Evangelical Resources on True Tolerance
Table of Contents
It seems that intolerance is on the rise in the United States. Despite the major social and political reforms that the nation has been through, such as the enactment of civil rights legislation, rights for women, and a broadening of attitudes toward sexual orientation, there are still large segments of the population that seem to be radically intolerant. One wonders in the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Indeed, many have joined a national chorus, calling for an end to intolerance. Yet, despite all the clamoring for more tolerance, our culture seems more intolerant than ever.
But what does it mean to be "tolerant" or "intolerant?" In the past, tolerance meant that other people have a right to their opinion, and the right to express themselves, and that even though we may disagree with their opinions, that we can tolerate their view and live in peace, with the understanding that all people are working toward truth. In recent years, however, tolerance has come to mean something radically different, that tolerance should be never saying that someone else is wrong. All value judgments are viewed as intolerant, except of course, the value judgment that says "value judgments are wrong." Rather than tolerating other people's opinions (or perhaps, learning from them), many people have come to believe that "Judge not, lest ye be judged," and hence not making value judgments, is the basis for tolerance.
We now believe the irony that intolerance itself should not be tolerated. As S.D. Gaede notes, "If the worst thing you can be is intolerant, then how do you express your moral outrage? If you are intolerant of someone who is intolerant, then you have necessarily violated your own principle. But if you tolerate those who are intolerant, you keep your principle but sacrifice your responsibility to the principle. Indeed, the only person who can find consistency on this matter is the individual who is wholly committed to tolerance, to the point of being apathetic." The irony of the dilemma is that people who express the most outrage toward intolerance, in this new definition, are themselves intolerant. When they call for tolerance, the effect is greater intolerance.
In an intolerant world, rational dialogue gives way to argument by insult. As Greg Koukl notes, "Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all, but rather intellectual cowardice. Those who hide behind the myth of neutrality are often afraid of intelligent engagement. Unwilling to be challenged by alternate points of view, they don't engage contrary opinions or even consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult-'you intolerant bigot'-than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. 'Tolerance' has become intolerance." When thoughtful principled arguments can be refuted by insults or speculation about hidden motives (a hermeneutic of suspicion), rational discourse breaks down. True Tolerance is the next victim, as the enlightened few seek to impose their own version of "tolerance" on the "intolerant."
It is my hope that by presenting these resources on the subject of tolerance, that in times like this where the word 'tolerance' is so heavily used, but seem in such short supply, that we could all step back and rethink what True Tolerance is really about.
If you have comments, issues, or concerns, please email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
- J. Budziszewski, Ph.D. "A War of Words"
[ http://www.boundless.org/1999/regulars/office_hours/a0000024.html ]
Professor Theophilus converses with a couple of students during office hours about the meaning of tolerance.
"Mark spoke first. 'Well, Professor, it's like this. Every point of view gets heard around campus but the Christian one. So Sarah and I thought we'd try to get a little air time for Christianity.'" ...
"'Sometimes people listen, and then we have interesting give and take,' said Sarah. 'But other times, as soon as we open our mouths someone says we're intolerant.'
In classic form, Professor Theophilus discusses the meaning of tolerance.
- Michael Horner, "The Truth Behind Tolerance"
[ http://www.michaelhorner.com/articles/tolerance/ ]
"Many people think that tolerance means never saying someone else is wrong. But notice that the concept of tolerance contains the notion of disagreement. If there is no disagreement, then there is nothing to tolerate. Thinking or even stating that another view is false is not intolerance. True tolerance allows differing views to have an equal right to exist without the threat of violence. You can be truly tolerant without accepting another person's beliefs.
"Furthermore, truth should take priority over tolerance. There is nothing intolerant about telling the truth. No one should suppress the truth just because it may hurt someone's feelings or may go against their beliefs."
- Michael Horner, "Tolerance and Truth"
[ http://www.iamnext.com/spirituality/tolerance.html ]
"We can be truly tolerant without accepting another person's beliefs. Tolerance has nothing to do with accepting another person's belief, only his right to have that belief." ...
... "When tolerance is valued at the expense of truth, it becomes intolerance. As thinking and moral people, we should be committed to both truth AND tolerance."
- Scott Scruggs, "Truth or Tolerance?"
