What is tolerance to you? Is tolerance being able to put up with the 25 year old cashier at the convenience store who has found the answers to all of earth’s ailments but can’t figure out how to get a job that doesn’t require them to work the graveyard shift? Is tolerance disagreeing with a person, yet still respecting them as a person? That’s what I thought, at least.
Society has decided that tolerance does not mean what it used to. Tolerance used to mean that if we disagreed with someone, we still respected them as people. We looked at them as having equal value as us, regardless of our differences. However, we did not lose our values in order to equalize our standing with our fellow person. Tolerance was a basic assumption of the inherent value of all people regardless of their beliefs.
The new tolerance has a far different definition. The new tolerance, as Greg Koukl describes it, “turns the classical formula for tolerance on its head.” In our brave new world of tolerance, rather than acknowledging the same basic worth of all people while objectively evaluating and comparing beliefs and views, we are required to grant the same basic worth to views and potentially denigrate the holder of the beliefs. With the new tolerance, “all beliefs are valid.” Beliefs become worthy just off the basis of their existing. By stark contrast, humans are actually vilified and looked down upon for holding any exclusivistic beliefs. Any view that does not equate all views is seen as intolerant and wrong. Christians, by proxy, are considered intolerant by their insistence that there is an absolute truth. For the Christian to fit in with today’s society, then, they must be willing to say things such as “all beliefs are valid,” or “different beliefs work for different people.”
The problem with the new tolerance is this: by its own definition, the new tolerance is intolerant and unjust. Consider this:
- All beliefs are equally valid and therefore true.
- Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
If number 1 is true, then number 2 is true. However, number 2 is implicitly denying number 1. Therefore, we are left with two options. If we rule out number 2 for the sake of number 1, we are being intolerant. If we accept the truth of number 2, then number 1 can’t be true. As you can see, this new tolerance is a simple system of smoke and mirrors. By buying into this diluted brand of tolerance, we are being academically dishonest as well as refusing to be salt and light in this world. Tolerance by the secular definition gives us the ability to avoid vigorously debating the truth of our beliefs as well as allowing us to give ourselves and others the leeway we need to continue living our lives the way we see fit. In short, the new tolerance allows us to be lazy and unaccountable, and hold on to our popularity with our secular friends. We are allowed to live out our Christian lives as secret agents trying not to blow our Christian cover.
How do we stop this? First, we need to realize that we live in a world with absolute truth. Second, we have to be willing to value our relationship with God and the importance of truth above fitting in with the crowd. Finally, we need to be willing to speak truth into the lies that surround us. The truth is this:
- Not all views are equally valid.
- There are some absolute truths.
- Everyone is of equal value and should be respected and loved. Beliefs are to be carefully evaluated; truth is to be clung to for dear life and falsehoods are meant to be discarded.
The new tolerance is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The new tolerance lowers the value of people in the name of conflict avoidance. We as Christians are called to far more than this. We are called to an extremely difficult path to follow. That path is the absolute love and respect of people, so much that we are willing, in love, to explain to them the inherent truth in the Word of God and to do so with gentleness and respect. True tolerance sees other people as the value to be vigorously upheld, their beliefs and views notwithstanding.