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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars

on 13 April 2012
D. A. Carson is a Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is widely regarded as today's foremost New Testament scholar. Published last month, The Intolerance of Tolerance is a welcome and much-needed addition to his catalogue of over 50 works.

The purpose of Carson's book is to examine how the definition of tolerance has evolved over the years and to evaluate the detriment such change has spelled for both the Christian church and the broader culture. Carson's first chapter is entitled The Changing Face of Tolerance and his first heading reads The Old Tolerance and the New. Carson argues that while the verb "tolerate" was originally defined as "ACCEPT EXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT VIEWS", the verb has now subtly morphed to mean "ACCEPT DIFFERENT VIEWS". Carson describes this change as "subtle in form but massive in substance" (3).
Carson's subject is daunting and he acknowledges the immensity of his task right from the first page. He notes that `hinting that tolerance might on occasion be intolerance is unlikely to win many friends' (1). On a more philosophical level, he surmises that `tolerance has become part of the Western "plausibility structure"... widely and almost unquestioningly accepted...to saunter into the public square and question it in some way or another is not only to tilt at windmills but also culturally insensitive, lacking in good taste, boorish' (2). His thorough analysis of the challenge he faces, however, lands him in good stead to topple the erroneous assumptions of tolerance that may be lodged in the reader's mind.
Carson's subject is clearly defined and he can afford to be exhaustive. He evaluates the present scene in chapter 2 (What is Going On?), documenting attacks on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience throughout the Western world (both Europe and America). He focuses particularly on three areas: the domain of education, of media, and of homosexual behaviour. In the domain of education, one of his examples of note was that of recent attempts by the state to disband Christian unions at colleges who were accused of being discriminatory, "either because it [i.e. the union] insisted that its officers (though not its members) subscribe to its statement of faith, or because it refused to accept among is officers those who advocated or practiced homosexuality" (30). Carson notes out of any such situations contested in the courts, 100% were settled in favour of the Christian union. Further, in the domain of homosexual behaviour, Carson draws attention to the jail sentence meted out to Swedish pastor Ake Green, for "showing `disrespect' against homosexuals in the sermon he delivered from his pulpit in the small town of Borgholm, Sweden on July 20, 2003' (39). He also mentions the case currently before a US Court where a Christian photographer refused to photograph a `gay commitment ceremony' of two women and was subsequently fined thousands as an example of the "unrestrained venom" (40) now flowing towards those who hold to Christian tradition.
Carson examines the history of tolerance in chapter three which includes a treatment of early Christian thought and a contrast of the intolerance of Islam, for example, with the trend of limited tolerance towards which Christianity has generally advocated (although Carson fairly examines major deviations from this). In doing this, Carson clearly shows that the new tolerance has become an "absolute good that gains the power to erode other cultural distinctives, including moral and religious distinctives" (76), in contrast to the past, when tolerance was "not perceived to be an intellectual stance but a social response" (76). He concludes by observing that the "antivalue of this new tolerance dilutes and destroys all the hard and unyielding components of cultural identity, for they are judged to be marks of intolerance" (77).
After treating of the church and Christian truth claims, Carson climaxes in chapter six, where he declares that "the most striking test case [of morality and tolerance] is homosexuality" (134). Carson denigrates the fact that, despite evidence to the contrary, "it is everywhere assumed that people are simply born that way, and that's all there is to it" (134), declaring that "the evidence will simply not allow such shallow reductionism" (134). Carson also criticizes the way that evidence surrounding the issue is presented in a "highly manipulative fashion" which does not probe "the abundant statistics of how infrequent homosexual fidelity is". He also highlights the media's blackmail of those who hold a rational religious conviction against homosexuality, referencing among others the case of Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's representative to the EU, who in 2004 "was rejected as commissioner for justice on the ground that he is a Catholic who agrees with his church's stance on homosexuality" (135), despite the fact that at his hearing, "he carefully distinguished between what is immoral and what should be criminal". Carson closes the chapter concluding that "the new tolerance is destined in the long haul to pay horrendous costs", "swamps penetrating discussion about truth and morality", and fosters "moral myopia" (139).
Carson's most prominent characteristic throughout the book (second only perhaps to his balanced and measured approach), is his sober optimism. His book inspires hope in the reader by closing with 10 points on how Christians can reverse the trend of the `new tolerance' for the good of the church and the broader culture. Most telling of all is his affirmation that the declaring the gospel trumps even "forging a more responsible track towards tolerance" (173) as the most important activity in which believers should be involved.
Carson's book is a must read for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of tolerance and for those who want an intellectual impetus in resisting the "tolerance card" often waved by those challenging mainstream Christian morals. Carson's work is not always an easy read, but his style is memorable and his flow of thought remains clear throughout the book. Those who purchase will not be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2012
Tolerance is an idolatrous golden calf status in our culture as well as being the predominant ideology in nearly all areas of life. In this unique and robust new work D.A. Carson tackles the elephant in the room, arguing against the current form of tolerance, which ironically is no tolerance at all. Birthed out of a series of lectures -the main argument of the book is that tolerance has come to be the prevailing mantra of our time. Carson describes the old tolerance as a stance that acknowledges the existence of both right and wrong, and discoverable, defensible truth.

Well researched, engagingly written, and utterly reasonable, Carson provides myriad examples of how this new tolerance has influenced all areas of life. There is no paranoid alarmism here in negotiating scary secular humanism. The final chapter offers some practical reflections on what to do about the new tolerance, which is particularly helpful. Though a short book, Carson's argument is tight, cogent and stimulis very real. Commendable to a breadth of readers, regardless of Christian commitment.

