I recently had cause to watch an interview of Sargon of Akkad, a YouTuber who describes himself as a “classical liberal” (i.e. in the mould of John Locke et al). I enjoy listening to him as he makes clear arguments (though that does not entail that I agree with him on all points). He made the comment in this interview that whereas “tolerance” is a goal for socialists, it is a by-product for classical liberals, and, I must say, I found this aphorism rather pleasing.
Christians are admonished to bear with others and to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39; Prov 19:11; Eccl 7:8; Col 3:12). The reason why Christians are to do this is not because Christians believe all views are equally valid. Rather, Christians are to show tolerance because if they fail to do so, they will be hypocrites. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23): if God can forgive our sins, and we wish to be like Him, we must forgive the sins of others (see the parable of the unmerciful servant: Matt 18:21 ff).
This posture of humility does not entail that we should pretend all things that people believe and do are good. If we held this view, Christianity would be self-contradictory and thus invalid. The doctrine of repentance is at the core of the Gospel message: repentance presupposes an inferior state from which one turns in order to grasp a better one.
The current tolerance malaise that grips the West is a product of nihilism, post-modernism, and post-colonial guilt. Each of these issues must be addressed, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so without exposing oneself to the risk of abuse and prosecution. To some extent it is productive to speak of these things in the echo-chamber, but the mission-field, to change metaphor, is not in the midst of us but outside.
Nihilism springs from crooked Enlightenment thinking. In challenging nihilism, we must be careful not to attack the good things that come through and out of the Enlightenment. Nor should we conceive of the Enlightenment as a clear break from medieval and early modern thinking: it was not. Kuhn’s doctrine of paradigm shifts must be rejected in its extreme form. Rather, a careful examination of history reveals a series of overlapping paradigms.
Post-modernism similarly springs from a misuse of philosophical scepticism and received great impetus from the horrors of WWI and WWII. It was further strengthened as a consequence of experimentation with altered states of consciousness in the 1960s and 1970s (although it must be stressed that not all people who had such experiences drew this interpretation from them: a possible interpretation is not necessarily the only interpretation).
As for post-colonial guilt, the impact of the European empires on other parts of the world has yet to be fully evaluated. The fact that there were many bad consequences does not entail that all the consequences were bad. Furthermore, when a person makes a value judgment about the behaviour of these empires and the consequences of their acts, that person is in fact impliedly rejecting relativism. One cannot make a judgment of the British Raj without presupposing an objective standard – at least if one wants to persuade others to share his view.
With the passing of Stephen Hawking recently, we were given a long series on the thoughts of Hawking on the unnecessary inclusion of God to explain the Cosmos. It was rather disheartening and depressing to see into the Nihilistic Scientific View that this man lived a life, that if you take him at his word, had no meaning and no point whatever . . . in fact it could even be a hoax such as the matrix . . . a brain in a jar being stimulated by electrodes which produce our lives and perception though it is totally a mere hallucination.
Tolerance as well needs to be looked at in various ways. I think a revisit to Sheen’s take on tolerance might be appropriate here as well: http://www.newsforcatholics.info/the-remnant-newspaper-prophetic-words-of-bishop-fulton-j-sheen/
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Well, Nicholas, here is an interesting article regarding the New Tolerance some expect us to adopt and adapt to. https://www.crisismagazine.com/2018/providence-college-bullies-faithful-students#comment-3817323969
As for me, I’m and adopted Daughter of God and need to follow His Son, Jesus Christ in all matters and not just those I can rationalize against the backdrop of a socio-political culture I’m born into. I hope you read it and find it thought provoking. God bless. Ginnyfree.
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Speaking especially to your point on the Enlightenment not being a clear break-point/paradigm shift, I think that harks back to the difference that we spoke of in: “Secularism and Religion” in two ways:
The American Revolution was heavily influenced by Locke, some by Burke, and not a little by Luther. Luther wrote more on the cusp of the Enlightenment than in it. He actually was a late Medieval man. Burke was contemporary with the Revolution, which he spoke more or less in favor of, rather a good indication of how the English/Scottish Enlightenment played out, While Locke, writing in Stuart times, moved the Enlightenment forward reducing the role of religion in civil government, needed at that point, I think
The French revolution just a few years later, showed what the classic revolutions have shown in later generations, where instead of an easy (sometimes uneasy) coupling of the traditional Christianity and its outlook, instead it went into full-on anti-clericalism and anti-Christianity, which has been the Progressive model ever since.
Partly this dichotomy reflects, I think, the British familiarity with self-government opposed to the continental European top down more less tyrannical government, something we see to this day. Worth remembering that one of the whispered denunciations of King Henry VIII was the short word “Tyrant”, as indeed he increasingly became late in his life.
As it also was with Cromwell, our last experience with flat-out theocracy. What the Glorious Revolution really accomplished is the at least partial separation of church and state. We have always managed to find a way, usually (but not always) without overmuch bloodshed, while the French (and most of Europe) have swung from one extreme to the other.
Nothing happens overnight, what we see today has antecedents that run back to Rome, to the Vikings (strikes me just now that the Conquest has much to do with how the British class system developed), and to the early organization as a nation by King Alfred the Great, itself partially caused by the Vikings. On the other hand, the Viking’s system of government wasn’t all that different than the Anglo-Saxon’s. While the Normans had picked up French ideas, like Feudalism, that have yet to fully work themselves out of the UK.
That may summarize why we are all in trouble, at the moment. Our elites, as we sardonically call them, look to the continental model, while Anglo Saxon populations cleave to our historic systems of self-governance.
I fail to see why any Briton (or American) would feel any guilt at what our forebearers in the Empire days did. There is not a people in the world that were not improved by British or American rule, which is probably why we are so resented. And that is not to even mention the abolition of slavery in the west, done by our countries at the cost of much blood and treasure. And still slavery goes on in the rest of the world. Now, that may not be true for the other European empires. But my main concern is Britain and America. We pretty much did it right, if they didn’t well, it’s not our fault, we showed the way.
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