Tolerance currently occupies a very high place in Western societies: it is considered gauche, even boorish, to question it. In The Intolerance of Tolerance, however, questioning tolerance—or, at least, contemporary understandings of tolerance—is exactly what D. A. Carson does.
Carson traces the subtle but enormous shift in the way we have come to understand tolerance over recent years—from defending the rights of those who hold different beliefs to affirming all beliefs as equally valid and correct. He looks back at the history of this shift and discusses its implications for culture today, especially its bearing on democracy, discussions about good and evil, and Christian truth claims.
Using real-life examples that will sometimes arouse laughter and sometimes make the blood boil, Carson argues not only that the “new tolerance” is socially dangerous and intellectually debilitating but also that it actually leads to genuine intolerance of all who struggle to hold fast to their beliefs.
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“The new tolerance tends to avoid serious engagement over difficult moral issues, analyzing almost every issue on the one axis tolerant/intolerant, excluding all others from the pantheon of the virtuous who do not align with this axis.” (Page 15)
“Christians do think that Jesus is the only way to God. But does that make them intolerant? In the former sense of ‘intolerant,’ not at all; the fact remains, however, that any sort of exclusive truth claim is widely viewed as a sign of gross intolerance. But the latter depends absolutely on the second meaning of ‘tolerance.’” (Page 4)
“The United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance (1995) asserts, ‘Tolerance … involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism.’” (Page 12)
“‘ACCEPT EXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT VIEWS to recognize other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices without an attempt to suppress them.’” (Page 3)
“‘The definition of the new tolerance is that every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle, and perception of truth claims are equal.… There is no hierarchy of truth. Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal, and all truth is relative.’15 If, however, the new tolerance evaluates all values and beliefs as positions worthy of respect, one may reasonably ask if this includes Nazism, Stalinism, and child sacrifice—or, for that matter, the respective stances of the Ku Klux Klan and other assorted ethnic supremacist groups.” (Pages 12–13)
Nothing is more intolerant than a tolerance that requires the absence of all convictions. Don Carson thoughtfully shows how tolerance, once defined as respecting others’ right to hold differing perspectives, has morphed into a pervasive insistence that no one should hold firm convictions. The consequence of such a shift is a challenge to biblical faith that needs a biblical response, which Carson ably provides.
—Bryan Chapell, distinguished professor of preaching, Knox Theological Seminary
Sadly, the debate about Christianity has shifted from ‘is it true’ to ‘was anyone offended.’ The Bible assures us that the Gospel message will be offensive, although the Gospel messenger should be loving. Carson has done a masterful job of helping Christian leaders understand how to navigate a cultural context that is increasingly tolerant of seemingly everything but Christian belief.
—Mark Driscoll, preaching and speaking pastor, Mars Hill Church
In this timely book D.A. Carson argues that today true tolerance is not well tolerated. He makes a passionate plea for a recovery of an older form of tolerance, insisting that the existence of disparate views is vastly different from the acceptance of all views being equally valid. Important matters are at stake here, and Carson cogently explains why they are so urgent.
—Michael Cromartie, vice president, Ethics and Public Policy Center