Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Tolerance Untolerated by Dan Story
In light of the multitude of religions and philosophies permeating modern society, historians often refer to today’s world as “pluralistic,” “relativistic,” and “global.” Civilization is comprised of many worldviews, all of which are considered to represent truth (pluralism). Moreover, religious and ethical beliefs are dependent upon the circumstances that define them. Truth flows from one’s personal beliefs or from one’s culture and can vary under different situations (relativism).
Furthermore, individual worldviews do not exist in isolation. They can and do have great influence on each other, interacting and assimilating the beliefs and practices of numerous peoples, cultures, and religions throughout the world (globalism).
Pluralism is extremely dangerous to Christianity because it is such a powerful force undermining the discovery of religious truth.6 Pluralism not only extends the hand of fellowship to hundreds of religions, but it also congratulates them for being expressions of religious truth. All religions are equally valid.
Proponents of religious pluralism believe that all religions possess a common core of beliefs and experiences. All religions more or less talk about the same “God.” Alister McGrath explained it this way:
This naturally leads to the idea that dialogue between religions can lead to an enhancement of truth, in that the limited perspectives of one religion can be complemented by the differing perspectives of another. As all religions are held to relate to the same reality, dialogue thus constitutes a privileged mode of access to truth.
Religious pluralism loudly condemns any form of “narrow-minded bigotry” that seeks to elevate one religion as supreme over any other. Professor D. A. Carson explained it with these words:
In the religious field, this means that few people will be offended by the multiplying new religions. No matter how wacky, no matter how flimsy their intellectual credentials, no matter how subjective and uncontrolled, no matter how blatantly self-centered, no matter how obviously their gods have been manufactured to foster human self-promotion, the media will treat them with fascination and even a degree of respect. But if any religion claims that in some measure other religions are wrong, a line has been crossed and resentment is immediately stirred up: pluralism … has been challenged. Exclusiveness is the one religious idea that cannot be tolerated.
The significance of this in the religious marketplace cannot be overstated. Carson continued:
Pluralism has managed to set in place certain “rules” for playing the game of religion—rules that transcend any single religion. These rules are judged to be axiomatic. They include the following: religiously based exclusive claims must be false; what is old or traditional in religion is suspect and should probably be superseded; “sin” is a concept steeped in intolerance. The list could easily be expanded.
There is obvious irony here. One would expect a pluralistic, relativistic, and global world to have an open forum for discussing and evaluating religious truth. Nothing is further from the truth. If any cardinal doctrine characterizes religious pluralism, it is an unwillingness to critically discuss and compare religious beliefs. This is especially true if the purpose is to discover truth, that is to determine which religion, if any, can sustain its truth-claims. Again, Carson made a valuable comment:
Those who are committed to the proposition that all views are equally valid have eliminated the possibility that one or more of those opinions has a special claim to being true or valid. They have foreclosed on open-mindedness in the same breath by which they extol the virtues of open-mindedness; they are dogmatic about pluralism.…
Both the irony and the tragedy of this fierce intolerance stem from the fact that it is done in the name of tolerance. It is not “liberal education” in the best sense; it is not pluralism in the best sense. It is fundamentalistic dogmatism in the worse sense.…
… Small wonder, then, that Stanley S. Harakas can affirm that the prevailing world view in America is not pluralistic … but atomistic and anti-religious.
In sum, religious pluralism strives mightily to prevent one from ever discovering absolute truth—what is really true as opposed to what is personal opinion or mere belief. It does this under the guise of tolerance and political correctness. If religious truth is to be found at all, it will not come from the religious pluralism that characterizes the modern scene.
Story, D. (1998). Christianity on the offense: Responding to the beliefs and assumptions of spiritual seekers (15–17). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.