Chapter 5, “The Church and Christian Truth Claims” (Loc. 1077)
The Charge of Intolerance
There is a problem related to the new tolerance. Because it refuses to say some positions are wrong it can make a claim for neutrality. Yet this position is not neutral, as it condemns those who accept a position as correct. It is inconsistent because it would need to condemn itself or accept all views. Intelligent people can see this internal contradiction. This chapter deals with the truth claims which are not tolerated.
“Advocates of the new tolerance sacrifice wisdom and principle in support of just one supreme good: upholding their view of tolerance” (Loc. 1090). This comes in conflict with those who uphold a different value system. Carson says this conflict is most pronounced in dealing with religion, particularly Christianity. With its exclusive truth claims, Christianity does not require tolerance, it requires belief. At the same time, it refuses acceptance of contrary claims. Much of Carson’s analysis here is dependent on the work of Phil Miles, who analyzes Western culture through a lens of Japanese non-Enlightenment culture. He observes that in the West there are distinctions between reason and spirituality. These do not exist outside of Enlightenment thinking. In a non-Enlightenment culture, such as that of the Bible, it is moral law, appealed to by individuals, which protects the society from tyranny (Loc. 1132). Beginning at Loc. 1138 Carson deals with the myth of God’s tolerance. He observes that God has forbearance but that it is not infinite. He has rather acted to remove offense.
Inside the Church
The broader culture is currently pushing its agenda not only outside the church but inside it as well. Carson gives several examples of situations in which the Christian community is pressured to avoid judgment. Eventually religious claims are removed from discussion and all is cast in terms of a secular world. Christianity does make truth claims. Yet these claims lead believers to societal good. This is not to be viewed as intolerance.