Ep. 144: Truth & Tolerance
As Christians we are told by Jesus to love our neighbours. Well, what happens if your neighbour doesn’t believe in God? Because we know the Truth, we are tasked with living out our faith for the glory of God and for the expansion of His Kingdom. On this week’s podcast, we speak with guest, Jonathan Morrow on the topics of truth & tolerance, discussing their meaning and how the Christian understanding of them differ from those in our culture. We also talk about what that looks like in everyday conversation with others who may have different beliefs, and being open to them while still comfortably disagreeing.
Hey. Welcome to indoubt. This week on the show, we talk with Christian apologist Jonathan Morrow on the truth of truth and tolerance.
Why is Jesus the only way? It’s not because we’re smarter or we want to be in and you to be out. It has nothing to do with it. The question really is did Jesus have the authority to rightly diagnose the fundamental problem of humanity, and could he do something about it? Because really at the end of the day, why is Jesus the only way according to Christianity? It’s because he’s the only medicine that will cure the disease that’s killing us.
Hey. Welcome again to indoubt. I hope you’re enjoying this fall so far. If you’re new to indoubt, welcome. indoubt exists to bring the gospel to the relevant issues of life and faith that we all face every day, cultivate conversations. It’s amazing what can happen in a conversation. We could tell story after story in our own lives of how conversations have changed us, and we could tell story after story in the Bible of how conversations have changed different people.
Let me just look at one with you from the Bible. It’s the story of the conversation between King David and Nathan. David, although he was a man after God’s own heart as the scripture says, was still a sinner. Unfortunately, among many good things, David’s also know for his act of adultery with a woman named Bathsheba and then his act of indirectly but purposefully murdering her husband. Scripture makes it sound as if David didn’t really know that he had wronged God in this larger, massive way.
I think many of us can be in that same place of David sometimes. Although perhaps not manifested in the exact same way, we sin. We do things that completely dishonor God, yet we go about our lives doing the same things because we can be blind to our sin. Even though that sin hurts us and has caused damage in our lives, we continue on without thought really, only numbing that brokenness with various things.
But the story continues with David. You can actually read it in 2 Samuel 12:1 through 13 if you’d like. Nathan comes to David, sent by the Lord, and starts to talk to him. He first shares with David a fictional story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many lambs, but the poor man had only one. The poor man loved this one lamb, and it lived happily with the poor man and his family. Yet, when a traveler came to the rich man, the rich man didn’t want to make food with one of his lambs, and he had a lot of them, but he took the poor man’s one lamb to make dinner.
At this point in the story, David interrupted the story out of anger because he couldn’t believe the injustice that had taken place. Nathan then responds by saying that David was in the same place as the rich man, but in real life. After hearing clearly from Nathan where David’s faults where, David says, “I have sinned again the Lord.” David changed from an ignorance of sin to a full knowledge of his sin to a repentance of sin.
This didn’t come from just anywhere, but from a conversation. Conversations can remove blindness. It can comfort the afflicted and save the lost. At indoubt, we want to help provide conversations that God uses to do this very thing. The way we provide and stimulate conversations is primarily through our weekly radio podcast show, which is called by the same name as this ministry, indoubt. Every week on Mondays, we release a new conversation with a recognized Christian leader, or author, or pastor on a different subject relating to life or faith. If you check out our archives on our site, you’ll find conversations on mental health, sexuality, marijuana, alcohol, dating, history, movies, video games, music, art, and more.
We also write weekly articles that get into various life issues of Christian subjects that are purposed to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the will of God in their lives. We also write Bible studies and have a free five week video Bible study series through the book of Jude. It’s for individuals and groups to use.
We’ve recently actually put together a resource hub for Christian material on the Christian perspective on recreational marijuana. I mean this week on Wednesday, October 17th, the Canadian government is legalizing recreational marijuana, so it’s just critical we think carefully and biblically about this. Everything I’ve said and more can be found at indoubt.ca.
