Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    The Psychology of Tolerance

    Thinking about how many people take "pride" in being "tolerant" today, I wonder...

    If by "being" tolerant of others (regardless of whether others' beliefs are true or not), some mistakenly (or without thoughtfulness) think taking such a position and/or participating in such a practice keeps one safe from God's judgement (as if it doesn't exist or will not be fully and/or finally extended to them).

    (It's not unusual for individuals to create their "own little world" and begin to think or act as if their world is all there is... but then be suddenly and without warning awakened to the truth)

    24 comments:

    skeptimal said...

    “(I wonder) if by "being" tolerant of others some mistakenly think taking such a position and/or participating in such a practice keeps one safe from God's judgment.”

    Your post begs a question: do you consider it *possible* that there are reasonable people of good conscience who are free thinkers: they sincerely do not believe in gods? Do you think it’s *possible* that such people might support tolerance of Evangelical Christians because they believe a civil society requires that we live peaceably beside even those with whom we disagree?

    Puritan Lad said...

    "Free thinkers". What is that skeptimal? As for me, my thinking is free from the prison of naturalism. On the contrary, atheist thinking is not "free". As Richard Lewinton stated, "we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door".

    With regard to living peacefully beside those whom we disagree, no one here would suggest otherwise. If that is your definition of tolerance, you'll find no objection here. Unfortunately, the new definition of tolerance is quite different, and is invented for the sake of non-believers to sit upon a moral high horse.

    swordbearer said...

    Ditto

    skeptimal said...

    I realize I've not answered some of your questions, Puritan Lad, and I will, but seriously, your posts don't illuminate anything.

    Do you guys believe that reasonable people of good conscience can be atheists, agnostics, or skeptics? Do you *really* think that everyone who rejects your particular brand of Christianity is a seething mass of lying, bitter, hypocrisy?

    Puritan Lad said...

    "Do you guys believe that reasonable people of good conscience can be atheists, agnostics, or skeptics?"

    Yes, Where have I suggested otherwise?

    "Do you guys believe that reasonable people of good conscience can be atheists, agnostics, or skeptics? Do you *really* think that everyone who rejects your particular brand of Christianity is a seething mass of lying, bitter, hypocrisy?"

    You're kidding, right? If you can point me to where I have suggested such, I'll either apologize or clarify.

    My point is that those who claim to be "tolerant" or "neutral" really aren't. It is a sham. Perhaps not intentionally, but it is still a sham. One point of view is not more "tolerant" than the other. We just tolerate different things.

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    "It's not unusual for individuals to create their "own little world" and begin to think or act as if their world is all there is"

    You do realize that is exactly how non-Christians view Christians right?

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal: Do you *really* think that everyone who rejects your particular brand of Christianity is a seething mass of lying, bitter, hypocrisy?

    Response: The subject of the original post is not the "goodness" or "morality" of the individual (or lack thereof), but the "logic" and "gullibility" of their judgment.

    swordbearer said...

    mike: You do realize that is exactly how non-Christians view Christians right?

    Response: Absolutely. But not only are our foundations better, but the suggestion of tolerance that not only allows others to hold their positions, but suggests others must hold them equally valid (even if contradictory)... is preposterous!

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    "mike: You do realize that is exactly how non-Christians view Christians right?

    swordbearer: Absolutely. But not only are our foundations better, but the suggestion of tolerance that not only allows others to hold their positions, but suggests others must hold them equally valid (even if contradictory)... is preposterous!"


    I don't know of anyone who views tolerance in that way. Perhaps there are some who redefine it the way you describe, but none that I know of.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tolerance

    "2 a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b: the act of allowing something" from
    merriam-webster.com

    In my opinion, tolerance is about respecting people's right to hold and express positions, it is not about all positions being right.

    swordbearer: "...not only are our foundations better..."

    In your opinion. Everyone else thinks their foundations are better too.

    swordbearer said...

    mike stated: "I don't know of anyone who views tolerance in that way. Perhaps there are some who redefine it the way you describe, but none that I know of...
    In my opinion, tolerance is about respecting people's right to hold and express positions, it is not about all positions being right."

