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Tolerance Is the Virtue of the Man Without Convictions

“By toleration, we adopt other men’s sins and make them our own.”


Tolerance used to be understood to mean respectfully disagreeing with others. It implied the fact that two people differed on some matter. But today it has come to mean something quite different. Today it means you must agree with someone or else. Today it basically means, ‘Shut uppa ya face’.

Those who shout the loudest about tolerance and acceptance and inclusion are usually the most intolerant, non-accepting and exclusive folks around. So we have gotten to the place where it is time to start getting intolerant about tolerance.

I have already offered some incisive quotes on tolerance by Fulton J. Sheen, so I will not offer much by him here.

Here then are 40 brief but brilliant quotes by 31 individuals – mostly recent writers, and mainly Christians.

“‘Tolerance’ has lost its meaning and is simply a cover for trying to shame and coerce others not to disagree with one’s position.” Francis J. Beckwith

“If you really believe that the meaning of tolerance is tolerating, then you ought to tolerate even intolerance. If you really believe that the best foundation for toleration is to avoid having strong convictions about good and evil, then you should not try to harbor the strong conviction that intolerance is bad.” J. Budziszewski

“Toleration is often just indifference in disguise.” Frederick Buechner

“The new tolerance swamps penetrating discussion about truth and morality: tolerance is widely perceived to be more important and more enduring than either. The result is a greater tendency to believe lies and to come adrift in immorality” D. A. Carson

“We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue, and it’s never an end in itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of evil.” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

“Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference which is an elegant name for ignorance.” G. K. Chesterton

“Creeds must disagree: it is the whole fun of the thing. If I think the universe is triangular, and you think it is square, there cannot be room for two universes. We may argue politely, we may argue humanely, we may argue with great mutual benefit; but, obviously, we must argue. Modern toleration is really a tyranny. It is a tyranny because it is a silence. To say that I must not deny my opponent’s faith is to say I must not discuss it . . . It is absurd to have a discussion on Comparative Religions if you don’t compare them.” G. K. Chesterton

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” G. K. Chesterton

“Societies are far gone in depravity when toleration is considered a good in itself, without regard to the thing tolerated.” G. K. Chesterton

“When the God of the Bible is rejected, people choose a new god. The postmodern age has anointed secular tolerance as its god. Tolerance once meant listening respectfully to all points of view, freely discussed in our common search for the truth. But the creed for the new god of tolerance is that knowing truth is impossible. So everyone is free to think and act as he likes, with one exception: Those who have the audacity to believe that they know the truth, particularly if they think God has revealed it to them, are not tolerated. The result is that those who crowned the new god of tolerance have become the absolute arbiters of culture. The new god of tolerance becomes, in the guise of liberalism, an absolute tyrant.” Charles Colson

“Tolerance once meant that we could use our reason to discern good and evil in open debate. Today tolerance has been used to call good evil and evil good.” Charles Colson

“The paradox of liberal tolerance is that it extends to Marxists, transsexuals, and Islamic radicals–but NOT to conservatives or Christians.” Dinesh D’Souza

“Ours then is a world in which ‘Thou shalt not judge’ has become the new eleventh commandment, and tolerance the last undisputed virtue.” Os Guinness

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Habakkuk speaking of God in Habakkuk 1:13

“Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all but actually intellectual cowardice. Those who hide behind that word are often afraid of intelligent engagement and don’t engage or even consider contrary opinions. It’s easier to hurl an insult than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it.” Greg Koukl

“Be egalitarian regarding persons. Be elitist regarding ideas.” Peter Kreeft

“Satan knows that he can undermine the structure of the church by slyly removing just one fundamental doctrine at a time. He frequently loosens a large foundation gradually, chiseling it away bit by bit. That is why tolerance for the sake of peace may be dangerous. One step by giving in will lead to a next step, and will not God visit us with blindness if we deliberately darken the truth He has graciously entrusted to us. How shall we justify ourselves if we permit even a little of the truth to be laid aside? Is that ours to do? When peace is injurious to the truth, peace must give way. Peace with God is of greater value than peace with men.” Abraham Kuyper

“Let me be clear about this. Christianity is an exclusive teaching; it is an intolerant teaching. I do not say this because I am intolerant, but because I am concerned about your soul. If you say that Christianity is not exclusive and intolerant, then you must say that one religion is as good as another, and I am here to deny that.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“The visible church in our generation has become astonishingly tolerant of aberrant teaching and outlandish ideas – and frighteningly intolerant of sound teaching.” John MacArthur

“If anyone comes along espousing tolerance, you can be sure it’s error. Error demands tolerance whereas truth demands scrutiny.” John MacArthur

“‘Love’ has been redefined as a broad tolerance that overlooks sin and embraces good and evil alike. That’s not love; it’s apathy.” John MacArthur

“The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history: that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence.” Alister McGrath

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” Thomas Mann

“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Paul in Romans 12:9

“Tolerance cares less. Loves cares deeply. Tolerance says, ‘Do what you want.’ Love says, ‘That’s wrong. Stop!’” Everett Piper

“Relativism is a revolt against the objective reality of God. The sheer existence of God creates the possibility of truth. God is the ultimate and final standard for all claims to truth—who he is, what he wills, what he says is the external, objective standard for measuring all things. When relativism says that there is no standard of truth and falsehood that is valid for everyone, it speaks like an atheist. It commits treason against God.” John Piper

“It’s unpopular to take a strong stand on anything (these days) except tolerance.” John Piper

“If we continue to teach about tolerance and intolerance instead of good and evil, we will end up with tolerance of evil.” Dennis Prager

“Although Christians cannot cherish religious pluralism, they must tolerate it…By tolerance I mean allowing other people to hold and to defend their own religious convictions.  Tolerance does not mean that everyone has to agree with everyone else.  That would not be tolerance at all.  The word tolerance itself assumes disagreement, that there is something that must be tolerated.  Tolerance thus applies to persons, but not to their errors.  It does not require me to endorse your worldview.  If you are not a Christian, I do not endorse your worldview.  In the context of a friendship I will even try to talk you out of it…Yet it carries out these arguments with humility and civility.” Philip Graham Ryken

“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” Dorothy Sayers

“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.” Fulton J Sheen

“Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring; intolerance to the error.” Fulton J. Sheen

“The Anglican Richard Baxter once laid down the rule, ‘tolerate the tolerable,’ implying, as Samuel Johnson observed, that there must also be a category of things not tolerable.” Joseph Sobran

“There is toleration for everybody who conforms to the fashion of the day; but no toleration for anyone who believes that the laws of heaven should regulate life on earth.” Charles Spurgeon

“Tolerance is not a spiritual gift; it is the distinguishing mark of postmodernism; and sadly, it has permeated the very fiber of Christianity.  Why is it that those who have no biblical convictions or theology to govern and direct their actions are tolerated and the standard or truth of God’s Word rightly divided and applied is dismissed as extreme opinion or legalism?” John Stott

“The most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty.” A. W. Tozer

“A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads ‘Thou shalt not disagree;’ and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins ‘Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.’ It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief. . . . Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences.” A. W. Tozer

“Toleration is the grave of reformation. By toleration, we adopt other men’s sins and make them our own.” Thomas Watson

“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” John Wesley

“As I’ve said before, toleration is not a virtue. The Latin tolerare means ‘to bear or endure something.’ Toleration isn’t the ‘whatever floats your boat’ of unprincipled pluralism. That’s nihilistic toleration. Real toleration is a kind of bearing or enduring of moral disagreement in a divided society until moral agreement can be achieved.” Benjamin Wiker

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