[ http://www.probe.org/content/view/914/0/ ]
"I would bet that each of you is familiar with the dry, burning sensation of chapped lips. With this in mind, what is the almost instinctual reaction when you feel your lips drying out? You lick them, right? For a moment they feel better, but then what happens? They get even drier, don't they? In fact, the more you lick, the worse they get. This is an example of mistaking the immediate solution for the correct solution. If moist lips are the desirable end, shouldn't we lick them to make them well again? Of course not, even if it feels right at first. As most of you know, the appropriate cure for chapped lips is not licking, it's lip balm.
"Well, the same is true in life. We live in a world burdened by injustice, discrimination, and inequality; they are the "chapped lips" of our culture. Many people insist that the best solution is a greater degree of tolerance. In some ways this answer sounds right. But is tolerance the lip balm for our culture or are we just licking our lips? Are we just mistaking the immediate solution for the correct solution?
- Rick Wade, Review of The New Absolutes
[ http://www.probe.org/content/view/786/141/ ]
"But if everything is relative, how are relativists able to convince others of the rightness of their own beliefs? They can't appeal to a foundation of unchanging realities and objective truths and be consistent with their relativism.
"So how do they do it? Calling opponents names, "fundamentalist" is a popular term, or repeating simplistic clichés-"safe, legal abortion" for example-are a couple of their favorite means. The media play a strong role in this process, especially television. Captivating images, clever writing, strategically placed laugh tracks, and other elements persuasively convey ideas without logical reasoning.
"It is crucial that we step back to see what this situation sets us up for. If we are conditioned to be persuaded by sloganeering rather than by rational discourse, we are prepared to be taken in by any smooth talker. All our clamor for rights and for the authority of the individual has the unexpected result of preparing us to lose our freedoms at the hands of charismatic tyrants."
- Lou Whitworth, Review of Living in the New Dark Ages
[ http://www.probe.org/content/view/122/170/ ]
"Today the prevailing attitude is one of relativism, i.e., the belief that there is no morally binding objective source of authority or truth above the individual. The fact that this view tosses aside 2,500 years of accumulated moral wisdom in the West, a rationally defensible natural law, and the moral law revealed by God in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures seems to bother very few.
"Relativism and individualism need each other to survive. Rampant individualism promotes a competitive society in which conflicting claims rather than consensus is the norm because everyone is his or her own standard of "right" and "wrong" and of "rights" and "obligations." The marriage of extreme individualism and relativism, however, has produced a new conception of "tolerance."
"The word tolerance sounds great, but this is really tolerance with a twist; it demands that everyone has a right to express his or her own views as long as those views do not contain any suggestion of absolutes that would compete with the prevailing standard of relativism."
- Don Closson, Review of The Culture of Disbelief
[ http://www.probe.org/content/view/118/152/ ]
"Carter responds to [the ongoing] governmental encroachment into the intimate details of our lives by calling those on both sides of the ideological debates to value, not oppose, those who refuse to accede to the authority of others, for it yields the diversity that America needs. His lucid arguments for true religious freedom, especially from his political and religious position, are helpful and well thought out. Carter is willing to speak boldly against the tyranny of secular government, especially when governmental agencies become oppressive."
- Rusty Wright, "Church's Intolerant Past Not a True
Representation of Christianity"
[ http://www.probe.org/docs/intolerance.html ]
"The Southern Baptist Convention recently made headlines for renouncing racism, condemning slavery and apologizing for the church's intolerant past. That laudable contrition raises a deeper question: Why would Christianity ever be associated with racial oppression in the first place?
"How did the faith whose founder told people to "love one another" become linked with human bondage, social apartheid and even today's racist militias?" ...
"A young African-American woman heard a speech on this theme in her sociology class at North Carolina State University. "All my life I've been taught that white Christians were responsible for the oppression of my people," she noted. "Now, I realize those oppressors weren't really following Christ."
"The Southern Baptists were right to renounce racism. Other institutions should take note. Racist policies, laws and yes-militias-need changing. But so do human beings. True Christianity does not promote racism but seeks to eliminate it by changing human hearts.
- Glenn Tinder, "What Can We Reasonably Hope For?"
