Redefining Tolerance

different future



Last week, I started to develop the idea that our cultures viewpoint about tolerance has radically changed. This week, I would like to look further into this topic.

D.A. Carson is probably one of most well versed theologians on this subject matter. Much of information found here is an excerpt from his video series on the subject titled the Intolerance of Tolerance. So what does this redefining view of tolerance look like? It may be helpful to look at the definition of the word tolerance in order to better understand the seismic shift that has taken place.

Webster dictionary says this “1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina. 2a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.”

It is part 2a that I would like to focus on. That is the idea that in order to be tolerant, you have to disagree with someone first. The very definition of the word tolerance presupposes that there is always some form of conflicting viewpoints in order for a person to be tolerant.

The great sea change in our society is that there is now so much pressure to not disagree with anyone about anything. The “new” tolerance attempts to morph the definition of the word into the idea that if you just disagree with someone, you are automatically an intolerant person. So the emphasis, has shifted from enduring the hardship of disagreement in an acceptable way, to eliminating disagreement all together.

So, what is the potential harm in all of this? First, it renders the actual definition of tolerance incoherent. If you can’t disagree with someone, you can’t be tolerant. Not A, then B would be the philosophical equation here. There is nothing for B to attach itself to, therefore It is illogical! Second, is thought control. The result is being instantly labeled by the “tolerance police” as an intolerant person. The result is a form of group think ideology that attempts to force everyone in a society to think the same. There is no room for dissidence, not even any room for discussion. Discussion breakdown is never a good thing.

So why am I making a big deal about all of this? Well, I am glad that you asked.There is a strong spiritual force within our culture that is attempting to say that all religions are equally valid and that they are all to be assumed as just different paths to spiritual truth and to provide some form of comfort for the individual. End of debate, no discussion, no disagreement. If you hold to any other opinion than this, you are an intolerant bigoted person with no credibility.


But how tolerant is this point of view? It totally is not! The knife cuts both ways. To cut someone else, without assessing the impact of it cutting you as well is just a will to power play. Faith Wood, Times Colonist  reporter states “Another misunderstanding is that any type of criticism or questioning of a belief or opinion constitutes intolerance (or disrespect). Criticism (not the type that simply says something negative for the sake of saying something negative) is a necessary part of a strong society. We must be able to discuss and question, to openly air our opinions without fear of retribution (although we might have to put up with being laughed at). That, ultimately, is what tolerance should mean. Respect will — could, should — follow.”

It is interesting to note that in Middle Eastern Cultures, there is no such view of this type of tolerance. They all know that there is a vast difference in the monotheistic religions, and that they cannot all be right. Their question is, which one?