Anyways, this week we have with us Christian apologist Jonathan Morrow. Super grateful that we had the chance and opportunity to chat with him. We’re talking about truth and tolerance. You see, the Christian understanding of truth and tolerance greatly differ than culture’s understanding of truth and tolerance. In talking about truth and tolerance, we can’t assume we’re talking about the same thing at all.
Our conversation today with Jonathan helps us understand how truth and tolerance are defined by culture and what truth and tolerance are truthfully. Not only this, but Jonathan also helps us in our approach in engaging our truth confused and tolerance confused culture with the truths of the gospel. Here’s our conversation with Jonathan Morrow.
With me again today is author and speaker, Jonathan Morrow. If you listen regularly, you’ll know we had Jonathan on with us about a month ago now. Anyways, Jonathan is the Director of Cultural Engagement at Impact 360 Institute and an adjunct professor of Apologetics at Biola University. He holds a Master of Divinity, a Master in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, and a Doctorate in World View and Culture. Thanks for being here with us.
Hey, it’s great to be back.
Firstly, those of you listening right now who don’t know Jonathan, go back to our episode on Gen Z, which was the first week of September, and you can hear more there about Jonathan. Jonathan, I’ll ask this. I’m wondering by way of introduction, why don’t you just share a really quick snapshot of who you are, but then maybe your favorite apologetic argument, or truth, or something like that?
Absolutely, yeah. Again, my name is Jonathan Morrow. I’m the Director of Cultural Engagement for Impact 360 near Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been married 17 years, have three kids. I’ve been following Jesus since I was a junior in high school, but I’ve always been captivated by the question of how do we know what we believe, why we believe it, and how do we live that out?
It was really important for me during my high school and college years to be a part of that question, and ever since then God’s just given me a passion for doing that and equipping the next generation to know those things, whether it’s at Impact 360 through our summer programs for high schoolers, or our nine month gap year, or just when I’m speaking, or teaching, or through my books like, ‘Welcome to College.’ I wanted to help people, especially students, make wise decisions that are based on truth, and that’s what I have a heart for doing.
In terms of what’s my favorite apologetic argument, that’s a tough one. Apologetics is the study for the defense of the faith, like giving a rational or a reasonable defense for why you believe what you believe. I love talking about it. I wrote a book called, ‘Questioning the Bible.’ Probably today on this interview, I’ll answer it that way, that just helping give people confidence that God really has spoken and that we can trust that the Bible is God’s Word. That we have the right books, that this wasn’t just arbitrary, or a power play, or a copy of a copy of a copy, but actually these are claims rooted in history you can investigate with eyes wide open. Ultimately, why that matters is the question of authority. If God’s spoken, then there are authoritative answers to life’s biggest questions. I think that’s an amazingly important question to explore.
I love that. If you have 15 seconds if someone asked you what is Impact 360 Institute, what would say?
Yeah. We want to cultivate leaders who follow Jesus, and that’s high school and college age students. We equip them with a biblical worldview and biblical understanding of vocation, and calling, and also leadership and influence, and how to use that and leverage that for God’s glory in the next generation and lead out of that from those high school and college years. That’s really in a nutshell what we do in an experiential learning, active learning environment with a small group of other believers that you can really become best friends with for life, and grow deeper, and go having influence for Christ in our culture.
I love it, yeah. If you’re listening, head back to our first interview we had. He kind of goes a little bit more into detail about what exactly practically that looked like at Impact 360 Institute as well.
Anyways, Jonathan, I came across a video on Impact 360 Institute’s YouTube page I found really insightful. It’s sort of the featured video there. It was this cartoon of a conversation between these two guys on the issues of truth and tolerance. One was a Christian. The other one wasn’t. For those listening, I’ll provide the link on the episode page for you to watch it. This video made me want to ask some questions to you about truth and tolerance.
Firstly, definitions are so important. Oftentimes, they’re bent, they’re misshaped, they change through time. Let me just ask you this in kind of a fun way. If you, Jonathan, were an agnostic philosophy professor who was really shaped by 21st century western civilization culture, how would you define truth to your students? Your students come in on your first day. You’re like, “This is what truth is.” What would you say?