[ http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0001/articles/tinder.html ]
"Forbearance means bearing the discord of minds and hearts occasioned by our fallen state. (Since the word "tolerance" derives from tolerare, meaning to bear, forbearance may be seen as tolerance in its precise signification.) Given the complex obligations it imposes - embracing doctrinal and cultural opponents in a spirit of communal readiness, enduring diversity as mysteriously integral to the divine work of redemption, and discerning and meeting distinctive responsibilities for the care of truth.forbearance is demanding and severe. It must therefore be an art. Like any art, however, it does not only involve difficulty and labor; it can bring peace and happiness. Thus Paul ends his agonizing reflections on the Jewish rejection of Christ with an exultant exclamation - "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" - which breaks out when he realizes the providential power with which God will enlist every intellectual and spiritual disorder in the cause of truth (Romans 11:33). In an era that says to us every day, "There is no Truth," the art of forbearance might at least help us resist the temptations of relativism. And it might even help us enter with joy into a destiny that will finally show forth the Truth in such plainness and splendor that no one who has ever lived will be able to misunderstand or ignore it."
- Mike Metzger, Open Forums for Postmoderns
Chapter 4: "Thinking About The Questions Seekers Entertain"
[ http://www.leaderu.com/cl-institute/openforum/chap04.html ]
This article is a chapter from a book discussing how to open forums with Postmoderns. This chapter discusses how to think about the questions seekers entertain.
"When it comes to people, a healthy intolerance is viewing as unacceptable such things as hate speech, mean-spiritedness, name-calling, racism, or sexism. These are things we should never tolerate. A healthy intolerance has a repudiating side.
"But it also has an affirming side.
"A healthy intolerance is also comprises values like loving the telling of truth, wanting the best for others, demanding that what we say corresponds to who we are and what we do (integrity). In other words, demanding truth in advertising (as an example) is a healthy intolerance. Or simply not tolerating anything as being right."
- Josh McDowell, "Reaching Youth Today"
[ http://www.leaderu.com/common/josh.html ]
"Tolerance right now is the number one virtue in 85 percent of the cultures of the world. The concept of tolerance has gone through a total and complete change in definition. For you and me it meant like Webster defined it - "To bear or put up with someone or something not especially liked." That is no longer true. Ninety percent of the time you hear the word tolerance outside the walls of the church, whether it's the media or whatever, it's a total different definition than what most of you are sitting here with. Almost every time you hear the word tolerance now, it means that all values, beliefs, lifestyles and claims to truth are equal. R.M. Haire, the philosopher, put it this way, "Tolerance is... the readiness to accept other's ideals as if they are your own." Fernando Savatir, the Spanish philosopher, in his new book Nations in the Nations said, "Tolerance, the doctrine, is that all opinions are equal. Each one has its point and there is no intelligent way to distinguish between them." You and I have become the most intolerant people on the face of the earth. Ten years ago, when we said that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, it was endorsed by the number one virtue in culture, justice. Now justice has been totally supplanted by 'tolerance' and everything you preach now flies in the face of the number one virtue in culture." ...
"Up until a few years ago, the number one verse in this Bible quoted by young people, Christian young people, even the media, was John 3:16. Do you know what it is now? Even by Christian young people? "Judge not that you be not judged," is the number one verse now quoted. "Judge not that you be not judged.""
- Francis J. Beckwith, "Deconstructing Liberal
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DL104.htm ]
"Liberal Tolerance is perhaps the primary challenge to the Christian worldview current in North American popular culture. Proponents of this viewpoint argue that it is intolerant and inconsistent with the principles of a free and open society for Christians (and others) to claim that their moral and religious perspective is correct and ought to be embraced by all citizens. Liberal tolerance is not what it appears to be, however. It is a partisan philosophical perspective with its own set of dogmas. It assumes, for instance, a relativistic view of moral and religious knowledge. This assumption has shaped the way many people think about issues such as homosexuality, abortion rights, and religious truth claims, leading them to believe that a liberally tolerant posture concerning these issues is the correct one and that it ought to be reflected in our laws and customs. But this posture is dogmatic, intolerant, and coercive, for it asserts that there is only one correct view on these issues, and if one does not comply with it, one will face public ridicule, demagogic tactics, and perhaps legal reprisals. Liberal Tolerance is neither liberal nor tolerant."
