a desk: “Don’t confuse me with facts. My mind is made up!”
Well, I hope that people will go by the evidence and will search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so.