Yeah. If I was the agnostic professor, what I would do is I would probably say, “Hey. Truth is kind of in some ways what you can get away with, and it’s also what you sincerely believe, right? Because has sincere beliefs. It’s kind of true for you, but not everybody else, because that’s close-minded to impose those views on everybody else.” If I was an agnostic philosophy professor, I would pick some examples and say, “You’re not really going to be one of those close-minded, bigoted people who disagree with that, right?” That’s how I would frame it if I was an agnostic professor who was a relativist at the end of the day.
Okay. Take off your glasses of agnostic philosophy professor. What is the true definition of truth?
Yeah. Truth is basically this. It’s what corresponds with reality, or the everyday definition is truth is telling it like it is. Whenever I have a belief, a statement, or an idea that matches up with reality, then you have truth. Sincerity doesn’t create truth.
I like to use this as an example. I’m terrified of heights, so I won’t be jumping out of a perfectly good airplane any time soon, but if I were, and I jump out, and I have a pack on, and I’m hurdling to the earth, I guarantee you I’ll have all the sincerity in the world when I pull that cord, right? But the problem is if someone improperly packed that chute, all the sincerity in the world won’t matter.
What the implications are of that is there’s a lot of people in our world who have sincere religious beliefs, in many cases more sincere than many Christians I know, Buddhists, or Mormons, or whoever. But sincerity doesn’t create truth any more than we can have our own truth and somebody else have their own truth, because at the end of the day either Jesus rose from the dead and is the Son of God, the Son of Man, or He’s not, and not both. Either Allah is the one true God and Mohammed is his prophet is true or false, but not both, or there is no God, or whatever it might be. Just believing something doesn’t make it true. That’s how I’d start that conversation.
It’s interesting though. As you define truth, just it makes sense totally. If you’re saying this thing is true, then it’s either true or it’s not true. Why is it that so many philosophy professors, why is it that they can go in there into colleges and universities and say something that doesn’t make sense? What is it about their definition of truth that, I don’t know, is so convincing? How do they make it sound true if it’s so obviously not?
Yeah. We live in a culture that really has raised us to believe that how you feel determines what’s really. If I feel it, therefore it must be true. In fact, Oxford’s word of the year last year was post-truth, which what that does is it takes truth and brings it underneath feelings, and usefulness, and things like that. That’s one of the things that’s happening with that conversation around feelings.
Another way they make it feel so persuasive is some people in the past have had conversations or imposed their views in a way that minimize people, or that also excluded people, or hurt people, and therefore they’re like, “Hey. We don’t want to do those in the name of spiritual and moral things.” Several other things are happening where they’re privatizing those beliefs, because it’s kind of like Francis Schaeffer used to talk about, the upper story and the lower story. The lower story is where publicly available evidence is like science and things like that where you can investigate, and science is the basically guarantor of truth. Then questions of God, and morality, and spirituality are in the upper story, and you just have faith, whatever that is, in those.
What’s happening in that classroom or in our culture is people are driving a wedge between scientific reality on the on hand and the spiritual and moral truth on the other. There’s a long history to that, and we can get into that maybe if you wanted to, but that’s basically what’s going on.
Interesting. No, that’s helpful. All right. Let’s go back to the agnostic philosophy professor. How would you then talk to your students about the issue and definition of tolerance and intolerance?
Yeah. If I was the agnostic, so this is not my own personal view, the dominant view in our culture is what I call the new tyranny of tolerance. This is the idea of all ideas are equally valid, and to disagree with them is to be intolerant or bigoted, especially if it has something to do with their own personal choices, or sincere beliefs, or identity, or sexuality, or something like that, or morality. Because who are you to judge? You need to just be accepting. That’s what tolerance does. That’s how that definition would normally get defined today in our culture probably in a classroom, which is you just need to not make exclusive claims. You need to accept other people’s beliefs, because that’s what a truly tolerant person does.
Okay. What is tolerance actually?
Yeah. True tolerance at the end of the day is extending to someone else the right to be wrong. Christianity I think is uniquely positioned to be truly tolerant.