- Greg Koukl, "The Myth of Tolerance"
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DM811.htm ]
"The tolerant person allegedly occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. No "forcing" personal views. That all views are equally valid is one of the most entrenched assumptions of a society committed to relativism; but it's a myth!
"For all their confident bluster, the relativists. appeal actually asserts two principles or "truths," one rational and one moral. The first is the rational "truth" that there is no truth. The second is the moral "truth" that one ought to tolerate the viewpoints of others. Their stand, contradictory on at least two counts, serves as a warning that the modern notion of tolerance is seriously misguided."
- William D. Watkins, "Is Tolerance a Virtue?"
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DE204.htm ]
"During the '50s and '60s, being tolerant meant putting up with a slow salesclerk, restraining the desire to laugh at someone's bizarre dress, or holding one's tongue when a person made a harmless but erroneous comment. Being tolerant never meant condoning immoral behavior, letting harmful beliefs go unchallenged, or permitting a person's dangerous lifestyle to influence, much less be taught, to others. In those days we may have disagreed about what is true, but few challenged the bedrock conviction that "true" is the opposite of "false," and that truth does not tolerate untruth. We believed then that some beliefs and lifestyles promoted the common good while others undermined it.
"Those of us who still believe these things are considered bigots, judgmental prudes, or moral fundamentalists by the new "tolerant" regime." ... "The new tolerance is not a virtue but a vice. We must expose it for what it is and replace it with the truth."
- Paul Copan, "Christophobia: Confronting the Problem of
Religious Discrimination on Campus"
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DC630.htm ]
"Western universities claim to promote religious diversity and freedom of speech, but in practice Christianity is often ridiculed or censured. Openness to discussion and debate over matters of truth has been replaced with a religious pluralism that argues "all religions are the same" and "religious truth is subjective." All religions, however, are not the same; they make radically different and exclusive truth claims about the nature of ultimate reality and of humankind. The Christian who recognizes this fact and rejects religious pluralism is often singled out for censure - all viewpoints are considered equal, except Christianity.
"How can Christians and non-Christians approach the spectrum of religious claims fair-mindedly and for the common good? We must begin by understanding the true meaning of tolerance and religious pluralism. Tolerance has come to mean the acceptance or "celebration" of all views as true. True tolerance, however, recognizes the real difference in religious truth claims, yet allows others to think differently. All persons are equal, but all beliefs are not equal. Moreover, the fact that many religious beliefs exist (religious diversity) does not mean that they are all true (religious pluralism). People with different religious views can coexist, but only by understanding and exercising true, respectful tolerance can we avoid errors that censure Christianity and blur the real differences between religious truth claims."
- Francis J. Beckwith, Ph.D. "Philosophical Problems with Moral
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DA241.htm ]
"In moral debate in the United States today, many people resort to moral relativism. They argue that there are no objective moral values which help us to determine what is right or wrong. They claim "everything is relative." In order to defend this position, the relativist puts forth two arguments: (1) Since people and cultures disagree about morality, there are no objective moral values; (2) Moral relativism leads to tolerance of practices we may find different or odd. These two arguments are seriously flawed. In addition, the moral relativist has a difficult time explaining moral progress, moral reformation, and clear-cut cases of moral saints and moral devils."
- Jim Leffel, Dennis McCallum. "The Postmodern Challenge: Facing
the Spirit of the Age"
[ http://www.equip.org/free/DP321.htm ]
""Openness" (without the restraint of reason) and "tolerance" that rejects all moral absolutes are the mandates of postmodern ideology. This thinking has dominated America's "politically correct" universities for over a decade. Moreover, postmodernism is gaining a clear and growing consensus in popular culture. Consequently, Christians today face unique challenges as we seek to communicate the gospel in a compelling way. In order to speak to the "it's true for me because I believe it" mentality, Christian communicators must understand and critique the foundations of postmodern relativism. We must also develop new and creative pre-evangelistic approaches to establish common ground with our secular culture."
- Hank Hanegraaff, "Are Christians Judgemental and
[ http://www.equip.org/free/CP0205.htm ]
"Why can't Christians just exercise their own faith, and leave alone those people who have other beliefs? After all, isn't it judgmental and unloving to criticize someone else's religious beliefs?"
