Is Debating A Form Of Intolerance?

by James D. Bales

Misinformed individuals have concluded that debating is an objectional manifestation of intolerance. It is true that there is a harsh, violent, intolerance which is wrong; such intolerance as is manifested by the Roman Catholic Church in its sanction of carnal force to make people give up what she calls error. To say, however, that debating is necessarily a form of intolerance is to say what is not so. There may be intolerant debaters, but intolerance is not a necessary characteristic of debating. The trouble with some people is that they have no convictions—except anti-religious ones—on religious matters and as a result of their indifferences they think that the person who is zealous for his faith is intolerant. They think that they are the tolerant ones when in reality they are only indifferent. But when they are contradicted with reference to something that they believe, they show that they do believe in disputing and contending!

The man who is convinced that he has the truth will proclaim and defend that truth against efforts to undermine or otherwise contradict it. The unbeliever and the indifferent would call it intolerance, but Paul in no uncertain terms opposed anything which opposed the gospel. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. And as we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God ? or am I striving to please men ? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:8-10). Men who propose some other way of justification than God's word, must be taught the truth and their error must be pointed out.

"There is, says the apostle, emphatically but one gospel, but there are some who would revolutionize you (the word 'trouble' has this force) by perverting the gospel, making it an unholy, ineffectual compound of living truth and obsolete Jewish forms. His failure to name the leaders in this movement shows his contempt for them. They were parties unknown and deserving to remain unknown. One can not help wishing that modern churches would waken to the truth here spoken by the apostle. There is and must ever be but one gospel. There is not a separate gospel suited to the prejudices or so-called 'tastes' of each sect or denomination. There is but one gospel, and hence all church divisions result from perversions of that gospel, and all such secessions or revolutionary divisions are but the beguiling of Satan, drawing disciples from 'the simplicity and purity that is toward Christ' (2 Cor. 11:3)." (J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, pp. 205-251) When one recognizes that he has the message that the world needs, the only gospel sent from God, he recognizes that everything which sets it aside is error and cannot be for the good of man. Thus he is set for the defense of the gospel.

For further study