For example, when I interact with friends of mine who are atheists, or agnostic, or Muslims, or whatever, whether or not we disagree, I treat them as made in the image of God and worthy of dignity and respect regardless of how I am treated. I tolerate them and I extend to them the right to be wrong, which is what I want from them, the right to be wrong. Then we’ll have a discussion about what’s actually true.
True tolerance dignifies the other person but honestly doesn’t trivialize things that matter that are real differences that have real world implications and that really shape the course of our lives, how we arrange our lives together, how relationships work, how culture works, society, and everything else.
True tolerance is not all ideas are equally valid any more than we would say that true tolerance applied to prescriptions and medical would be like every prescription is equally valid. Well, no it’s not. I mean just thinking about that for three seconds we know that.
How is it the case that we don’t do the same thing with economic systems? Okay. Are capitalism and socialism essentially the same? No, very different. One could be true, one could be false, but they’re certainly not the same any more than Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, so on. Being tolerant doesn’t eliminate those differences. It says, “Now, here’s what the differences are. Here’s why that matters, but I’m going to treat you with respect along the way.”
That’s good. Jonathan, you have the privilege of meeting hundreds of people as they come through Impact 360 Institute. You get to talk to a lot of people, meet them, learn where they’ve come from. I’m assuming many do come from Christian backgrounds. I’m wondering, how have you seen these sort of postmodern ideas of truth and tolerance seep into the church and just general North American Christianity?
Yeah. That’s a great question. A couple observations. One, my default in pretty much any conversation I have with a Christian is to assume that they’re going to think that moral and spiritual truths is relative or this is true for them. What does that mean? It means in the church when a pastor is getting up to give a sermon from the Bible, more often than not, at the very least that sermon is going to be received as self help that’s true for me. Even though it’s very good exposition of scripture, by the time it gets to the hearer in the audience, because of the culture they’ve grown up in, they’re going to relativize that to me. That’s what’s happening in the churches, and that’s what’s also happening with students, because they don’t want to be judgmental when it comes to spiritual and moral claims.
What we must do is help them recover that real truth does exist, moral truth does exist. Their defaults coming up and raised in youth groups and churches that kind of give little nuggets in 10 minutes here and there on devotional, things like that. I like to call it the worst question you could ask of the Bible is, what does the Bible mean to me, but we hear it all the time in small groups.
The Bible means nothing to you. The Bible means what it means. Then the right question is, how does it apply to you? Great question. What does the Bible mean? I discover it. Because if I actually want to hear from God, I need to discover what he’s revealed and spoken, and then there’s lots of different ways that can apply to me, but the verse doesn’t change meaning because I believe something about it. In many ways, not only have we relativized truth and morality in Christian subculture, we’re also honestly relativized even the Bible in the process, and that’s kind of snuck its way in there as well.
In many ways, one of the first things we get to do and have to do at Impact 360 is help students recover, “Hey. You actually can know the truth. Here’s how you go about that. There really is moral truth. Now the real question is what is true, because everything can’t be equally true.”
Yeah. No, that’s really helpful. Thanks, Jonathan. Some of our friends listening right now maybe are raising an eyebrow because they do believe that personal beliefs are generally relative and that it is intolerant or just unnecessary even to judge others’ personal beliefs. Jonathan, what would you say to them to maybe encourage but also challenge them?
Yeah. Here’s what I would say in that. I would say we need to approach this question the way Jesus did, and we need to be as judgmental as he was. One of the things that he did was he asked a lot of questions, but in one case, which is probably the most popular verse beyond John 3:16 is the verse from Matthew which says, “Do not judge lest you be judged.” Yet, right after that, Jesus makes a judgment against what to do.
Even if you look in the context, if the most loving person who ever lived could navigate that without being self righteous … We’re not supposed to be self righteous where I think I’m better than you because I have the truth. That’s a big problem. But what we’re getting at now is… If you’re somebody who’s hearing this and you’ve been hurt by Christians who have abused the truth, or power, or authority, I’m really sorry, and I’m sorry that’s your experience, and that shouldn’t have been that way. But what we don’t want to do is take that and then normalize, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t make any claims about morality and spirituality,” because that’s just not the way reality works.