- Jay Wegter, Massimo Lorenzini. "Knowing Right from Wrong: A
Christian Response to Postmodern 'Tolerance'"
[ http://www.frontlinemin.org/rightfromwrong.asp ]
"On the worldwide web there are numerous sites filled with bitter anti-Christian material. These are often the same sites that are promoting tolerance. Why is there such ferocious opposition from the "paragons" of tolerance? The reason is because the truth claims of Christianity (which are absolute and exclusive) are the death-blow to postmodernism which is simply a cloak for intellectual and moral self-government (i.e., self-centeredness, self-worship, idolatry)." ...
"In the midst of such moral chaos, Christians must not be duped or intimidated. We must retain confidence in the power of God who stands behind His unbreakable Word. We must remain bold in proclaiming Christ as the only hope for people in the world. It's vitally important that we rise above the confusion - there is a source of absolute truth; it is outside of us, it is true no matter how you feel."
- Douglas Groothuis, "Thinking Straight About Tolerance"
[ http://www.apologetics.com/default.jsp?bodycontent=/articles/cultural_apologetics/groothuis-tolerance.html ]
"...[M]any who claim that all religions have elements of truth also admit that they know little about other religions. This brand of tolerance is based on ignorance rather than on fact. Religions differ radically on significant beliefs, such as ultimate reality, the human condition, and salvation. When one religion teaches what another denies, both cannot be true. Islam denies that Jesus is divine and the Bible repeatedly affirms it (John 1:1-3; Col. 2:9). Both cannot be true. This is reality, not intolerance. When I give lecture called "Are All Religions One?" at secular college campuses, and the students hear an explanation of the differences between religions, many respond thoughtfully and some show an interest in Christ."
Groothuis outlines how Christians should think about tolerance:
- "We need to develop a tenacious commitment to the truthfulness of Scripture."
- "Like Paul, we need to be passionate about people's salvation."
- "While we cannot endorse or overlook religious falsity, we can love those of other faiths."
- "When people talk of 'my God' and 'my spirituality' we should emphasize that Christianity is not a designer religion, custom-fit for our tastes." ... "As G.K. Chesterton put it in Orthodoxy: 'I won't call Christianity my religion, because I didn't make it up. God and humanity made it, and it made me.'"
- Evangelism Code of Ethics
[ http://www.intervarsity.org/evangelism/article_item.php?article_id=1503 ]
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's "Evangelism Code of Ethics" is a statement of what are the proper ethical guidelines to follow when sharing one's faith.
"'A Code of Ethics for Christian Witness' was developed when an inter-religious cult-watching organization, The American Family Foundation, sponsored a group of religious professionals to develop a code of ethics that would be mutually affirmed, ethically viable and theologically acceptable to diverse constituencies. The task force included Jews, Roman Catholics, denominational chaplains, evangelicals and agnostics. InterVarsity staff members participated at various stages. Towards the conclusion of the project, each group "tailored" the general Code to their particular situation. InterVarsity's version of the code was affirmed by InterVarsity's leadership in 1989.
- Denes House, "Is Evangelism Intolerant? How to be sure our
outreach is both ethical and effective"
[ http://www.intervarsity.org/slj/fa00/fa00_is_evangelism_intolerant.html ]
An open-air presentation of Christianity on the college campus was well recieved, but ironically, the most vocal opposition came from Christians!
"The idea that stands most prominently among the comments we've received is that evangelism is by its very nature intolerant, and therefore has no place on the secular campus. This is a very serious charge, and it has significant bearing on much of what InterVarsity does. We seek to build witnessing communities on campus, so this question of tolerance deserves some serious attention from every student leader approaching the idea of outreach."
Denes House goes on to explain the meaning of tolerance and how Christians are called to be ambassadors. Then he goes on to discuss how the Evangelism Code of Ethics is to be a key component of Christian witness:
"Central to my strategy in preparing Colgate students for [evangelization] was to stress the importance of ethical, principled evangelism. I introduced students to 'A Code of Ethics for Christian Witness,' a document adapted by InterVarsity regional director Doug Whallon in 1989. We put it up on our chapter web page, I spoke on the code, and I handed out copies to all of our fellowship members. If I could have my way, every Christian in college would memorize the 'Code of Ethics.' It's that good and that important."