    Response: mike, just take a look around and you'll see this other view being endorsed by many different people in various venues from Oprah to bloggers. Christians have always held the right for each person to hold and express their own positions, but in recent years the usage of the word "tolerance" has begun to take on a whole new meaning (for some). See
    1. http://christianskepticism.blogspot.com/2008/08/modern-tolerance-defining-self.html?showComment=1219780620000
    2. http://www.frontlinemin.org/rightfromwrong.asp for some reads on this subject.

    Now you can see why Christians speak out against what some claim as showing "tolerance".

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    Yes, that first post was inspired by my comment. The second is a nice summary of evangelical or conservative Christian arguments against tolerance.

    Let me see if I can further summarize.

    1. Some Christians claim a monopoly on absolute truth based on the Bible, and thus are speaking the truth in love when they make the statements and seek to pass legislation that others see as intolerant.
    2. Some people of other faiths and non-believers claim that no one group has a monopoly on absolute truth. They point out that the Christians are being intolerant by trying to hold everyone to the standards of their brand of Christianity.
    3. The Christians mentioned above then point out that, no, really, they do have a monopoly on absolute truth, and are, in fact, only speaking the truth in love.

    Is that a fair summary?

    skeptimal said...

    Swordbearer said: "The subject of the original post is not the "goodness" or "morality" of the individual (or lack thereof), but the "logic" and "gullibility" of their judgment."

    Thank you for the clarification. Still, I think you're ascribing inaccurate motives to tolerant people. I sincerely doubt that most tolerant people are tolerant because they're worried about god's judgment. To suggest they are is to suggest that they are actually (consciously or subconsciously) Christians who only claim to be something else.

    That's why I asked whether you guys believe there are sincere non-Christians out there.

    skeptimal said...

    Puritan Lad: "My point is that those who claim to be "tolerant" or "neutral" really aren't. It is a sham. Perhaps not intentionally, but it is still a sham."

    If you re-read your statement here, you might see where I got the idea you were accusing tolerant people of hypocrisy. The fact that you include gullibility as an alternative option isn't really a compliment.

    I agree with Mike, that you have a warped perspective on what tolerance is, and I think you're getting that from Christian leaders who see "tolerance" as "sharing power that rightfully belongs to Evangelicals." This Evangelical powerlust was clearly demonstrated when your people took near-absolute control of U.S. Government from 2002-2006. Anyone who dissented during that time was called "un-American" or "in league with the terrorists," even when the dispute had nothing to do with Bush's war.

    The only good thing to come out of that experience was the awakening of some Evangelicals to the fact that they might not always have such control, and that someday Evangelicals might be treated the same way they treated the rest of us from 2002-2006.

    I think the Evangelical Manifesto is an excellent document that came in part from that awakening. I'm glad to see that at least some of your brethren recognize that a civil society requires cooperation among disagreeing segments of society.

    Puritan Lad said...

    "This Evangelical powerlust was clearly demonstrated when your people took near-absolute control of U.S. Government from 2002-2006. Anyone who dissented during that time was called "un-American" or "in league with the terrorists," even when the dispute had nothing to do with Bush's war.".

    Hmm Skeptimal, that sounds like you are being intolerant?

    See what I mean? Everybody is "intolerant" of something. You and Mike are intolerant of perceived "intolerance", which of course, you would define.

    A political note, no one accused anyone of being unpatriotic for questioning the war, as I had questions myself. But when U.S. Congressmen smear our troops falsely while they are in harm's way, that is unpatriotic.

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    "You and Mike are intolerant of perceived "intolerance", which of course, you would define."

    Personally, I may not approve of said perceived "intolerance", but I do not wish to enact legislation to curtail it. I do not say one who has such beliefs is an evil person.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal said: Thank you for the clarification. Still, I think you're ascribing inaccurate motives to tolerant people.

    Response: Note - I used the wording "...I wonder...". I do not doubt at all you're right in many cases, especially among those who have arrived at their positions through study and thought. However, there are probably some others (who knows how many?) who have not given it personal study & thought (and simply embraced the views of others) and therefore may possess some insecurity and either subconsciously or consciously (with or without thought, perhaps more of the latter) hold forth claims of "tolerance" so as to serve as a buffer from scrutiny either temporally or under the (false) thought that perhaps they may never be called to account. (Note - false, as taken from the Christian position)

    skeptimal said: "That's why I asked whether you guys believe there are sincere non-Christians out there."

