The Sin of Tolerance
This article originally appeared in the February 2, 1959 issue of Christianity Today.
Billy Graham's ministry to the big cities, widened in its outreach by radio and television, is one of the outstanding contributions to the resurgence of evangelical Christianity in our generation. His radio message on "The Sin of Tolerance" has been especially blessed. Reprints are available from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis.
One of the pet words of this age is "tolerance." It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word "tolerant" means "liberal," "broad-minded," "willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one's convictions," and "the allowance of something not wholly approved."
Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one's convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.
We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness. We have become tolerant of unbelief.
In a book recently published on what prominent people believe, 60 out of 100 did not even mention God, and only 11 out of 100 mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and a broadmindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.
The Way Is Narrow
The sciences, however, call for narrow-mindedness. There is no room for broad-mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. It is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees—but always 212. Water freezes at 32 degrees—not at 23 or 31.
Objects heavier than air are always attracted to the center of the earth. They always go down-never up. I know this is very narrow, but the law of gravity decrees it so, and science is narrow.
Take mathematics. The sum of two plus two is four—not three-and-a-half. That seems very narrow, but arithmetic is not broad. Neither is geometry. It says that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. That seems very dogmatic and narrow, but geometry is intolerant.
A compass will always point to the magnetic north. It seems that is a very narrow view, but a compass is not very "broad-minded." If it were, all the ships at sea, and all the planes in the air would be in danger.
If you should ask a man the direction to New York City and he said, "Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead there," you would question either his sanity or his truthfulness. Somehow, we have gotten it into our minds that "all roads lead to heaven." You hear people say, "Do your best," "Be honest," and "Be sincere—and you will make it to heaven all right."
But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to earth and back to heaven again—who knew the way better than any man who ever lived—said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13,14).