"Central to the ethos of the 'Code of Ethics for Christian Witness' is the distinction between persuasion and proselytism." ... "We reject proselytism, any attempt to force a person to make the choice to follow Jesus by undermining the very faculties which allow them to make a free choice."
"But not only do we reject proselytism, we affirm persuasion. Persuasion requires free and open dialogue, conducted with honesty, integrity and full candor. The Christian witness should be the person fighting the hardest for openness, truth and free expression of religious beliefs."
To summarize, Denes House says:
"Evangelism does not have to be intolerant according to the classic definition of tolerance. We can be both respectful of the rights and humanity of others and insistent that Jesus is the only way to God. We must make our appeal on Christ's behalf - in public and in private - and we have every right to do that. We must be careful, though, to ensure that our every evangelistic effort on campus be governed by godly principles."
- William Lane Craig, "In Intellectual Neutral"
[ http://www.boundless.org/departments/the_podium/a0000903.html ]
"Since there is no absolute truth, since everything is relative, the purpose of an education is not to learn truth or master facts - rather it is merely to learn a skill so that one can go out and acquire wealth, power, and fame. Truth has become irrelevant.
"Now, of course, this sort of relativistic attitude toward truth is antithetical to the Christian worldview. For as Christians we believe that all truth is God's truth, that God has revealed to us the truth, both in His Word and in Him who said, 'I am the Truth.' God stands, at it were, at the pinnacle of a pyramid of diverse perspectives on the world and in the unity of His intellect grasps the world as it actually is. There is thus a unity and objectivity to truth, which is known by God. The Christian, therefore, can never look on the truth with apathy or disdain. Rather he cherishes and treasures the truth as a reflection of God Himself.
"Nor does the Christian's commitment to truth make him intolerant, as Bloom's students thought. On the contrary, the very concept of tolerance entails that one disagrees with that which one tolerates. Otherwise, you wouldn't tolerate it; you would believe in it! Thus the objectivity of truth, far from being incompatible with tolerance, is actually presupposed by tolerance. The Christian is committed to both truth and tolerance, for we believe in him who said not only, 'I am the Truth,' but also, 'Love your enemies.' The proper basis of tolerance is not relativism, but love."
- J. Richard Pearcey, "Defining Diversity Down"
[ http://www.boundless.org/2000/departments/pages/a0000174.html ]
"How ironic that the people who most loudly proclaim the rights of various race and ethnic groups today actually repudiate the vision that makes those rights possible. Martin Luther King, Jr., understood that the ideal of a color-blind society could only be based on the conviction that there is a law above the law - a transcendent moral law that acts as the basis for human law. It is the content of our character that matters, not the color of our skin - or our gender or class."
- Gregory Koukl, "The Intolerance of Tolerance"
[ http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/social_issues/intolera.htm ]
"Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all, but rather intellectual cowardice. Those who hide behind the myth of neutrality are often afraid of intelligent engagement. Unwilling to be challenged by alternate points of view, they don't engage contrary opinions or even consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult-"you intolerant bigot"-than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. "Tolerance" has become intolerance.
"The classical rule of tolerance is this: Tolerate persons in all circumstances, by according them respect and courtesy even when their ideas are false or silly. Tolerate (i.e., allow) behavior that is moral and consistent with the common good. Finally, tolerate (i.e., embrace and believe) ideas that are sound. This is still a good guideline."
- Gregory Koukl, "Tolerance Requires Judgment"
[ http://www.str.org/free/reflections/apologetics/relativism/toleran1.htm ]
"This essential element of tolerance--disagreement--has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays, if you think someone is wrong, you're called intolerant.
"This presents us with a very curious problem. Judging someone wrong makes one intolerant, yet one must first think another is wrong in order to be tolerant. It's a "Catch-22." According to this approach, true tolerance is impossible."
- Gregory Koukl, "Tolerance, or Lack of Courage?"
[ http://www.str.org/free/reflections/apologetics/relativism/toleranc.htm ]
"Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all, but rather intellectual cowardice."
