The Intolerance of Tolerance

By D. A. Carson
Published by Eerdmans
Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Brief Bio:

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. Some of his other books are: The Gagging of God, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, The God Who Is There, Christ and Culture Revisited.

What others are saying about this book:

“Thoughtfully shows how tolerance has morphed into a pervasive insistence that no one should hold firm convictions. . .. Not to hear and heed Carson 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.” -Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Carson shows the structural flaws and inconsistency of modern tolerance and its fixation on opposing traditional Christianity. . .. The Intolerance of Tolerance is not a political jeremiad so much as a call for Christians to fight for the value of truth.” - Christianity Today

A Must Read Book!

To call this book a must read is an understatement! In this book, Dr. Carson helps the reader to understand the insanity we are watching coming from colleges campuses and the culture at large.

Carson does an extraordinary job surveying philosophical ideas with special attention to postmodernism and its failure to account for absolutes. Chapter One deals with The Changing Face of Tolerance. There is a historic or older form of tolerance that has worked quite well in society, keeping disagreements from spinning out of control, resulting in violence. An older form of tolerance would be the Jewish prohibition of eating pork. A Jewish person, while not eating pork, would not try and stop others from eating pork as is the case with Muslims and their demands that everyone conforms to their practices.

Chapter Two deals with examples of the new tolerance and its adherents demanding the removal of Christian clubs from college campuses because the Christian club will not allow non-Christians to hold leadership positions or refusing to change their doctrinal standards. Carson provides many examples of this that spans many organizations such as banks, cities, schools. Thankfully, most of the examples cited are eventually overturned in the courts.

Carson documents what is unique to the new tolerance is the enforcers of this so-called tolerance is that the enforcers do not believe in absolutes except the absolute that there are no absolutes. This self-refuting contradiction held by the enforces does not bother them. The new tolerance that has permeated most sections of society. In Chapter Four, Worse Than Inconsistency, Carson deals with extreme accusations leveled people holding unpopular positions.

Chapter Five, The Church and Christian Truth-Claims is particularly important for contemporary Christians. With the state and federal courts abandoning their commitment to fidelity to the Constitution, Christian businesses are being attacked for not violating their beliefs by making cakes for homosexuals. Churches are now in the crosshairs of the new watchers and enforcers. The new watchers and enforcers are governed by nothing but their own feelings and what they take as self-evident without proof is right.

As the Scriptures declare: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Chapter Seven, Tolerance, Democracy, and Majoritarianism is particularly instructive. In short, Democracy and majoritarian schemes have never provided much protection for minorities.

A few quotes are in order:

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state – it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.” - John Witherspoon

“It is a logical absurdity to equate democracy with freedom in the way that mainstream political philosophers and commentators typically do. A system where individuals and minorities are at the mercy of unconstrained majorities hardly constitutes freedom in any meaningful sense.” - Keith Preston

“One-man-one-vote combined with “free entry” into government-democracy--implies that every person and his personal property comes within reach of-and is up for grabs by everyone else: a 'tragedy of the commons” is created.” - Hans-Hermann Hoppe

The Heresy of Democracy with God by Rousas John Rushdoony [From Chalcedon Position Paper No.6] is an excellent and complements Dr. Carson’s insights into the dangers of majoritarianism.

In conclusion, Dr. Carson leaves the reader with Ways Ahead: Ten Words in the final chapter with strategies to defend ourselves and respond to the new tolerance which in reality is extremely intolerant. This extreme new intolerance and its adherents are capable of all manner of evil. The wicked fruits of these are being increasingly seen throughout all of society.

I highly recommend this book and it should be in every concerned Christian’s library.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: