Judgment_Is Tolerance Tolerable?


Is Tolerance Tolerable? 

In many conversations with other Christians I hear the very concept of judgment cast in a somewhat negative light. The very act of judging another person or their world view is portrayed as being “intolerant.” In fact the agreement of many Christians seems to be that “we are not to judge” at all.  Yet when asked if we are to be discerning, most Christians will readily acknowledge that discernment is a critical quality of our faith. Perhaps this attitude is simply a matter of semantics, but these expressions of opposition to the concept of judgment may reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s Holy nature.  

The following definitions of judgment are from the Encarta dictionary: 

judg·ment [ jújmənt ] noun (plural judg·ments) or judge·ment [ jújmənt ] (plural judge·ments) 

1.      legal verdict: the decision arrived at and pronounced by a court of law

2.      obligation resulting from verdict: an obligation, e.g. a debt, that arises as a result of a court’s verdict, or a document setting out an obligation of this kind

3.      decision of judge: the decision reached by one or more judges in a contestThe judgment of the panel must be regarded as final.

4.      decision on disputed matter: an opinion formed or a decision reached in the case of a disputed, controversial, or doubtful matter

5.      discernment or good sense: the ability to form sound opinions and make sensible decisions or reliable guessessomeone with shrewd commercial judgment

6.      opinion: an opinion formed or given after considerationa snap judgment

7.      estimate based on observation: an estimate of something such as speed or distance, made with the help of the eye or some other sense

8.      judging of something: the judging of a case or a contest

9.      divine punishment: a misfortune regarded as a divine punishment for folly or sin ( archaic or humorous )The defeat was regarded as a judgment from God on the leader’s pride.

10.  act of making statement: in logic, the mental act of making or understandinga positive or negative proposition about something, e.g. in “a chihuahua is a dog” or “a lobster is not an insect” Synonymsruling, decision, finding, verdict, sentence, conclusion, result, decree, adjudication, arbitration Synonymsshrewdness, good sense, discernment, wisdom, common sense, discrimination, prudence, intelligence, judiciousness, perceptiveness, acumenSynonymsopinion, view, considered opinion, feeling, thoughts, way of thinking, reasoning, belief, assessment, appraisal, conviction It seems that many confuse the concept of exercising judgment with the act of being judgmental. judg·men·tal [ juj mént’l ] adjective tending to criticize: tending to judge or criticize the conduct of other people

When Tolerance Is Intolerant by Greg Koukl 

There’s one word that can stop you in your track.  That word is “tolerance.”  Let’s take a look at the confusing and mistaken ways tolerance is used in our culture today.   Using the modern definition of tolerance, you will see that no one is tolerant, or ever can be.  It’s what my friend Frank Beckwith calls the “passive aggressive tolerance trick.”  Let’s start with a real life example.   I had the privilege of speaking to seniors at a Christian high school in Des Moines.  I wanted to alert them to this “tolerance trick,” but I also wanted to learn how much they had already been taken in by it.  I began by writing two sentences on the board“All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.”“Jesus is the Messiah and Judaism is wrong for rejecting that.” They all nodded in agreement as I wrote the first sentence.  As soon as I finished writing the second, though, hands flew up. “You can’t say that,” a coed challenged, clearly annoyed.  “That’s disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong?”   “In fact, that happens to me all the time,” I pointed out, “including right now with you.  But why should it bother me that someone thinks I’m wrong?” “It’s intolerant,” she said, noting that the second statement violated the first statement.  What she didn’t see was that the first statement also violated itself.I pointed to the first statement and asked, “Is this a view, the idea that all views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another?”  They agreed.   Then I pointed to the second statement—the “intolerant” one—and asked the same question:  “Is this a view?”  They studied the sentence for a moment.  Slowly my point began to dawn on them.  They’d been taken in by the tolerance trick. If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than Jews is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than Christians.  But this is hopelessly contradictory.  If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because “tolerance” turns out to be gibberish. “Would you like to know how to get out of this dilemma?” I asked.  They nodded.  “Return to the classic view of tolerance and reject this modern distortion.”  Then I wrote these two principles on the board: “Be egalitarian regarding persons.” “Be elitist regarding ideas.” The first principle is true tolerance, what might be called “civility.” It can loosely be equated with the word “respect.”  Tolerance applies to how we treat people we disagree with, not how we treat ideas we think false.   Tolerance requires that every person is treated courteously, no matter what her view, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth.   Don’t let this new notion of tolerance intimidate you.  Treat all people with respect, but be willing to show them where their ideas have gone wrong.   The modern notion of tolerance actually turns this value on its head.  It’s one of the first responses deployed when you take exception with what someone has said.  “You’re intolerant.” To say I’m intolerant because I disagree with someone’s ideas is confused.  The view that one person’s ideas are no better or truer than another’s is simply absurd and contradictory. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly does not violate any meaningful definition or standard of tolerance.  The irony is that according to the classical notion of tolerance, you can’t tolerate someone unless you disagree with him.  We don’t “tolerate” people who share our views.  They’re on our side.  There’s nothing to “put up” with. Tolerance is reserved for those who we think are wrong, yet we still choose to treat them decently and with respect. This essential element of classical tolerance—elitism regarding ideas—has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept.  Nowadays if you think someone is wrong, you’re called intolerant no matter how you treat them.  Whenever you’re charged with intolerance, always ask for a definition. Then point out the contradiction built in to this new view. Most of what passes for tolerance today is intellectual cowardice, a fear of intelligent engagement.  Those who brandish the word “intolerant” are unwilling to be challenged by other views, to grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them.  It’s easier to hurl an insult—“you intolerant bigot”—than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it.  In the modern era, “tolerance” has become intolerance. As ambassadors for Christ, however, we choose the more courageous path.  In Paul’s words, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).   In a gracious and artful way, we accurately speak the truth, and then trust God to transform minds. 

