We are constantly told that we need to be tolerant.
Gregory Koukl explains how our modern society has defined what it means to be a tolerant person.
“The tolerant person occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. No “forcing” personal views. All views are equally valid” To each his own. Live and let live.
Ironically, Greg points out, “by the modern definition of tolerance no one is tolerant, or ever can be.”
Francis Beckwith calls it the “passive-aggressive tolerance trick”.
Gregory Koukl said that he spoke to a class of seniors at a Christian high school and wanted to alert them to this “tolerance trick”. He also wanted to make them very aware of how much they had already been taken in by it.
He began by writing two sentences on the board.
The first expressed the current understanding of tolerance: “All views have equal merit, and none should be considered better than another.”
All heads nodded in agreement. Nothing controversial here.
Then he wrote the second sentence:
“Jesus is the Messiah, and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him.”
Immediately hands flew up. “You can’t say that,” a coed challenged, clearly annoyed. “That’s disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong?”
The irony in her statement was that she was doing the same thing . She was insinuating that his view was wrong. She was being intolerant of him and the second statement.
What she didn’t see was that the first statement also violated itself.
Greg pointed to the first statement (All views have equal merit, and none should be considered better than another) and asked, “Is this a view?” They all agreed.
Then he pointed to the second statement (Jesus is the Messiah, and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him.)— the “intolerant” one — and asked the same question: “Is this a view?”
They studied the sentence for a moment. Slowly his point began to dawn on them. They had been taken in by the tolerance trick.
Greg explained, “If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than the Jews have is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than the Christians do; but this is hopelessly contradictory.
If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because “tolerance” turns out to be gibberish.”
We have wrongly adopted this modern view of tolerance that says we must: “Be egalitarian regarding ideas.” AND “Be elitist regarding persons.”
In this wrong view of tolerance, to be egalitarian regarding ideas, means that we must agree that all ideas have equal value and worth.
Greg says what happens as a result is that “no idea or behavior can be opposed.”
Think about how ridiculous this logic is. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a “Mother Teresa.” And what if someone’s ideas and views allow them to sexually molest children? Kill innocent people? Behead someone who won’t follow a specific religion?
Should we give equal merit and worth to these ideas? I would hope not. Yet we are told this is what tolerance means.
In this modern approach to tolerance, if we dare reject another person’s ideas, we’re automatically accused of disrespecting the person.
Greg points out the logical inconsistency with this thinking. He says, “To say I’m intolerant of the person because I disagree with his or her ideas is confused.” And, “ironically, it results in elitism regarding persons.”
“If I think my ideas are better than another’s, I can be ill-treated as a person, publicly marginalized, and verbally abused as bigoted, disrespectful, ignorant, indecent, and (can you believe it?) intolerant. Sometimes I can even be sued, punished by law, or forced to attend re-education programs.” Isn’t that exactly what we see happening right now?
Greg stresses, “Most of what passes for tolerance today is little more than intellectual cowardice — a fear of intelligent engagement. Those who brandish the word “intolerant” are unwilling to be challenged by other views or grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It’s easier to hurl an insult — “you intolerant bigot” — than to confront an idea and either refute it or be changed by it. In the modern era, “tolerance” has become intolerance.”
“In this way, tolerance has gone topsy-turvy.”
The modern view of tolerance says we should, “tolerate most beliefs, but don’t tolerate (show respect for) those who take exception with those beliefs.”
We must must reject this modern distortion of tolerance and return to the classic view.
We should practice this value when it comes to tolerance: “Be egalitarian regarding persons.” AND “Be elitist regarding ideas”.
Being egalitarian regarding persons means you treat others as having equal standing in value or worth because each and every person is created in the image of God.
Being elitist regarding ideas means you acknowledge that some ideas are better than others; and they are.
Greg says in the classic view of tolerance, “we don’t treat all ideas as if they have the same merit, lest we run into contradiction. Some ideas are good. Some are bad. Some are true. Some are false. Some are brilliant. Others are just plain foolish.”
You see this in science and mathematics all the time.
Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level; it is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees, nor 211.
Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees; it is never 23 degrees nor 31.
The sum of two plus two is four, never three-and-a-half.
A straight line is the shortest distance between two points on a plane.
A compass always points to the magnetic north.
As William D. Watkins explains, “All truth is exclusive — it excludes what is false as it affirms what is true. After all, if it’s true that the capitol of the United States is Washington, D.C., then it’s false that the U.S. capitol is any other city on earth. That truth excludes innumerable cities.”
Some ideas simply have merit because they are true and right. Understanding this is necessary if true tolerance is to take place.
Greg adds, “we can’t truly tolerate someone unless we disagree with him or her. This is critical. We don’t “tolerate” people who share our views. They’re on our side. There’s nothing with which we need to put up. Tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong, yet we still choose to treat decently and with respect.”
“This essential element of classical tolerance — disagreement (elitism regarding ideas) — has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays if you think someone is wrong, you’re called intolerant no matter how you treat the person.”
We must return to the practice of “civility”. That is at the heart of the classical view of tolerance. It means we respect those with whom we disagree.
We respect those who hold different beliefs from our own by treating such people courteously and allowing their views a place in the public discourse.
We may strongly disagree with their ideas and vigorously contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect to their persons despite our differences.
We must treat every person courteously with the freedom to express his or her ideas without fear of reprisal no matter what the view while understanding that not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth.
Greg gives these final practical solutions if you are charged with intolerance.
Always ask for a definition. When tolerance means neutrality, that all views are equally valid and true, then no one is ever tolerant because no one is ever neutral about his or her own views.
Point out the contradiction built into the new definition. Point out that this kind of tolerance is a myth.
Hank Hanegraaff rightly says, “In a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity, Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.”