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D. A. Carson: The Intolerance of Tolerance

As the book continues, the teeth of Carson’s argument begin to protrude. What develops is an adept dismantling of the new tolerance’s supposed objectivity and impartiality. Instead, what the author demonstrates is that the supposedly tolerant are just as intolerant as the ones they criticize. By highlighting this hypocrisy, Carson is alluding to a deeper issue: The new tolerance has an agenda and a value system it is trying to impose on society. Not surprisingly this agenda is revealed to be secularism posing as a heroic, neutral voice of reason ready to rescue people from their religious malaise.

The essence of The Intolerance of Tolerance is an argument for the existence of absolute truth. For Christians, this absolute truth is defined through God incarnate, Jesus Christ.  As a result there is an underlying call to preach and live the Gospel and thereby show the world what truth authentically looks like. Carson ends with ten suggestions or words of advice for staying the course in an increasingly secular environment. Among these suggestions are exposing the condescending arrogance of the new tolerance, challenging the supposed neutrality of secularism, evangelizing and being prepared to suffer. This last point Carson prefaces with a warning that oppression in Western countries towards Christianity will not necessarily come in a “sudden massive decree” but rather subtly and incrementally in the name of preserving tolerance (p 175).  One only has to read the daily news to realize that these are indeed prophetic words that are coming true before our very eyes.

This is an important book that, rather than becoming obsolete as society “progresses”, becomes more relevant as history unfolds. Perhaps Carson’s last word of advice is the most important: Delight in and trust God (p176). As we live in uncertain times marked by religious and political unrest, these five words remind the reader that ultimately trusting and delighting in God keeps one grounded in tolerance, undiluted.

Reviewed by Daniel Snape


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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2016

About the Author: Daniel P. Snape, D.Min (Boston University School of Theology), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Senior Pastor of Community Congregational Church, Billerica, Massachusetts. He also works and ministers as a chaplain in the Boston area. Facebook.

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