reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.


Tolerance: A Christian Virtue

After reading the above title, I would expect many Christians to cringe, and most liberals to scoff. Evangelicals will proceed to scold me, saying that tolerance is a distinctly relativistic concept. Liberals will then ridicule me, saying that Christianity is the most bigoted of worldviews. Yet I persist. While the liberal may tell you that the modern principle of tolerance is unchaged from that of the classical view, nothing could be further from the truth. The classical principle of tolerance is a distinctly Christian virtue, very different from the twisted definition given to the word today.

According to the classical principle of tolerance, a person holds that his moral view are true and that his opponent's are false. This person has a duty to tolerate a different moral view, not by thinking it to be equally valid or morally correct, but rather by continuing to value and respect his opponent. Strictly speaking, the classical view dicates that one tolerate persons, not their ideas. We do not persecute those with differing views, but we can denounce and combat their beliefs. As philosophy professors J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig point out:

"In [the classic view of tolerance], even though someone disapproves of another's moral beliefs and practices, he or she will not inappropriately interfere with them. However, it is consistent with this view that a person judges his opponent's view to be wrong and dedicates himself to do everything morally appropriate to counteract those views, such as using argument and persuasion."
This duty to counteract opposing viewpoints stems from the Christian belief in ultimate justice. Though we should tolerate people, we have no duty to tolerate their beliefs. Indeed, it would be un-loving, both to them and to others, for us to do so. Rather we are called to lovingly attempt to persuade them in order to save them from the consequences (whether temporal or eternal) of a false belief. Classical tolerance necessitates morally appropriate negation.

The modern notion of tolerance argues that it is bigoted to judge differing viewpoints to be false. The trouble with such an understanding is that if a person does not believe that an opposing viewpoint is morally wrong, what is there to tolerate? Surely, it is not just the fact that one doesn't like the particular view, but that he judges it mistaken. It is only in a world where truth is absolute and morality is objective that tolerance is even necessary. Tolerance is true tolerance only in the classical interpretation, and therefore, tolerance is a distinctly Christian virtue.

Here on The Rebelution we readily tolerate people with viewpoints opposed to our own. However, we also hold that beliefs have consequences. While we will love and respect you despite our religious or ideological differences, part of that of that love and respet requires that we dedicate ourselves to do everything morally appropriate to counteract what we deem to be false.

For further explanation of this blog's 'rules of engagement', please see the Harris Protocol.