Tolerance 101: The Basics for Engaging Culture

By Michael Guyer

Tolerance is not all that it used to be. D.A. Carson sheds light on this reality. Carson notes a shift toward a new kind of tolerance in our culture. It is a shift from accepting the existence of different positions to accepting the different position itself.

Thus, “We move from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions; we leap from permitting the articulation of beliefs and claims with which we do not agree to asserting that all beliefs and claims are equally valid.” (D.A. Carson)

This has never been more apparent than with the cultural shaming of HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines or other Christians who have been on the wrong end of this new tolerance: Phil Robertson with A&E, the Benham Brothers with HGTV and Louie Giglio with the White House.

How should Christians respond? In light of the most recent focus on the Gaineses, a few helpful responses have already been posted (for example: Trevin Wax & Owen Strachan). In addition to these responses, an understanding of a biblically-informed tolerance is essential to sustain faithful witness in the face of this new tolerance (or intolerance).

Basics of a Biblically-Informed Tolerance

Tolerance is grounded in recognizing we are all made in the image of God

A biblically-informed tolerance is grounded in creation. Specifically, it is grounded in humanity’s shared creation in the image of God: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Thus, our common identity in the image of God requires that we value the life and dignity of all people. And an expression of that dignity is leaving room for “other people to have different beliefs or practices without an attempt to suppress them.”

Even when this privilege is not afforded to Christians in the public sphere, we must not respond in kind. Displaying a biblically-informed tolerance will promote its case for the common good. Requiring the acceptance of another’s belief at the danger of facing suppression actually stifles true tolerance…


Tolerance 101: The Basics for Engaging Culture