Think of it like a map. Each road is going to lead you somewhere. Each road is going to lead you somewhere morally, in your relationships, with your friends, with your parents, with your kids one day, whatever that might be. Spiritually, it’s the same thing. If there is a God who created you and loves you, wouldn’t we want to know that if it’s true or false? If it is true, then wouldn’t that God have the ability to speak into our life and say, “Here’s how life works best, and here’s how to relate to me, and others, and everybody else.” That’s the way the world is. We’re telling it like it is, which is just the definition of truth. We don’t want to be self righteous, but we also don’t want to remove the category of truth, because we all lose if we do that.
Yeah. That’s good, Jonathan. For those listening who tend to believe maybe the Biblical ideas of truth and tolerance, people that love Jesus, that love the church, they’ve been encouraged by your words today, what is a cultural challenge you’d give them, maybe one thing that they can do, even immediately after listening to this conversation, towards helping them share the gospel in our post-church, post-truth world?
Yeah. I think one great thing would be just if they’re in a conversation, just, “Hey, what do you think about who Jesus is? Have you ever read the earliest biographies of Jesus of Nazareth?” which are the earliest writings of Jesus, which we call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Just, “Hey. Who do you think Jesus was?” and just listen to what people say. Then get in a conversation and lead them to a place where they can have those.
I mean Gen Z, about 58% agree that there’s more than one way to eternal life. There can’t just be one way. The default is going to be to relativize or pluralize that conversation. What you want to do is go, “Well, look. Why is Jesus the only way?” It’s not because we’re smarter or we want to be in and you to be out. It has nothing to do with it. The question really is, “Did Jesus have the authority to rightly diagnose the fundamental problem of humanity, and could He do something about it?”
Because really at the end of the day, why is Jesus the only way according to Christianity? It’s because he’s the only medicine that will cure the disease that’s killing us. It’s not a matter of arrogance, or superiority, or anything else. It’s Buddhist medicine’s not going to work. Islamic medicine’s not going to work. Atheistic medicine’s not going to work. If Jesus really was raised from the dead and was who he claimed to be, and we can investigate that, then that’s why he’s the only way.
Connecting the dots and reality without using the churchy language and getting people talking about Jesus, because that’s where the questions matter the most. That’s what I would encourage listeners to do.
Last question, how do you, Jonathan, personally get over or have you got over the fear of man when talking to others? Because I think a lot of people, I mean even just that simple question of what do you think Jesus is like, your nerves are going, right? You’re getting your hair cut let’s say and you’re talking to your barber. How do you get over that?
Absolutely. The way I would get over that is to… Again, everyone is always just a little bit nervous when they have that first conversation before. I mean I’m on a plane or wherever, it’s not as though it’s just like nerves of steel and I never get bothered by anything. That’s not the case. But I find it just kind of like jumping in a pool. Once you get in the water, you get better. Once you start having these conversations, you realize they’re not as scary.
It’s honestly just, “You know what? I’m going to dive in, and I’m going to recognize. I’m going to just try to make a contribution in this conversation. I don’t have to get them all laid at the foot of the cross in this conversation or whatever. I’m just going to try to have a spiritual conversation that’s helpful, and I’ll ask questions.” Just learn what they believe and why. Maybe leave it at that. My goal is just to understand what this person in front of me really believes about questions that matter and why. Then that’s a success.
The more, “Hey, you know, would you mind if I asked you a few questions? I’m just curious,” that’s kind of a stranger kind of thing, but if this is like a friend, it’s like, “Hey, I was just curious, did you guys grow up religious, or you go to church, or anything like that?” Open ended question. They’re probably going to share a bunch that you can then just ask a couple follow up questions just like you would about anything else in life. You’ll get to see where they’re coming from, and that’ll probably open up the door for a further conversation later.