Wrong still is worthy of contending with. Robust, engaging & uniquely Carson!
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on 11 April 2012
Carson does a great job spotting the many inconsistencies in how the world views tolerance these days. The issue likely won't be going away any time soon, and the voices declaring Christians to be "intolerant" (in its new definition) are only getting louder, so a book like this can go a long way in helping someone to be prepared to respond appropriately.
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on 25 September 2012
I bought this book because it sounds a timely warning to us that in pursuing what we think is tolerance, we are in fact becoming much less tolerant- especially with those who have different views to our own. We say that we believe that everyone is entitled to hold their own views, but we don't actually believe it. Anyone who holds opposite views is often insulted and called horrible names, like " bigot".
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on 29 March 2016
We live in a confusing world, where if you hold any firm belief, let alone conviction, you are called "extreme" or "intolerant". I have felt stifled and cornered, and the easiest path out is silence or at least not expressing any views in any public forum such as social media. To experience the intolerance of tolerance, we need look no further than social media. School is another minefield. Gone are the days when students can heartily, politely and scholarly debate on an issue from different standpoints. The position "to agree to disagree" has gone on certain issues. In the name of tolerance, we must agree everything as equally right - this is an untenable position for any sane mind!

If you have felt this kind of pressure in life, you will find resonance in this book. The pressure was particularly intense in the UK during the year when same-sex marriage was being debated and eventually legalised in July 2013. Tolerating other people's lifestyle was not enough; the pressure was intense on us to agree and accept it as a personal stance or we were judgemental and unloving.

Carson not only is spot on in encapsulating the current trend, but also puts the development in historical context which I find very helpful. The notion of old tolerance versus new tolerance has clarified the situation for me. I agree totally that the new tolerance is applied selectively by activists and therefore it is not a principled virtue as one is led to believe but a tool to force a hidden agenda. According to Carson, this hidden agenda targets against Christianity. The most threatening aspect of it is its backup from the coercive power of the state. The law is getting more intolerant on people having an opinion or holding a belief in the name of tolerance ! How ironic.

Carson also helps us look a bit further to see how the society, even the world, would look like under the current trend. "The tragic reality of our generation in the West (though certainly not everywhere in the world) is that we have codified and authorized relativism to such a degree that interest in truth and morality alike, in any enduring and objective sense, has largely dissolved." (p.132) "The result is a greater tendency to believe lies and to come adrift in immorality." (p.138) "Far from bringing peace, the new tolerance is progressively becoming more intolerant, fostering moral myopia, proving unable to engage in serious and competent discussions about truth, letting personal and social evils fester, and remaining blind to the political and international perceptions of our tolerant cultural profile." (p.139)

Furthermore, it is helpful to understand that secularism has been elevated to a position of superiority through its appearance of neutrality. but in reality it is just like any religion. It is the only belief system to be allow in in the public domain while all the other faiths are a private matter. He also introduces me to the possibility of democratic tyranny, which "lies in the inability to recognize what is good and what is evil." (p.150) It is not far-fetched; rather it may be on our doorstep.

Ominous the trend may have been Carson does not leave us in despair but reminds us that "No Christian should ever succumb to the idolatrous notion that the right party will bring in utopia. That is not where our ultimate confidence lies." (p. 157) "Delight in God, and trust him. God remains sovereign, wise, and good. Our ultimate confidence is not in any government or party, still less in our ability to mold the culture in which we live." (p. 176) Among his ten ways forwards is to be prepared to suffer for Jesus' sake. "And were this to happen, we would gladly bear it, and learn a little better how to evangelism in our prisons." (p.176)

The effect of this book on me is to give me courage as Carson is very clear in the role that we are to play In particular, "The proper activity of professing Christians who disagree with one another is neither to ignore, nor to conceal, nor even to minimize their differences, but to debate them...The apostolic command is clear, We are to "maintain the truth in love," being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance." (p. 164, quoting Stott) This points to our duty to study hard and be trained so that we can debate well for the Truth and to love our neighbours.
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on 11 August 2015
An excellent overview of changing society. Written from a Biblical perspective Carson shows how those who have different views and desires become intolerant towards those they demand tolerance from. He gives Biblical answers to Christians who feel swept away by the changing culture and draws the reader to what God says about the human condition and how He has provided the answer. Carson does not beat about the bush but tackles many of the issues facing us today with clear humanity and humility.
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on 17 January 2014
A highly recommended book for Christians concerned with the rising intolerance to faith, particularly Christian faith and the impact of an increasingly secular and atheistic society affecting public opinion.
Not too long and lots of references for further reading.
Easy to read.
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on 26 July 2015
Read this book! Modern society has redefined tolerance and made it the greatest virtue. They mean, however, "you must agree with me", which is not tolerance. It will help you understand where we are in 2015 and also able to articulate your position on things in a sensitive and appropriate way when you need to disagree... The most important and helpful book I have read in a long time
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on 4 January 2016
drop dead brilliant ... if only for the fact that it looks at a topic so neglected but relevant subject, as a riposte to mind-numbing political correctness that seems to have become a kind of agency of oppression itself. It is also very well written. This was a book desperately waiting to be written, and now ... it .... finally ... has, thanks to D A Carson,
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on 22 April 2014
Carson has a deep insight! To those who experience that they are not allowed to freely express their opinions because they are "intolerant" - or those who uses "tolerance" as a weapon to silence their opponents, this is a book you should read. Carson is thorough, but not necessarily easy accessible.
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