Tolerance used to be defined as the ability to respectfully engage with others, even if you disagree with what they say. Nevertheless, it is clear that the new ‘tolerance’ is far less about encouraging deferential dialogue, and far more to do with controlling speech.
We witness this shift in the authoritarian regimes around us. Specifically, we see the idolatry and weaponization of the notion of ‘tolerance.’ The failure to celebrate the doctrines of secularism is deemed as intolerance, and those who dare to question the status quo are increasingly being dismissed as bigots.
Indeed, Don Carson predicted the iconoclasm we are witnessing first-hand: “Unchecked, the new tolerance will sooner or later put many people in chains.”
As an exclusive message of salvation, the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ have been the bullseye of public criticism in this battle for tolerance.
One such instance concerns the legal situation in which the Stirling Free Church of Scotland (SFCS) has found itself in relation to The Robertson Trust.
As the largest independent charity organisation in Scotland, The Robertson Trust awards around £20m each year to various causes. It also leases numerous venues for community groups and organisations.
Under the leadership of Shonai Macpherson, The Robertson Trust (TRT) has faced increasing criticism for its alleged discrimination against Christian groups.
For instance, TRT recently terminated a rental agreement with the SFCS over their Biblical stance on marriage.
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute explains:
“The Robertson Trust pride themselves on serving the community. But religious groups that want to promote their beliefs are at the heart of the community. So why are they being treated differently? It seems pretty clear from the evidence that there is some hostility within the trust to Christian beliefs about marriage.”
Assisted by The Christian Institute, both organisations took TRT to court over charges of religious discrimination in violation of the Equality Act 2010.
As The Christian Institute stated: “It is unlawful for providers of venue facilities to discriminate against people because of their religious beliefs.”
The Equality Act 2010 stipulates that discrimination on the basis of one’s religious beliefs is prosecutable by law. If successful in their case, SFCS will sue TRF for unlawfully terminating their contract on the basis of religious discrimination.
A similar situation arose in 2019 when eight British arenas cancelled Franklin Graham’s events, and his advertisements were pulled from Blackpool Transport buses due to his opposition to so-called gay marriage. Franklin pursued legal action against the bussing company for religious discrimination and came out winning the case.
As Christians living in the West, we find ourselves in an increasingly hostile and antagonistic environment in which our beliefs are being labelled as hate speech. This is not surprising, as it follows the progression of sin in Romans 1:18-32.
And what is the process?
- Suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18).
- Refusal to give thanks to God for His goodness (Rom. 1:21).
- Worship of idols and immorality of various kinds (Rom. 1:23-24).
- Outward celebration of sin, and intolerance of those who do not (Rom. 1:32).
This said, the seduction is strong for Christians to be blindsided by secular jargon which sounds ‘Christian’ — it’s tempting to think that secularism’s tolerance, diversity, equity, and justice match the Biblical definitions, though this is far from the truth. Yet the Scriptures remind us that the devil masquerades as an angel of light, and so this shouldn’t surprise us (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Biblically speaking, we know that terms can only be truly understood through the lens of God’s Word. We must resist the temptation to allow secular ideologies to redefine Biblical virtues and truths (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Finally, if we hope to reach dying souls in our midst, we must realise that our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Rather, our warfare is against spiritual strongholds which have set themselves up against Christ in the form of ideological campaigns masquerading under Christian principles.
Only when we recognise this will we be able to point people to the one who gives true justice, tolerance, mercy, and grace — Jesus Christ.