The Intolerance of Tolerance

The past few weeks have been filled with reading several books by a young leader I met recently: Jonathan Dodson. Dodson is a Pastor and author from Austin, TX.

I was so utterly encouraged in my own heart by Gospel Centered Discipleship, that explains that the Gospel not only saves us, but also sustains us. As Christians, we live in the Gospel everyday. We are not pleasing to God based on our performance, but on Christ's. What a breath of fresh air.

Now, I've been absolutely loving Dodson's Unbelievable Gospel: How to Share a Gospel Worth Believing.  

Michelle teases me because I often say how great the books I'm reading are. However, for some reason, I have been extremely picky about evangelism books, and although I have read boatloads of books on the subject, this is the first evangelism book I would heartily recommend. I used to cringe when people asked for my recommendations on the subject, because I didn't feel any books expressed spreading the Gospel the way my heart was longing to see it expressed ... until now.

In one part of Unbelievable Gospel, Dodson points out the difference between new and old tolerance:

"D.A. Carson helpfully clarifies the meaning of tolerance. He points out that there are two types of tolerance: old and new. Old tolerance is the believe that other opinions have a right to exist. This is a very Christian notion. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, and even our enemy. Jesus did not campaign against Greek philosophy and Roman Emperor worship. Jesus' ethic of love should compel disciples to tolerate other beliefs and religions. We ought to grant others the right to believe whatever they desire to believe. In this way, tolerance can be very loving and respectful. 

The new tolerance is defined as the belief that all opinions are equally valid or true. This is quite a leap from the old tolerance. It is one thing to say something has the right to exist; it is quite another to say that two beliefs are equally valid. If we followed the logic of the new tolerance, it would be possible to affirm the following statements:

  • We should grant others the dignity to believe whatever they want to believe.
  • We should force others to believe whatever we believe to be true.

The new tolerance has to allow for these two statements to coexist. This, of course, is impossible to do! The new tolerance is intellectually careless. The new tolerance carelessly dismisses careful logic. For instance, the new tolerance affirms that both Jesus and Allah is God. It also affirms that working to keep the Five Pillars of Islam and trusting in the work of Christ are equally valid ways to get to God. The problem, however, is that both Islam and Christianity fundamentally disagree on who God is and how to reach him. In Islam, we reach up to God, but in Christianity God reaches down to us. These beliefs can't be equally valid and true because they are contradictory. To affirm one is to invalidate the other.

This intellectual carelessness is not only illogical; it is exclusive and intolerant. The new tolerance exclusively claims that its policy of self-contradictory tolerance is the only way to view the world. This, of course, is intolerant. It refuses to practice the old tolerance, respecting differing views (exclusive and inclusive). Quite the opposite, new tolerance disrespects the differences between faiths. It denies the distinctive view and path to God laid out by age-old religions. Instead, the new tolerance makes the exclusive claim that all religions lead to the same God. This is an act of great disrespect, dismissing the centuries of study, formulations, adherence, and faith of various religious devotees. In this, the new tolerance is religious. It makes an exclusive claim (all beliefs are equally true) and intolerantly forces that belief onto everyone

While Jesus granted people the dignity to believe whatever they wanted, he knew that it was faith in Him, alone, that could give them the dignity they needed."