In John 8:44, Jesus speaks of Satan as “a liar and the father of lies.” Deception is his preferred tool as he attempts to rob God of His glory. Like any other vandal, he seeks to mar all that might reflect the glory of God, and make it unattractive to those searching for truth and relationship. However, he is clever enough to package his lies in appealing ways. Just as he did in the garden, he puts just enough “truth” in the lie to make it plausible. Then he repeats the age-old question, “Did God really say … ?”
One such lie has birthed a commonly held misconception in our culture, and many others. On the surface, this misconception seems appealing because it appears to promote peace and harmony. Over the past couple of decades, “tolerance” has become a social dogma so firmly ensconced in our culture, that questioning it can lead to mandated “sensitivity training” or worse (if there is worse!).
On the surface, tolerance appears virtuous. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that we should love all people, and accept them where they are? Yes it does, but tolerance doesn’t teach us to love anyone, only to “put up with them.” It says, “ I won’t mess with you, if you don’t mess with me.” In contrast, love compels me to get involved in other’s lives, to leave my comfort zone, even at my own expense.
Tolerance falls short of Jesus’ commission “… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20). Tolerance is content to leave someone where they are, no matter how harmful their situation. That’s not love, that’s apathy! In essence, tolerance is a form of selfishness that allows me the comfort of ignoring the spiritual condition of others, as long as I “tolerate” them. Casas Assistant Pastor, Darin Hoffman, puts it this way, “I’ll let you be selfish, if you let me be selfish.”
A popular bumper sticker spells out the word “coexist” using various religious and ideological symbols.
• C – Islams’s crescent and star;
• O – Wicca’s pentagram;
• E – (=mc2) for science;
• X – Judaism’s star of David;
• I – Buddhism’s Karma Wheel dotting the i;
• S – Taoism’s Tao symbol;
• T – Christianity’s cross.
The message ? – “All systems of thought and belief are equally valid. It’s OK for you to believe in one of them, as long as you accept all the others.” This is no different than “moral relativism”, the belief that there is no absolute truth; “I have my truth and you have your truth.” And it does nothing to tear down walls. Rather it allows me to build up strong walls with large signs on them that say, “Don’t preach at me and I won’t preach at you!”
The technical term for this is “henotheism”
A term coined by Max Müller, to mean devotion to a single “God” while accepting the existence of other gods. Müller stated that henotheism means “monotheism in principle and a polytheism in fact.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henotheism)
A henotheist may exclusively worship one god, for whatever reasons, while accepting that there are other gods worthy of worship even if he or she chooses not to worship them. From a purely pragmatic point of view, this may appear to be the only path to world peace. It may well be the basis of the false peace the book of Revelation says will be imposed upon the world in the final days. It is only a small step from henotheism to the “truth” of a new god who embodies all of the “truth” from the lesser historical gods.
A henotheistic world view requires some difficult re-interpretation of foundational scriptures. What do you do with the following?
“You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me. (Exodus 20:3, and Deuteronomy 5:7)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, italics added for emphasis)
At best, henotheism reduces Christianity to nothing more than a belief system, a way of thinking. But Christianity is more than that. Unlike any system of thought, Christianity is about relationship with the God who created the universe and everything in it. No other religion teaches that God desires a relationship with us, that he created men and women for communion with Him. No other system of thought teaches that God delights himself in us (Zephaniah 3:17). And no other religion teaches that God Himself sacrificed to buy us back, when we had sold ourselves into sin. The uniqueness of Christianity does not allow it to stand alongside any other as an equal.
A difficult paradox for henothesim to address is that Christianity, like several others, identifies its God as the creator of the universe. There can only be one creator of the universe, all others must have been created by that creator. The only way they could all be equal would be if they were, themselves, all products of a “Darwinian creation”. Then, none of them would be the creator, because by Darwinian definition, there is no creator. However, if there is a creator-god, all others must be subservient to that god. And if any subservient god demanded man’s worship, that would be robbing the creator-god of the worship due. Who does that sound like?
Again, the devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)
We should answer as Jesus did!
Our defense from such subtle deception is to cultivate an intentionally-biblical world-view. It needs to be intentional, or it will never happen. It needs to be biblical, because it needs to be based upon objective truth.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)
And it needs to be a world-view, in that it is all-encompassing, applied to every facet of life. Henotheism only works if I compartmentalize life. Only then can I ignore contradictions between various thought systems, because they belong to different life compartments.
How then, if we are not to embrace “tolerance” as the world preaches it, should I respond to others with differing world-views. A Biblical world-view shows that we are placed in the midst of darkness as lights, beacons to guide the lost to the one true God who loves them and sacrificed His Son for them. We are to do this with compassion and understanding, yet with an urgency prompted by our concern for their eternal destiny. We are to do it with gentleness and patience, never tiring of their dullness of hearing, but constantly holding them up in prayer. And like our God, we are to lovingly sacrifice ourselves for them – that they might see a glimpse of the love God has for them.
Adapted from an article written for Casas Magazine