Is God Tolerant?

No One Is More Tolerant Than God by Jonathan Parnell

Gay rights activists across the country plan to descend upon Chick-fil-A this evening (August 3,, 2012)  in response to Wednesday’s “Appreciation Day.” Here will be a real-life test of tolerance for many professing Christians.

Now, as political and newsy as it may seem, the main thing to understand about tolerance is this: It is profoundly theological. Yes, tolerance is defensible on the basis of mere reason, and no, you don’t have to be a Christian to practice it — or even a theist. But the firmest ground for why we would bother being tolerant goes back to God. We look to the one who has revealed himself ultimately in Jesus Christ and authoritatively in the Bible.

God is the most tolerant being ever. Not in terms of the “new tolerance,” but as Don Carson points out, according to the truest and best notions of tolerance. Think about God’s patience and forbearance. Carson explains that God has ordained a world in which “conflict, idolatry, confrontation, and wildly disparate systems of thought, even about God himself, persist” (Tolerance of Intolerance, 5).

In other words, God tolerates a world of bad ideas (among other things). He doesn’t have to do this. It’s his prerogative to shut the whole thing down anytime he wants. Yet he hasn’t. He endures it. He puts up with it in his perfect timing and patience. God forbears the foolishness and restrains his wrath. And a God that holy with a world this unholy requires more tolerance than we can quantify.

But why? Why does God do this? Here are two swings, one from Scripture and one as a good and necessary consequence.

For Our Sake

First, God is tolerant for our sake. The Bible is clear: God is patient so that we sinners would repent (2 Peter 3:9). He is kind and forbearing so that we would turn to him (Romans 2:4). We still have time to believe. And there are still many who will, God willing.

With the cross in view, God is able to righteously endure the sin of his unregenerate elect (and even the indwelling sin of the regenerate). Jesus absorbed the wrath we deserved so God could stop “passing over” the former sins of his people. Our sins were atoned for, God’s anger propitiated. Now, because of the cross, he is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24–27). He is tolerant now because he knows he doesn’t have to be tolerant forever. In the end, his wrath will be satisfied, either at the cross or in the lake of fire. Jesus died, God endures, we believe — he is tolerant for our sake.

For His Glory

Secondly, God is tolerant for his glory. He tolerates “wildly disparate systems of thought” because he is seen as great when he trumps the wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 1:20). This means that if God will trump worldly wisdom, he must forbear its existence. God tolerates man’s wisdom to show his foolishness is wiser; God tolerates man’s strength to show his weakness is stronger (1 Corinthians 1:25).

The point is the contrast. It’s one of the many ways God accommodates the knowledge of his worth to our little minds. He gets more glory in a world of differing ideas and disparate beliefs because against this background his beauty and worth is more clearly manifest. A creation full of almost innumerable ideas puts more money in the pot for that one “good idea” that outlasts the rest. And yes, there is one — one message of good news that gets God all the glory.

For our sake and his glory, no one is more truly tolerant than God.

The article above was posted on August 3, 2012 on the Desiring God Website:

About the Author: Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a content strategist and blogger at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their three children: Elizabeth, Hannah, and Micah.


Dr. John PIper on God’s Design for Marriage: 4 Biblical Realities

4 Reasons Why Marriage Is God’s Doing – by Jonathan Parnell

(Summarizing John Piper)

The most foundational thing we can say about marriage is that it is God’s doing. John Piper explains, “A glimpse into the magnificence of marriage comes from seeing in God’s word that God himself is the great doer. Marriage is his doing. It is from him and through him” (24).

In his book This Momentary Marriage, Pastor John Piper gives four reasons why marriage is God’s doing:

First, marriage was God’s design.

While Genesis 1:27–28 makes clear that marriage is meant for male and female, the logic of Genesis 2 also confirms it.

In [Genesis 2:18], it is God himself who decrees that man’s solitude is not good, and it is God himself who sets out to complete one of the central designs of creation, namely, man and woman in marriage. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Don’t miss that central and all-important statement: God himself will make a being perfectly suited for him — a wife. (p. 21)

Second, God gave away the first bride.

God took the role as the first Father to give away the bride. “Genesis 2:22: ‘And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.’ He didn’t hide her and make Adam seek. He made her; then he brought her.” (p. 22)

Third, God spoke the design of marriage into existence.

We can see this if we look carefully at Matthew 19:4–5: “[Jesus] answered, ‘Have you not read that he [God] who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said [Note: God said!], “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”‘?” Jesus said that the words of Genesis 2:24 are God’s words, even though they were written by Moses. (p. 22)

Fourth, God performs the one-flesh union.

The one-flesh union between a man and woman is the heart of what marriage is.

Genesis 2:24 is God’s word of institution for marriage. But just as it was God who took the woman from the flesh of man (Genesis 2:21), it is God who in each marriage ordains and performs a uniting called one flesh. Man does not create this. God does. And it is not in man’s power to destroy. This is implicit here in Genesis 2:24, but Jesus makes it explicit in Mark 10:8–9. He quotes Genesis 2:24, then adds a comment that explodes like thunder with the glory of marriage. “‘The two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

When a couple speaks their vows, it is not a man or a woman or a pastor or parent who is the main actor — the main doer. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union. God does that. The world does not know this. Which is one of the reasons why marriage is treated so casually. And Christians often act like they don’t know it, which is one of the reasons marriage in the church is not seen as the wonder it is. Marriage is God’s doing because it is a one-flesh union that God himself performs. (p. 23)

Article adapted from: posted on May 21, 2012.