I’m reading a book by D.A. Carson entitled “The Intolerance of Tolerance.” The essential point Dr. Carson is making in this book is that the meaning of tolerance has shifted in our culture. The old idea of tolerance meant accepting the existence of different views; however, the new idea of tolerance means accepting different views. To accept that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist is one thing; to accept the position itself means that one is no longer opposing it. The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be… at least as true as your own.
Someone with strong feelings on the matter of tolerance (and without making the above distinction) said that our country was founded on the concept and idea of tolerance. Since I knew the person was advancing an agenda of new tolerance, I replied “yes and no.” Yes, in the sense of old tolerance. No, in the sense that we have not tolerated slavery, we have not tolerated fascism, we have not tolerated the oppressive USSR. We have not tolerated spousal abuse, or the sexual exploitation of minors, or even the murderous killing sprees of madmen.
This is not a simple matter or an easy discussion. Abuses occur on all sides. What I do want to make sure that we don’t lose is that truth matters, and falsehoods still remain, even in matters of spirituality. Jesus made exclusive claims that He is the way, the truth, and the life. We believe this and seek to persuade all we can to embrace this truth. We can do this in a gracious matter that accepts the existence of other views (as in the way of the old tolerance). However, there is a time and a place to oppose other views with reverence and respect.