The Commerce Journal

August 16, 2012

The Intolerance of tolerance

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Recently, I have been reading and discussing a book with my old argument teacher called The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson. It sounds strange that someone would suggest that tolerance would in fact be an intolerant view.

The only way it would seem plausible is if the meaning of tolerance has changed. This is what he proposes in his book. The old form of tolerance has changed into the new form, which he says is not a good thing. I am inclined to believe him.

The old form, which he gets from a saying from the 17th century thinker, Voltaire.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

In the old form the person was protected, but what was believed was not. People believed in an absolute truth and thought that it could be found in rigorous debate.

The new form of tolerance suggests that there is no absolute truth and has been replaced with relativism. “What you believe works for you and what I believe works for me.”

 In this each and every belief is protected, but the people behind are not. You cannot question someone’s belief. And if you dare say that what you believe is true, then you are quickly branded “intolerant.”

The book is written from a Christian perspective, so it mainly deals with evidences of this new form directed against Christianity. The examples he uses are legion.

From prestigious universities such as Dartmouth, Harvard and Rutgers attempting to derecognize the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) for discriminatory actions because the organization insisted that its leaders be Christian, to a pastor in Sweden being jailed for a month for preaching in his own church that marriage was designed to be between a man and a woman, and that any other variation of that is not good for human flourishing.

When the new form of tolerance claims that there is big “T” Truth, their claim itself is contradictory to their belief. What is being done is merely a replacement of the old “moral authority” that generally included the Bible and has been replaced with the new tolerance, which is basically “You can believe what you believe, as long as you don’t talk about it and it doesn’t interfere with what I believe.”

What is disturbing about this is that this new form of tolerance now claims to be the “Moral High Ground.” By what authority do they claim the moral high ground? They claim to be tolerant, but whenever an idea arises that does not align with the new form of tolerance, it is deemed an intolerant view and the people behind it are thrown out of the “Marketplace of Ideas.”

I am tired of fellow Christians not knowing how to define the gospel, or talking with an atheist who says that Jesus never said He was God. (He did, multiple times.

And that was actually the reason why the Pharisees wanted to kill Him, “Because You, a man, make Yourself God.”)

Whatever you believe, you have a right to believe it. But I encourage you to be able to defend what you believe. Be able to take criticism for what you believe and be able to defend it with words, most importantly with words. Learn first what an argument is, (A good DVD to learn from is the documentary film “Collision.”

It is a debate between recently deceased anti-theist Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson, a pastor in Moscow, Idaho); then use what you have learned when the opportunity arises to engage someone in a civil argument who holds to a different belief.