Many Christians have had the discomforting experience of having been called “intolerant” in our discussions with skeptics. In these types of encounters, it feels that our skeptical friend has discredited anything we would have said before we even said it. Some of us, rightly so, become frustrated by this accusation and want to respond to it but aren’t quite sure how to do so.
Christians put in this predicament try to think of a response that does not sound “intolerant” in order to avoid adding any credence to the skeptics’ claim. After all, the last thing we want to do is reinforce it by behaving in an intolerant manner, right? As Christians, we must realize that regardless of how we have been plagued with this stereotype of intolerance, the question that we must reflect on is whether or not this is a valid accusation. Does it truly make sense when we sit down and talk about it with our skeptical friend?
I have attached a video of one of my favorite Christian apologists Greg Koukl, who wrote a book called “Tactics”, which thoroughly discusses how to respond to people in these types of apologetic encounters. He is a respected source for these types of matters in the Christian community as well as a prominent authority on logical communication. Koukl sets the stage for these types of dialogues beautifully on his radio show and debates. He does not resort to defensive comebacks, witty quips, or impressive monologues, but rather asks the simple question, “What do you mean by that?”
What does this question force the skeptic to do? It requires him to define what he meant by intolerant. This can be quite the task if the skeptic wasn’t prepared to thoroughly justify his claim that Christians are intolerant. This definition the skeptic provides will be applicable to both of you and oftentimes the definition is nothing more than saying, “you Christians think you’re right!” Christians would concede that they believe they’re right, but our skeptical friend would have to admit that he believes he is right as well, or else he wouldn’t be challenging our beliefs. Under the skeptics’ logic, you are intolerant if you think you are right, which would make the skeptic intolerant by his own definition because he believes he is right. Why doesn’t the skeptic consider himself intolerant? Am I missing something?
The attached video along with the article should lay out reasons why these accusations of intolerance are nothing more than insults attempting to be disguised as intellectual insights. Rather than accusing one of being intolerant, the conversation would be better served if we viewed the argumentation each person presented and objectively discussed the merits of each argument after each person had an opportunity to speak.
Keep in mind that nobody is going to listen to us if we appear intolerant. Let us love everyone in every discussion in order to build relationships with our skeptical friends. After all, nobody ever came to Christ after being made to feel bad about their beliefs. Let the Holy Spirit work!