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The Intolerance of Tolerance Hardcover – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Church Times
“In this excellent book, D. A. Carson’s aim is to explain and give a critique of the contemporary understanding of tolerance. . . . Profound and intellectually forensic while being surprisingly accessible. It provides a startling analysis of the new tolerance, and a rigorous critique of it, while refusing to be defeated by it. It is a book for our time, and one that I would recommend to every thinking Christian.”

Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
“Carson has penned an inviting and worthy introduction to one of Western culture’s obsessions in the twenty-first century -- tolerance. . . . He produces a frank, critical, and iconoclastic survey of this emerging issue from post-modernism’s distain of truth. . . . Not the final word on the topic, but it rates as a solid contribution on a contentious matter.”

New Horizons
“Well researched and engagingly written. . . . Intellectually stimulating without being stuffy or overly academic. Carson is a gifted writer with deep insights. This work is attuned to mixed audiences of academics and the public, Christians and skeptics. It is recommended for each.”

“An excellent and timely work.”

Michael Cromartie
-- Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.
"In these highly contentious times we need a renewed understanding of the meaning of true tolerance. True tolerance means taking our deeply held convictions seriously because understanding our differences actually makes a difference. Disagreements matter. True tolerance means engaging one another with civility and respect despite our differences. It is not incompatible with firm convictions or the desire to persuade others. In this timely book D. A. Carson argues that today true tolerance is not well tolerated. He makes a passionate plea for a recovery of an older form of tolerance, insisting that the existence of disparate views is vastly different from the acceptance of all views being equally valid. Important matters are at stake here, and Carson cogently explains why they are so urgent."

Bryan Chapell
-- President, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis
"Nothing is more intolerant than a tolerance that requires the absence of all convictions. Don Carson thoughtfully shows how tolerance, once defined as respecting others' right to hold differing perspectives, has morphed into a pervasive insistence that no one should hold firm convictions. The consequence of such a shift is a challenge to biblical faith that needs a biblical response, which Carson ably provides. In doing so, he gives the biblical basis for true tolerance in a just society and shows the inevitable tyranny of tolerance ill-defined. Not to hear and heed him is to enter a nightmarish world in which zeal to discern truth is replaced by zeal to keep anyone from claiming anything is really true."

About the Author

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. He has written or edited more than fifty other books, including The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, and Christ and Culture Revisited.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802831702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802831705
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #769,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author or coauthor of over 45 books, including the Gold Medallion Award-winning book The Gagging of God and An Introduction to the New Testament, and is general editor of Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns and Worship by the Book. He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By JP on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Tolerance" has taken on an idolatrous golden calf status in our culture as of late, being the predominant ideology in nearly all areas of life. In The Intolerance of Tolerance, 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 Carson has given across the Western world, the main argument of the book is that tolerance has come to be the prevailing mantra of our time. However, tolerance no longer means what it used to, and the new form of tolerance is not very tolerant at all; at its best it is veiled intolerance and at its worst it borders on the absurd. Carson describes the old tolerance as a stance that acknowledges the existence of both right and wrong, and discoverable, defensible truth. This tolerance accepts "that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist" (p. 3). This tolerance respectfully engages in debates and criticisms. However, as Carson deftly argues, a new tolerance has taken over that is intolerant of the old tolerance.

The new tolerance, Carson argues, is tolerant of all things on the surface, so long as no dogmatic, absolute, judgmental, critical, or disparaging remarks are made. This new tolerance has become part of the unquestioned plausibility structure; it accepts all opinions and renders them all equally valid. But under this new tolerance, right and wrong cease to have any meaning. It does not acknowledge any specific truth, and labels any religion or system of thought that claims to be true as intolerant. Thus, any disagreement - let alone claims to exclusive truth - is demonized as intolerant, leaving no room for anything but a spineless, tyrannical tolerance.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By PstTBG on February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Is tolerance the highest ideal? What does tolerance mean and how can it be achieved? Can an evangelical Christian be tolerant?

Carson's book deals with these questions as he probes western culture and its fixation on tolerance as the ideal that drives all social interaction. In his preface he states that there were two main incentives to writing this book. The first was the broad appeal and interactions in university settings when he lectured on this topic. The second was the overview that he had provided in his earlier book on culture, Christ and Culture Revisited. He wanted to explore the theme of tolerance and intolerance in more detail.

In the introduction Carson provides two similar but competing definitions for tolerance that become the basis for everything else that he says in the book. He calls these the old tolerance and the new. The old tolerance is defined as the belief that other opinions have a right to exist. The new tolerance is defined as the belief that all opinions are equally valid. He unpacks these ideas and demonstrates from interaction with many other authors that these two ideas undergird much of the confusion and ultimately disagreement that one encounters in trying to discuss differing belief systems.

The next few chapters cover how the shift in meaning of tolerance has occurred and then how it has been applied in today's society. Carson demonstrates how the older idea of tolerance is vital to a free society, and how the newer definition is actually inconsistent and ultimately unsustainable. Truth claims by major religions including secular humanism, if taken seriously, all deny the idea of tolerance in the newer definition.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Administrator on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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 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?
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