The key is just to get in conversations, overcome that fear, say a quick breath prayer like, “Lord, help me,” and dive in, and see what he does in it. God will honor that.
I love it. Thanks so much, Jonathan, for spending time with us again. If you’re listening and have enjoyed what we’ve been talking about, head to Impact360Institute.org. There you’re going to find tons of resources including the cartoon I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation. Also, check out JonathanMorrow.org. There you can find books and other resources from Jonathan as well. Thanks so much, Jonathan. I hope to chat with you again.
Yeah, sounds good. It’s been great to be with you.
That was Christian apologist Jonathan Morrow, who serves as the Director of Cultural Engagement at Impact 360 Institute. If you’re listening on the radio right now and didn’t catch the conversation or at least part of the conversation, just head to our site to listen to today’s show and 143 others. You can find our sight at indoubt.ca if you live in Canada or indoubt.com if you live in the States.
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You know, when thinking about truth, and tolerance, and engaging our culture with the gospel, it’s important to remember this one fact that causes many non-Christians to actually struggle with Christians. Basically, it’s when a professing Christian says there is such a thing as truth and that Jesus is the truth, and yet that truth doesn’t seem to change their life and the way they live. They still act like the world. I would suspect that a reason why people leave or reject Christianity is because of how they perceive it playing out in real life in people, or because they hear someone going on about the truth, about truth and tolerance, yet go about gossiping, mocking, judging selfishly, and so on. Obviously, the truth hasn’t changed them.
For example, non-Christians may witness their quote-unquote “Christian” father verbally abusing their mom constantly, or they see their Christian friend partying really hard on Saturday night doing things that you wouldn’t dream of. The list can go on of experiences where quote-unquote “Christian” people do very un-Christian things. Christian people preaching the truth, yet not practicing it.
I get it. Who would be interested in remaining in or joining a group of people who claim to know and love God, yet live lives that contradict it? I wouldn’t be.
No matter where you may stand, it’s important to consider the fact that everything we do in life is based upon our beliefs, what we believe to be true for us, whether we know it or not. Our behaviors are the direct result of what we believe to be true. We can say that the reason for every thought, every action, every word we produce can be traced back to some belief we have. Much of the time, this happens automatically. We don’t even think about it.
Now, oftentimes the beliefs we say we have contradict our actions. For example, I may say I believe in supporting local businesses and seeing them thrive, and yet I’m caught shopping at a big corporation and eating from a worldwide fast food chain, right? What’s revealed is that even though I said I believed in one thing, my actions proved otherwise.
Once when referring to a group of religious leaders, Jesus said to them in Matthew, “For they preach, but do not practice.” He was rightly accusing them of living hypocritically. They were preaching the truth, then living a lie. This should cause us to think both of our beliefs and behaviors. We need to ask ourself, whether you’re a Christian or not, “Why do I say I believe to be true and how does that impact my behavior?” Or, “What beliefs are revealed that are based on my words, thoughts, and actions?”
This kind of self reflection is so important. It’s humbling. Everyone will have to admit that they’ve held to certain beliefs that they’ve then contradicted by their behaviours.
If you’re a professing Christian, then think carefully on this. You’re not a Christian because you say you believe in Jesus or because you say you know the truth, but you’re a Christian because your behaviors prove your belief in Jesus, that that truth really works. In other words, it’s not the faith you say you have that counts, but rather the works producing faith that does actually count.
I don’t know about you, but as a professing Christian, I do not want to be in the group of people that Jesus says won’t enter the kingdom of heaven even though they said, “Lord, Lord.” I also don’t want to be a reason for someone leaving or rejecting the Christian faith because of my contradictory behavior. I want my genuine belief in Jesus to show itself in a Jesus-like life. I want the true Truth of the Gospel to impact my life in such a way that my belief in the truth won’t contradict the way I live my life. I want to show others that the true Truth of the Gospel does change lives.
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indoubt ministries exists to bring a Biblical perspective into the relevant issues of life and faith that young adults face every day. For more information, check out indoubt.ca if you live in Canada and indoubt.com if you live in the US.