Indiscriminate Tolerance by Melinda Penner 

The BBC has had a policy for some time not to use the word “terrorist” except when quoting someone.  Briefly in the aftermath of the bombings in London a year ago, the BBC did use the word but now they’ve reverted to calling those who perpetrated the attacks on London more neutrally as “bombers.”   Now this is an example of the modern sense of tolerance:  unwilling to say anything is wrong and ascribe a value to something.  But really, not calling something as it is reflects a value — the value of relativism, inferring that nothing is really wrong.  That is indiscriminate tolerance.  

Articles by Greg Koukl and Melinda Penner from the Stand to Reason website at http://www.str.org/

What the Bible Says About Judgment(Note the themes: God’s Holy nature in his judgment, the wise judgments of a righteous man, and the error of men engaged in passing judgment.) 

Deuteronomy 1:17
Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.

1 Chronicles 16:14
He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Psalm 9:7
The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.
Psalm 94:15
Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Psalm 119:66
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.

Proverbs 3:21
My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;

 Proverbs 8:14
Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.

Proverbs 10:13
Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.

Ecclesiastes 3:17

I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” 

Ecclesiastes 12:14
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Isaiah 26:9
My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.

Jeremiah 1:16
I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.

Jeremiah 2:35
you say, ‘I am innocent; he is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’

Jeremiah 25:31
The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgment on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,’ ” declares the LORD.

Ezekiel 17:20
I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment upon him there because he was unfaithful to me.

Ezekiel 20:35
I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you.

Malachi 3:5-6

“So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 

Matthew 5:22
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

John 5:22
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
John 5:30
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

John 7:24
Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
John 9:39
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Romans 2:1
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 2:3
So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

Romans 2:5
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

Romans 14:1
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
1 Corinthians 7:25
Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
1 Timothy 5:24-25
The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

2 Peter 2:4-10

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. 

Revelation 14:7
He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The Authority of All Judgment

1 Corinthians 2

  1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

Wisdom From the Spirit

  6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:
   “No eye has seen,
      no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived

   what God has prepared for those who love him”[
b]— 10
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
      The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.[c] 14
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15
The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”[d] But we have the mind of Christ.  


  1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 Some manuscripts as I proclaimed to you God’s mystery
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:9 Isaiah 64:4
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:13 Or Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to spiritual men
  4. 1 Corinthians 2:16 Isaiah 40:13

2 Comments to “Judgment_Is Tolerance Tolerable?”

  1. A lot of thought has gone into this.

  2. Thanks for your comment on my post, as well as the link to this.

    This is a good post. I’ll definitely have to remember the “two sentences” problem you presented. You hit the nail on the head–the attitude of the world seems to be “we shouldn’t be judgmental…. unless of course we’re judging Christians.”


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