THE INTOLERANCE OF THE NEW TOLERANT
In order to function effectively in this world, most of us recognize both the importance and the necessity of a certain level of tolerance with reference to the views of other people and other cultures. While I do not find the word “tolerant” in any English version of the Bible that I consulted, a variation of the word “tolerable” appears in a few texts. However, the Scriptures speak often of such noble qualities as patience, endurance, longsuffering, and bearing with others. God’s word also exhorts His children to be thoughtful, kind, and respectful of others, and it urges us to seek to be understanding of others.
The dictionary defines “tolerance” as “the capacity for or practice of allowing or respecting the nature, beliefs, or behavior of others” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). In our postmodern world, gone insane with political correctness, it has become increasingly in vogue to be tolerant of many divergent views politically, socially, and religiously. In fact, to be thought of as intolerant has come to be seen by many as the greatest of all character defects. In our multi-cultural world, with its broad variety of political systems, societal mores, and religious beliefs, the worst of all sins (according to some) is to not be accepting of all viewpoints. Dr. Jack P. Lewis undoubtedly was right when he observed: “Someone defined tolerance as the lack of any fixed convictions, coupled with the lack of any desire to have any” (Basic Beliefs, 21st Century Publishing, Inc. , p. 9).
But there is a glaring irony in all of this. Among those who have the most to say about the need for tolerance, there is often toward certain viewpoints an astounding lack of tolerance. For example, what level of tolerance exists for those who insist that salvation is through Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12)? How frequently are Christians who take a stand against abortion or same sex marriage or the homosexual lifestyle or women preachers or denominationalism made the objects of intolerance and ridicule on the part of those who hold opposite views on these matters?
Political, social, and religious liberals are fond of portraying themselves as having the ultimate answers to the ills of mankind. They see themselves as smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable, more capable, more discerning, more honest, and more caring than others. They seem to think that if everybody would just fall in line behind them and adopt their agenda, all the problems of the world and the church would be solved! They think that they and they alone know how to construct the social, political, and religious landscape of the world! I repeat: how ironic! The intolerance of the new tolerant!
Clay Stauffer, minister of the Woodmont Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nashville, Tennessee, in a September 12, 2015 column in The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, referred to this phenomenon. He wrote: “In his book ‘The Intolerance of Tolerance,’ Don Carson says, ‘The notion of tolerance is changing . . . and the sad reality is that this new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant. It is blind to its own shortcomings because it erroneously thinks it holds the moral high ground; it cannot be questioned because it has become part of the West’s plausibility structure. Worse, this new tolerance is socially dangerous and is certainly intellectually debilitating.’ ”
Liberals and progressives in the realm of politics, culture, and religion are all for tolerance except for tolerance toward those with whom they disagree! For example, how much tolerance do the advocates of same sex marriage have for Kim Davis, the Clerk of RowanCountyKentucky? How much tolerance do the mainstream media have for Fox News? Talk to a social or political progressive and see how quickly he or she can “put down” a “right wing extremist”! (Strangely, as Mark Joy, Chairman of the History Department of Jamestown University in North Dakota, recently observed in his little paper “Once Delivered,” in the mind of the mainstream media, there doesn’t seem to be any such thing as a “left wing extremist”!) Talk to a religious liberal and see how much tolerance he or she has for those who insist that the New Testament sets forth a pattern for the people of God in all ages and the need for adhering strictly to it!
Tolerance is a commendable quality, but it cannot and must not be taken to the extreme of compromising New Testament doctrine and practice or faithful Christian living. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14).
September 29, 2015