Rachel's Reviews > The Intolerance of Tolerance

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
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's review
Feb 23, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2012

As D. A. Carson points out in The Intolerance of Tolerance, the kind of tolerance now so greatly esteemed in public life can actually be quite intolerant.

Carson helps unravel this apparent paradox by careful defining what is generally meant by “tolerance” and “intolerance.” In doing so, he draws a helpful line between “old” and “new” definitions of tolerance and intolerance.

“Old tolerance” can be pretty adequately expressed by that oft-quoted line (often wrongly attributed to Voltaire): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

“New tolerance,” however, takes this ideal — this graciously putting up with people you strongly believe are dead wrong — and both inflates and twists it almost beyond recognition. If the quote above were reworked to fit Carson’s understanding of “new tolerance,” it might read thusly: “I cannot, will not, and dare not disapprove of what you say, because what you have to say is every bit as valid as what I have to say. And I will put to death anyone who says otherwise.”

Carson offers not just a keen analysis of the issues at stake but also ten “ways ahead,” including “Preserve a place for truth,” “Challenge secularism’s ostensible neutrality and superiority,” “Insist that the new tolerance is not ‘progress,’” and “Practice and encourage civility."

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