Is Holding to Absolute Truth Narrow-minded or Intolerant?


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by Rob Lundberg

Have you ever been called “intolerant” or “narrow minded” or even worse, “bigoted” because you believe in absolute truth? The charges of intolerance and narrow mindedness are some of the more popular charges thrown down at Christians in light of holding to a belief in absolute truth. “Intolerance” and narrow-mindedness are cultural hot buttons that paint Christians as a “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.”[1]

This gauntlet thrown down by those who believe truth is relative is very self-defeating and misled for a few reasons. And it is easy to turn the claim of narrow mindedness on itself.  So let’s get get down to the real issue to see what those reasons are, and how we can answer them.

The first reason this gauntlet is self-defeating is because truth is narrow and divisive by its definition and application. If I were to say that there is a blue Mazda 3 outside my house and in my driveway, and the color of the Mazda 3 is truly blue, then all the other claims of the car being red, silver, gray or copper red are false. There can be no other answer presenting another color for that car to be true.

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!

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. They believe absolutely that believing in absolute truth is narrow minded and bigoted.  If this truly the case, then the one making such a claim is equally narrow-minded, intolerant.

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.”[2] This meansthat this claim 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.

Lastly, to be labeled as one being intolerant just on the basis of disagreeing with someone is very mistaken. We are not obligated to affirm something to be false.  To be “intolerant” of other views implies that there is a real disagreement between viewpoints. No one tolerates something that they already agree with. The accusation of intolerance on the basis of a disagreement is an attempt by the person to get you to accept what you disagree with under the disguise of “tolerance.”

Conclusion.

The labels given to us of intolerance and narrow-mindedness can be turned against themselves to show our accusers that they are being equally intolerant and narrow-minded. Do not be afraid of the charges, just graciously show your accuser how their statement is equally narrow-minded and/or intolerant. Hopefully they will see that they are not the reasonable person they think they are, and you can show them a better way.


Notes

[1] Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden, Truth Quest Living Loud: Defending Your Faith (Nashville: Broadman Press, 2002), 36.

[2] Ibid.

A version of this posting first appeared  with the Christian Apologetics Alliance here

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