"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Intolerance of "Tolerance"

How many Christians today have been, figuratively speaking, bludgeoned into silence about various issues--especially those having to do with sexuality--by people appealing to "tolerance"? How many of those same Christians, in discussing, say, marriage, have been condemned with that idiotic neologism of "homophobic"? In his great 1997 essay "The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy," the late priest Richard John Neuhaus put it very acutely: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." With Neuhaus we could say, mutatis mutandis, "Where tolerance is optional, tolerance will sooner or later be proscribed" and, moreover, the effects of such proscription will be--irony of ironies--highly intolerant.

Along comes a new edition of a book from a biblical scholar to examine this: D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Eerdmans, 2013), 196pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
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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