- Gregory Koukl, "True Nature of Tolerance"
[ http://www.str.org/free/letters/L0204.htm ]
"Using the modern definition of tolerance, you will see that no one is tolerant, or ever can be. It's what my friend Frank Beckwith calls the "passive aggressive tolerance trick." ... "If you reject another's ideas, you're automatically accused of disrespecting the person (as the coed did of me). On this new view of tolerance, no idea or behavior can be opposed, even if done graciously, without inviting the charge of incivility." ...
"This essential element of classical tolerance - elitism regarding ideas - has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays if you think someone is wrong, you're called intolerant no matter how you treat them.
"Whenever you're charged with intolerance, always ask for a definition (the "Sticks and Stones" tactic), then point out the contradiction built in to this new view.
"Most of what passes for tolerance today is intellectual cowardice, a fear of intelligent engagement. Those who brandish the word "intolerant" are unwilling to be challenged by other views, to grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult - "you intolerant bigot" - than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. In the modern era, "tolerance" has become intolerance."
- Gregory Koukl, "The Gospel a hate crime? Welcome to the 21st
[ http://www.str.org/free/solid_ground/SG0003.htm ]
"Tolerance is a word that applies to how we treat people we disagree with, not how we treat ideas we think false. Tolerance requires that every person be treated courteously, no matter what his view, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth. The perspective that one person's ideas - even religious ones - are no better or truer than another's is irrational and absurd. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly does not violate any meaningful standard of tolerance." ...
"There is a second point of misunderstanding, and Christians are at fault here. We have consistently fumbled when confronted with the question, "Do you mean to tell me that a really good Jew, Hindu, or Muslim is going to Hell just because he doesn't believe in Jesus?" We say yes, but the real answer is no.
"The biblical answer is simple: The good Jew goes straight to Heaven, along with every other good person. Why shouldn't he? Good people aren't lost, so they don't need a savior. Jesus Himself said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
"Good people are safe, but sinners are in deep trouble."
- Adler, Mortimer J. "Truth in Religion: The Plurality of
Religions and the Unity of Truth."
Collier Books, 1990. ISBN 0020641400
- Francis J. Beckwith, and Michael E. Bauman. Are You
Prometheus, 1993. ISBN 0-87975-769-8
- Francis J. Beckwith, Gregory Koukl. Relativism: Feet Firmly
Planted in Mid-Air
Baker Books, 1998. ISBN 0801058066
- J. Budziszewski, True Tolerance: Liberalism and the Necessity
Transaction Publishers, 1999. ISBN 0-7658-0666-5
- Gaede, S. D. When Tolerance Is No Virtue: Political
Correctness, Multiculturalism & the Future of Truth &
Intervarsity Press, 1994. ISBN 0830816992
- Michael Green, "But Don't All Religions Lead to
Baker Books, 2002. ISBN 0801064392
- Josh McDowell, Bob Hostetler. The New Tolerance
Tyndale House Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0842370889
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's "Code of Ethics for Christian Witness"
As Christians called by the Living God, we seek first of all to honor Him and His ethical standards in all of our private and public lives, including our efforts to persuade others to believe the good news about Jesus Christ.
As Christian evangelists, we seek to follow the mandate, motives, message, and model of our God who is always pursuing and reclaiming those who are lost in sin and rebellion against Him.
We believe all people are created in God's image and therefore endowed with the capacity to be in relationship with their Creator and Redeemer. We disavow any effort to influence people that de-personalize or deprive them of their inherent value as persons.
Respecting the value of persons, we believe all people worthy of hearing the gospel of this loving Lord Jesus Christ. We equally affirm the inalienable right of every person to survey other opinions and convert to or choose a different belief system.
We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the role and goal of the Christian evangelist. However, we do not believe that this justifies any means to fulfill that end. Hence, we disavow the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals which bypass a person's critical faculties, play on psychological weaknesses, undermine relationship with family or religious institutions, or mask the true nature of Christian conversion.
While respecting the individual integrity, intellectual honesty, and academic freedom of all other believers and skeptics, we seek to proclaim Christ openly. We reveal our own identity and purpose, our theological positions and sources of information and will not be intentionally misleading. Respect for human integrity means no false advertising, no personal aggrandizement from successfully persuading others to follow Jesus, and no overly emotional appeals which minimize reason and evidence.
