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Is the Christian faith tolerant?

A couple of years ago, I gave a short talk to the Nottingham Theology Network, part of UCCF’s work with students, on the question of tolerance. Having wondered how much I knew about the subject, I came to realise that it touches on some central issues of faith and mission. It is fascinating to see how, even in the last couple of years since I spoke on this, it continues to be a pressing cultural and theological issue.

First, it is interesting to note that the subject of tolerance—in particular, how tolerant can we be of people with different views—has concerned people from the very beginning of Christian faith. This is perhaps best captured in the two, apparently contradictory, sayings of Jesus:

Whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9.40)

Whoever is not with me is against me. (Matt 12.30)

In fact, these two statements are in different contexts and address different issues—the first on how wide we should see the scope of Jesus’ ministry, the second on how we respond to those who explicitly oppose the purposes of Jesus. But together they suggest that different levels of tolerance are appropriate in different situations. In the writings of Paul, we continue to see the issue of tolerance reappearing, often in the context of the relation between Jewish and Gentile believers (for example in 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14). But alongside some wide latitude in variations in practice, Paul has some very clear boundaries on both belief and behaviour. Clearly, for Paul, there are things we should tolerate and other things we should not. But it interesting that questions of tolerance arise both in relation to ethical questions but also in relation to questions of knowledge, understanding and certainty—what we might call epistemic questions.

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Ministry at Grenfell Tower

Gabby Thomas writes: On Wednesday 14th June, like the rest of the UK, I awoke to the most harrowing pictures of Grenfell Tower on fire. Like many others, when the circumstances began to emerge around how 24 storeys could burn to the ground that easily, I was utterly speechless: How could something so simply prevented […]

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What causes disunity?

It is fairly common in discussion about church relations to cite Jesus’ so-called ‘high priestly’ prayer (John 17) and his concern ‘that they should be one’—not least because Jesus himself connects the unity of his followers with the oneness of God himself, and in both Christian and Jewish contexts this is a fundamental truth about […]

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Violence in Christianity and Islam

Following the atrocities in London and Manchester in recent weeks, many commentators have been quick to say ‘This violence has nothing to do with Islam.’ When that is claimed by a leader within the Muslim community, then it appears to mean something particular: ‘This violence is nothing to do with Islamic beliefs as I understand […]

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Why as a Christian I am voting for Labour

This is the third in a series of guest posts, in which regular readers of this blog explain why, from a Christian perspective, they intend to vote for a particular political party—or, in one case, why they intend to spoil their ballot paper. In this one, Ali Campbell, who is Youth and Children’s Ministry Consultant at […]

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Why as a Christian I am voting Conservative

This is the second in a series of guest posts, in which regular readers of this blog explaining why, from a Christian perspective, they intend to vote for a particular political party—or, in one case, why they intend to spoil their ballot paper. In this one, Revd Patrick Gilday, who is Curate at All Saints, Ascot, explains […]

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