    Response:
    1. Absolutely. There are those who hold their positions as both you and mike point out ... and simply come down with different beliefs that Christianity. (They, like Christians, are willing to accept consequences of their position).
    2. There's also what can be described as being "sincerely wrong". This is a person who is "sincere" but at the same time is "wrong". This can include either: (1) the one who is sincere but hides behind the cloak of modern tolerance, (2) the one who is sincere but holds a position different from Christianity, or (as mike will point out)... (3) a sincere "Christian" if Christianity is not truth. (But of course, it is :) )

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal,

    There's a difference in regard to tolerance when one is speaking on the level of individuals or whether one is referring to legislation and actions within a democracy. Do you recognize that? For example, while I acknowledge the right of any individual to hold whatever belief they want to when it comes to abortion, marijuana use, etc. (be they for or against it); however that doesn't stop an evangelical in a democratic system from from expressing and taking proactive steps to see that what should be done on the level of society is achieved.

    (You're right in the fact that a time may come when Christians (& evangelicals) are not the majority; but our hope is ultimately not in democracy, but in Christ's kingdom, as we recognize a democracy only represents the (majority, ...) will of the people.

    No doubt some spokespersons (either Christian or otherwise) may be seem to some as lustful of power or not caring for the views of others ... and some may go beyond this to actually overstepping their rightful bounds; yet at the same time, some (especially those in the minority) may feel slighted our put out when their views do not win out even when the spokespersons are rightfully lobbying for their position at the societal level.

    swordbearer said...

    mike stated: Personally, I may not approve of said perceived "intolerance", but I do not wish to enact legislation to curtail it. I do not say one who has such beliefs is an evil person.

    Response: Does it not depend on whether the beliefs violate a law/standard (, or not)?

    But then again, you first have to have some standard, which unbelievers have a hard time defining... so in some cases, it's easier for them rather than drawing inferences or conclusions based on a standard ... to just make claims of intolerance.

    skeptimal said...

    "Hmm Skeptimal, that sounds like you are being intolerant? See what I mean? Everybody is "intolerant" of something."

    I'm sorry if I've communicated myself so poorly that I left you with the impression that intimidation and deception don't make me angry. Especially when they come from the U.S. government, which is supposed to be better than that. Because those statements were coming from Evangelicals who controlled our own government, with the intention of silencing dissent.

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    "or (as mike will point out)... (3) a sincere "Christian" if Christianity is not truth. (But of course, it is :) "

    Ok, I like you. :-)

    skeptimal said...

    Sword said: "

    Skeptimal said: "That's why I asked whether you guys believe there are sincere non-Christians out there. Response: 1. Absolutely..."

    I appreciate your whole response, though I won't quote it here to keep this post reasonably short. I think you're sincerely wrong too. :^)

    Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

    "mike stated: Personally, I may not approve of said perceived "intolerance", but I do not wish to enact legislation to curtail it. I do not say one who has such beliefs is an evil person.

    Response: Does it not depend on whether the beliefs violate a law/standard (, or not)?"


    It does not. In society only the actions matter. We do not have thought police yet. ;-)

    Now I know that to the Christian God thoughts matter as well. Jesus, of course, spoke of sinning in one's thoughts being just as bad as the actions, but we aren't talking about that right now.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal said: "I think you're sincerely wrong too. :^)"

    Response: In accordance with the "real" (old) definition of tolerance, have no problem with that(i.e., I respect your right to hold that opinion, though I don't agree with it)... and as others can see, we can STILL discuss and debate the issues with respect and civility. and enjoy the relationship and discussions.

    swordbearer said...

    mike,

    There's also a place for advocates to refer to eternal truths on a personal level even when making their case for societal issues, especially if one is seeking to pursuade to get others to sit up and take notice or to take action.

    There's also a place (if one believes in eternal truth) for speaking to eternal issues or religious application even at the societal level, regardless of whether society recognizes or makes determinations based on those issues... if one sees the need or usefulness in evangelizing the lost, affirming one's own view of righteousness, or even when called for pointing out (or if necessary and/or beneficial) rebuking the arrogant and/or wayward.