As Christian evangelists, we seek to embrace people of other religious persuasions in true dialogue. That is, we acknowledge our common humanity as equally sinful, equally needy, and equally dependent on the grace of God we proclaim. We seek to listen sensitively in order to understand, and thus divest our witness of any stereotypes or fixed formulae which are barriers to true dialogue.
As Christian evangelists, we accept the obligation to admonish one who represents the Christian faith in any manner incompatible with these ethical guidelines.
- The Christian Response to Argument by Insult
Drive-by shooting style of character assassination have become commonplace and even accepted in our discourse. Arguments drift from being about bringing out rational points to being laundry lists of bad or evil qualities. While name-calling should rightly be considered childish and immature, it has become accepted when the names used are more sophisticated. There is a litany of words and phrases that, like bullets from a machine gun, are shot in rapid fire reflexively to attack the character and motivations of others: sexist, racist, homophobic, ignorant, intolerant, crypto-fascist, misogynistic, bigoted, and even the f-word itself, fundamentalist.
Regarding this style of argumentation, Greg Koukl notes:
"Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all, but rather intellectual cowardice. Those who hide behind the myth of neutrality are often afraid of intelligent engagement. Unwilling to be challenged by alternate points of view, they don't engage contrary opinions or even consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult-'you intolerant bigot'-than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. 'Tolerance' has become intolerance."
But behind these laundry lists of insults and insinuations, there is a real, live person, who has been deceived by the lies and is overwhelmed by pain and anger. As humans, our natural response to vitriolic name calling is shock and anger. Attacks upon our character do wound us within our souls, and we are compelled by God-given emotions to respond. But as Christians we are also called to a higher standard, that when accusers make accusations against us, that we handle the attack with grace, and respond with love and kindness. (See Matthew 5)
When the insults come like thousands of fiery darts, we are called to respond graciously. This is not easy, of course, and may not even be possible by our human strength alone. But by the power of the Spirit, and by bringing the matter to Christ in prayer, we can endure the attack. We must remember that the one who is launching the attack is not just evil and mean spirited. This person is a living, breathing human being, not an inhumane brute, whom Jesus Christ came and gave His life for. Their anger is an expression of their lostness, and knowing this, what right do we have to be angry with them without feeling pity for them and desiring to show them mercy and grace? Instead of pointing our fingers back at them, can we look at them with love and compassion, empathize with their deepest pains and hurts, and speak out of an overwhelming heart-felt compassion that heals the hurt and pain, rather than with a terse word that rubs salt in festering painful wounds?
Even though the insults are twisted distortions of the truth, we need to take these words spoken from pain and anger seriously. These tortured expressions give us a window into the soul of a person who is deeply hurting, dying while they are alive. Should we not have compassion for them? Should we not see them the way Christ saw them, such that he wept and cried and spent hours in prayer agonizing over them?
Behind the insults and name-calling is a scream of pain, and at some level, a cry for help. We need to come to see these not as attacks on ourselves, but as desperate pleas from a pained heart. Like a wounded animal that bites at compassionate humans coming to help and heal, we need to have compassion on these hurting people who attack with name-calling and insults, and strive to show them mercy, compassion, empathy, and healing.
By no means is this easy. Insults and name-calling, as childish as it may be, still wound the soul. They create their own hurts within us, but this should move Christians to compassion. When we feel hurt, we know all too well the hurt and pain, and we are in a position to empathize with the pain they are feeling. By bringing the hurt to the Lord Jesus, and spending time in prayer groaning over the pain that the accusers are feeling in their souls, Jesus Christ will by the Spirit give us the compassion, strength, and the yearning to help heal the hurting soul.
These things can be impossible for one person alone. Supernatural strength is needed. But it is also vital to have healthy relationships within a healthy body of Christ. By confiding your feelings and fears with other believers who understand the struggles you are going through, you open up the opportunity for them to minister to your life, and for them to pray for you as well. There are few things as powerful as the body coming together to pray for one of its wounded members.
The virtue of tolerance can come only when tolerance is rightly understood. We are human beings, and we often disagree on many things. True tolerance recognizes the rights of other humans to both have and express their opinion. If we can learn to respect the rights of all human beings to have and express their understanding of reality, whether we agree with them or not, then we will be one step closer to living in a truly tolerant world.