The Church’s Tolerance in an Intolerant World 3


Tolerance 1. The church’s relationship to the world

2. The Characteristics of Tolerance

3. The Changes in Tolerance

3.1 Tolerance used to assume the categories of right/wrong and truth/error, and tolerant people would put up with those who differed from them. Now tolerance is used as a club that beats down those categories. Now we are told that there is no absolute, objective truth. Everything is a matter of relative opinion and cultural perspective. There is no right and wrong – no transcendent morality – just personal preference.

This results in the ultimate sin being telling a Muslim they are in error worshiping Allah or telling a homosexual, no matter how kindly, that his sexual lifestyle is wrong. “Well, that’s your opinion,” we are chastised, “and your opinion offends me so keep it to yourself.”

Tolerance now means accepting every contradictory idea as equally valid. It jettisons the most basic categories of rational thinking and logical discussion. It imbibes the postmodern concepts of relativity and uncertainty. We can’t state absolute truth or ethics because we cannot be certain about such things.

Of course, the assertion that there is no absolute, objective truth is assumed to be an absolutely objective truth. And we must ask if the statement, “There is no right and wrong,” right or wrong? Well, there is no certainty, and of that we are certain! The categories are inescapable.

The issue is really one of authority. Who says what is true or false, right or wrong? It’s like the bumper sticker that read, “Question authority,” and one guy responded with, “Who says?” We say that the Bible tells me so. God says, that’s who. But since that introduces religion into the conversation, we are given a red card and sent off the field.

Tolerance has become intolerant.

3.2 Tolerance used to mean that we put up with and get along with others who differ to serve the common good. Today tolerance is employed individualistically.

The common good is not so much a concern because we have no common standard by which to determine what is good. We are left with individual rights that everyone else must tolerate (in terms of accepting as equally valid). So in the state of California recently, a policy was implemented in the government schools allowing those students who consider themselves to be transgender to choose which toilet and locker room they wish to use – the boys’ or the girls’.[1] Transgender people evidently make up about 1 or 2 percent of the population. So out of ‘sensitivity’ to a small minority of people, the vast majority have to be exposed.

If my daughter went to such a school, I would wonder about her personal rights to not be exposed to an anatomical male changing in front of her. But these days protesting such a thing would likely get me accused of being a ‘hater’ and my daughter suspended.

Tolerant now means never offending anyone or saying anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. We must never make anyone feel uncomfortable about their choices or put anyone in a position where they would have to defend their position. Of course, as with the transgender policy in California schools, the direction of the sensitivity is highly selective.

Tolerance has become intolerant.

3.3 Tolerance used to consider coercion a bad thing in terms of persuading people who differ. Now, not only has the media’s biased reporting and the pressure of special interest groups, but also government legislation has been brought to bear.

Allison van der Walt at Brackenhurst Baptist Church in South Africa launched a ministry called Abort97.[2] They confront the abortion issue out in public including university campuses. One of the most common objections they receive is being told not to force their opinion and belief on others. Yet that is just what the objector is doing under the guise of tolerance. In fact, they were recently kicked off of public property while merely exercising free speech.

Islam is ever growing in the UK. One of their laws forbids the eating of pork. D A Carson reports that in some schools the story of the three little pigs has been banned so as to not offend Muslim children. Even Winnie the Pooh had to go due to his association with Piglet. However, many pigs are raised in the UK, especially in the West Midlands where a Muslim city councillor was asked, why the ban on pigs? His answer, “It’s a tolerance of people’s beliefs.”[3] What about people who like pigs?

This is a very selective tolerance decided by and enforced by those with the power of coercion. Tolerance used to use power and authority to protect the rights of people to differ. Now tolerance has become intolerant.

3.4      Tolerance used to value the free exchange of ideas (free speech). Now in the name of tolerance much free speech has been relabelled as hate crime.

My son, Joseph, is a student at WITS University in Johannesburg. His Critical Thinking lecturer made it clear the first day that all beliefs and ideas are tolerated in her class. BUT any sexist, racist or homophobic remarks will get you kicked out. Of course, she is the sole, sovereign judge of what constitutes sexist, racist or homophobic remarks – nudged on by any oversensitive soul whose feelings get hurt (or who wants to stir the pot). There are some things that tolerance will not tolerate – even in a critical thinking class!

Critically evaluate homosexuality by saying that same-sex ‘marriage’ is wrong and you get labelled homophobic. Such a label indicates a fear (phobia) of homosexuals. Fear has nothing to do with it. I know one or two and I greet them with a hug. I’m not afraid of them. But since the categories of right and wrong are dismissed with prejudice, moral judgments have to be psychologised into something bad – about me. Why can’t I accuse this professor at WITS of a hate crime against me by calling me homophobic? That’s just her opinion anyway, right? But she has the power of coercion and will use it to make sure nobody goes wrong on these issues.

There is this myth of neutrality that gets assumed to be true. By accepting everything, nothing can be called wrong – except calling something wrong. But this new tolerance calls a lot of things wrong. Is that right? There is no neutrality and there is no real tolerance. Tolerance has become intolerant.

How has this happened? Can we trace any developments in the history of thought that have led to this situation? We’ll do that in the next installment.

[2] Their work can be seen at

[3] D A Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 24-25.