Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Future of Tolerance: In Honor of David Scaer

Hinlicky, Paul R. "The Future of Tolerance: In Honor of David Scaer." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  375-389.

What is tolerance?  Does it consist of limits or of freedom?  Who defines what is and is not tolerance, as well as what is and is not tolerated?  Modern liberalism has the State furnishing what free people want but not imposting restrictions on the people within the state.  It expects  that people, who are considered good, will act in a noble manner and will all agree on what is desirable in a free society.  

On the contrary, a biblical faith doesn't really distinguish between necessity and freedom.  We do what is necessary, including sin.  We sin because we are sinners, acting out of that necessity.  We do not become sinners because of our sin.  Because we are in conflict and sin, providing us with means to sin may simply intensify the conflict.  Hence it may well not be a good idea for the state to furnish people with what they want.

Hinlicky suggests that modern liberalism breaks down because the State needs to use coercive power when it finds people do not agree on what is good and desirable.  The State then becomes an oppressive force.  Where is our society headed?  Hinlicky would suggest that continuing to allow the secular authorities to define tolerance will bring threats upon the Church.   It is wise that the Church should respond by seeking active dialog about all sorts of social issues within the conflicts we currently have. 

What do you think?  Is it the job of the Church to provide an alternative voice to an increasingly coercive secular authority?  What does salt and light actually do?

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