Isn’t Christianity Intolerant?

“Christianity? There are some good points to it, but I just can’t believe that one faith is superior to others. That view is intolerant.” You know the idea, it has been said in many ways. Christianity, it is understood, is basically unfair because it says that everyone else is wrong. Oh, the arrogance of this, the intolerance to other ideas and people!

In Britain today there are many people of different backgrounds, from all types of races and people groups. We can enjoy just about any food from around the world and explore just about any belief without ever leaving these fair shores. The world has come to this country and along with it has come a wonderful variety of customs, traditions, and of course, religions.

Unity in all of this diversity is greatly prized. Ideas which threaten the peace are pounced upon quickly. We can of course agree, discrimination against individuals can and should be fought against. We applaud the efforts of organisations such as FIFA to eradicate racism, a horrible and cruel practice. We celebrate equality for women in the work place as noble and worthy. But does it mean that we have to accept all religions as having equal weight? Is it discrimination to say that just one religion is correct?

Essentially this argument boils down to truth claims. When someone says that they don’t like Christianity because it is intolerant they are making a claim about truth. “I don’t like your exclusivity. I don’t like that you say that Jesus is the only way.” But as we examine those very statements being made we realise that the person making them is asserting an exclusive view too! The person who doesn’t like Christianity’s truth claims is in fact saying that their view of truth – that many viewpoints are equally valid – is the right way, the only way, to proceed. In fact, exclusivity is OK – it just must be this type of exclusivity. But hold on, within this belief this person must grant Christianity’s view too. It all starts to unravel somewhat.

The question in fact reveals that Christianity – or any religion – can’t be written off simply for making exclusive claims. All religions and ways of thinking hold some kind of exclusivity at some point. What we must do is investigate the claims that Christianity makes. Do they stack up? Does the evidence fit? Does Christianity make more sense of the world than other religions and belief systems? What we really need to do is investigate, as Alister McGrath says, what Christianity is all about. This is what we will begin to look at in future columns.

This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct edition of Sorted Magazine.