Few words provoke so much tension, debate and all-round discomfort as this one. Tolerance. Perhaps it is the ugly sibling, intolerance, which causes more pain, which brings conflict to countries, cities, families and friendships. Many an uncomfortable situation may have been averted if someone had simply been a little more... tolerant.
I distinctly remember being taught the definition of this word. How about you take a look at what the Oxford Dictionary has to say:
1 [mass noun] the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
It is surprising that this orthodox definition is not at all how we currently define tolerance. A cultural shift of mammoth proportions has taken place. A shift so profound, it is rivalled only by the cunning ways it has subdued us.
Under the 'old' tolerance you might say, "I disagree with you, but I insist on your right to articulate your opinion, despite how utterly absurd and ridiculous I find it." This is the true, beautiful meaning of tolerance – disagreeing strongly with someone but still putting up with them; giving them the space to hold that particular position and defending their right to voice their opinion. This has been thrown out in favour of something that can no longer truly be defined as tolerance.
The worldview of the 'new' tolerance states that all beliefs are equal, and then accepts them all as valid ways of seeing the world and how it works. This stance apparently frees us from being buffeted with assertions of right or wrong and banishes the possibility of one true way amongst a myriad of false options.
Unperceptively we have become disciples of this new tolerance, accepting and affirming each claim to truth despite obvious and contradictory differences. The only view not allowed is the view that only one claim has got it right. D.A. Carson sums it up in his book The Intolerance of Tolerance: "No absolutism is permitted, except for the absolute prohibition of absolutism." Tim Challies laments how we have fallen under its spell. "We've gone from accepting the existence of other views to believing that we need to accept all differing views." So we remain within the confines it has set around us, not questioning the faulty logic for fear of being labelled intolerant rabble.
The battle for tolerance has implications bigger than a nine-letter word or hurt feelings. Insisting that different beliefs should have the right to exist and advocate their views is one thing. Stating that they are all on the same playing field in terms of value, validity and truth is another thing entirely. When any system of belief begins to make claims about the nature of reality and how we can know at all, we have crossed over from the realm of personal preference to that of ontology (what is real) and epistemology (how we know what is real).
Does it work?
Followers of the new tolerance make absolute truth claims whether they like it or not. By stating that all stances are equally valid, all opinions are equal in value, and all worldviews are equal in worth, we are making a rather large claim about what we believe about reality and how we know this... sounds lovely and accepting doesn't it? But new tolerance is not all it is cracked up to be. Not only has this movement redefined a word that had a better meaning beforehand, it has also built a universal empire on the foundations of inconsistent and incoherent logic.
There can be no tolerance for anyone who does not agree with new tolerance. People like Christians for example, are labelled as intolerant purely for having a view of reality that doesn't line up with the masses. Hence this new tolerance is quite inherently intolerant. It doesn't (and can't) even follow its own laws. It contradicts one of the rules of logic – The law of (non) contradiction. Inconsistency – check.
Not only does it simply not make sense, but Carson argues that when confronted with its obvious flaws all the new tolerance can do is continue fighting – revealing its most frightening flaw: "At the very point where it comes up with that which disagrees with it the most, it has to dismiss all opponents as intolerant and bigoted, and therefore becomes, in fact, totalitarian." The new tolerance just can't be challenged. And when it is, it shows its true colours.
Where to now?
When I was first confronted with truth claims of Christianity I had three choices. I could dismiss it as rubbish, without giving it a second thought or even a decent chance. I could tolerantly accept it as one of many ways to get to God, whoever He/She was. Or I could actually look into it, give it a shot and listen to what it had to say. What I discovered was not what I was expecting.
A logically, historically, philosophically, archaeologically and scientifically sound case was put in front of me. Jesus of Nazareth, the man who divided time and culture, who changed the shape of the world forever, rose from the dead. Countless other explanations have been put forward throughout the two millennia following the event but the fact remains that for 2000 years, the argument for the resurrection of Jesus Christ has survived. It has endured through centuries of abuse and mockery, emerging stronger after every skirmish and demonstrating the intellectual and rational nature of the Christian claims to truth.
Consider the central issue – a man came back from the dead. The Bible even makes this clear when the apostle Paul states this in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
"...If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we (Christians) are of all people most to be pitied." (Parentheses added)
The entire Christian faith is built upon this fact. If Christ was not raised, then there is no point in any of it.
How does this relate to me?
"So what?" you might say. "A dude being resurrected 2000 years ago has no bearing on my life today." And you would be right, if he was merely a man. But Jesus claimed to be God. Not the type of claim that a crazy dude on the street would scream at the top of his lungs, or you would feel emanating from a completely narcissistic guy. No, it was the type of claim supported by a sinless life and ministry of love, healing, forgiveness, fulfilled prophecy and sacrifice. A ministry culminating in betrayal, injustice, torture and death.
But here is the marvellous conclusion to the story. Jesus, the God-man, came to us as what the writer of Hebrews describes as, "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature", not to merely correct our morally bankrupt living, but to show us that we had a deeper problem. We have all committed grievous wrongs against a perfect God and we stand justly condemned in His court of law.
But God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, bearing the punishment for every wrong of all people who would give up trying to be a good person, and fall at his feet. There is no amount of good we can do to make up for the wrong we have done in this life. We need the goodness of one who is spotless. God shows Himself to be truly tolerant as He patiently waits for people to come to Him and find true, everlasting rest.
As humans, we are meant to know truth, giving deep purpose to our lives. The new tolerance belittles and devalues truth and collapses in on itself while doing so. There has to be more. As the Gospel of John records Jesus saying:
"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
This article is an adaptation of another. The original article can be found here.
Cody Knox lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He works in ICT for the New Zealand government and in his free time he loves to read, write, and run.
Cody Knox previous articles may be viewed