Tolerance and Intolerance

Is Christianity intrinsically intolerant? Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson make some interesting comments on this in "Jesus and the Gods of the New Age" :

"New Age and postmodern seekers often speak of Christians being intolerant of other paths due to their exclusive emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only way to God. The forgotten truth, though, is that, philosophically, tolerance doesn't demand acceptance of others' views; rather, its focus is on the right of people to hold them. It is summed up in this aphorism: 'I may disagree with your view, but I'll defend your right to hold it.' That's tolerance! It is intolerant to impose universalism on others." (Clifford and Johnson, 2001, 193)

In short, people often get very muddled when talking about tolerance.

6 thoughts on “Tolerance and Intolerance

  1. hmmm is this a case of great minds think alike??? I posted on this a while ago. We often mistake tolerance for agreement, at best tolerance is an agreement to disagree, at worst a condescending way of simply putting up with someone!


  2. Matt, I am very concerned with the dumbing down of language (very much in agreement with the lament of C.S. Lewis in that respect), and this word, and the political correctness associated with it here in the US, drives me nuts.
    While we’re gearing up for Super Tuesday, on the road to the November Presidential Elections, we keep hearing about the separation of church and state, but too many people don’t understand that properly, either.
    My 9 year old son has put a new twist to this phenomenon when he accuses me of “threatening” him when I’m informing him of the consequences of inappropriate behavior.


  3. Peggy, ah yes, church and state. There was a thread here a few months ago where one atheist commenter was confusing separation of church and state with separation of spirituality and social action, and more, condemning Christians for exercising their right to vote!


  4. I think I’ve posted it on my blog before, but there’s no harm in repeating it, something Fr Thomas Hopko said at a mission conference:
    Tolerance is always in order when it means that we coexist peacefully with people whose ideas and manners differ from our own, even when to do so is to risk the impression that truth is relative and all customs and mores are equally acceptable (as happens in North America).
    Tolerance is never in order when it means that we remain idle before wickedness which harms human beings and destroys God’s creation.
    To be tolerant is to be neither indifferent nor relativistic. Neither is it to sanction injustice or to be permissive of evil. Injustice is intolerable and evil has no rights. But the only weapons which Christians may use against injustice and evil are personal persuasion and political legislation, both of which are to be enacted in an atmosphere of respect. While Christians are permitted under certain conditions to participate in police and military actions to enforce civil laws and to oppose criminality, we may not obey evil laws nor resort to evil actions in defence of the good. This means that Christians are inevitably called to suffer in this age, and perhaps even to die. This is our gospel, our witness and our defence


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