Chapter 1, “Introduction: The Changing Face of Tolerance.”
Carson observes that tolerance, today, is as important to people as any cultural value. He realizes that suggesting it is intolerant seems like an oxymoron. Tolerance, though, is one of the values held so firmly in Western cultures that it cannot be questioned. What can be questioned, however, is the practical definition of tolerance. Carson states (Loc. 41), “Although a few things can be said in favor of the newer definition, the sad reality is that this new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant. It is blind to its own shortcomings because it erroneously thinks it holds the moral high ground; it cannot be questioned because it has become part of the West’s plausibility structure.”
A dictionary definition of tolerance affirms being able to accept or allow a different view to exist. However, recent treatment, including Encarta, drops the idea of acceptance of existence and simply requires acceptance of different views. This makes a leap to demanding that differing views are equally acceptable. The differentiation of the various views of tolerance can create trouble, as it may become unclear whether one says positions may exist or that they are acceptable.
Carson illustrates this problem using statements of Christians “tolerating” other views. He continues (from Loc. 86) by defining the terms of the old tolerance more clearly. He identifies three assumptions.
1) There is objective truth which we are to find.
2) Each party in a discussion believes he has identified truth.
3) The best way to uncover truth is through open discussion.
The new tolerance, however, “argues that there is no one view that is exclusively true. Strong opinions are nothing more than strong preferences for a particular version of reality, each version equally true” (Loc. 148). If this is the case, if all versions of reality are right, the greatest wrong which can be perpetrated is intolerance. Yet intolerance finds itself also redefined. It becomes “any questioning or contradicting the view that all opinions are equal in value, that all worldviews have equal worth, that all stances are equally valid” (Loc. 155).
Carson cites S.D. Goede, defining old and new tolerance. This definition leads Carson to observe, “the old tolerance draws its limits on the basis of substantive arguments about truth, goodness, doing harm, and protecting society and its victims, while the new tolerance draws its limits on the basis of what it judges to be intolerant” (Loc. 187).