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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Close Your Mind

Some things deserve no debate. The great C.S. Lewis alludes to this as he rather bluntly declares, “An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy.” More plainly put, one would have to be an idiot not to recognize that certain things are settled for all time.

Such a conclusion is in direct contradiction to what has become the supreme virtue with far too many in our culture: “tolerance.” As the United Nations’ Declaration of Principles on Tolerance instructs, “Tolerance … involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism.” Of course, such a declaration reveals how the definition of tolerance has changed. Today “tolerance” no longer simply means “to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them.” Today’s “tolerance” is little more than a self-refuting system of thought that attempts to impose liberal values onto any culture unable or unwilling to recognize the fallacy.

The United Nations description of “tolerance” above illustrates well such fallacy, as “Tolerance … involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism” is itself a dogmatic and absolute statement. Today’s liberalism is full of such nonsense.

On “tolerance,” G.K. Chesterton, who greatly influenced the life and writings of C.S. Lewis, noted that “Tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions.” What better describes a modern liberal than a “man without convictions?” When a person lacks convictions it becomes very easy to align himself with whatever worldview provides the most benefits in this world—or at least allows you to have the most “fun.”

A case in point is the debauchery on display at Dartmouth College. According to Linda Chavez, a few weeks ago, student protestors gathered at the office of the Dartmouth president “and demanded more ‘womyn or people of color’ faculty, coverage of sex-change operations on the student health plan, and ‘gender-neutral bathrooms,’ among other things.”

Sounding like Dean Vernon Wormer, Dartmouth’s president, Philip Hanlon, harshly addressed the student body culture that, in the 1970’s was the inspiration for the film Animal House. Hanlon declared, “Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme behavior, masked by its perpetrators as acceptable fun.” He addressed sexual assaults, dangerous drinking, partying, hazing, and “a general disregard for human dignity.”

Hanlon also noted “a grave disconnect between our culture in the classroom and the behaviors outside of it — behaviors which too often seek not to elevate the human spirit, but debase it.” Hanlon, evidently, has not been visiting Dartmouth’s classrooms very often, because the debasing behaviors occurring outside the classrooms directly reflect the culture of “tolerance” that exists inside them.

In other words, Dartmouth is only reaping what it has sown. Hanlon and his cohorts should not be surprised that young people who have been taught that it is okay to kill their unborn children, that they can have sex with whomever they wish without any consequences, and that they can “marry” whomever they desire, will also eagerly embrace “sexual assaults, dangerous drinking, partying, hazing” and the like.

Dartmouth, he added, cannot “be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance. Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough.”

To what “social norms” is Hanlon referring? It sounds like he is appealing to some “absolute” moral standard. How “intolerant” of him! For decades now, our colleges and universities have led the way in preaching “tolerance,” in place of moral absolutes, as the supreme virtue in our culture. Impressionable young minds have taken this message to heart and today the U.S. contains tens-of-millions of Americans who have abandoned any notion of sound (biblical) morality. They have eagerly adopted the pagan philosophy of “Do as Thou Wilt.”

More tragically, the scourge of “tolerance” has also invaded our churches. My own church’s association, Vineyard USA, like many other American churches, has recently experienced dissension on the issue of homosexuality and marriage. Ken Wilson, senior pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, has recently made headlines over his decision to “come out” in support of homosexuality.  

According to USA Today, “Experts say it might be the first time the pastor of a large evangelical Christian congregation in Michigan, and maybe the U.S., has come out so openly in favor of gay people and same-sex marriage.”

Wilson said his decision was “about welcoming previously excluded groups.” On the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Wilson has also said “we should all ‘agree to disagree’ [which is certainly not the attitude of those leading the homosexual agenda]: Maintain our different convictions, but not judge each other over them, not insist on excluding each other over such matters, and continue to work together in the name of Jesus to do things like alleviate suffering for orphans in abject poverty.”

“Agree to disagree” is simply another way of framing today’s “tolerance.” Of course, Wilson’s position would ignore the suffering that results from homosexual behavior. As is typical with so many who preach “tolerance,” his argument is rooted in multiple straw men (evangelicals generally are “judgmental” and “excluding” when it comes to homosexuals) that make his position seem more “loving.”

What we are really dealing with here is competing views of truth. Those peddling “tolerance” generally reject the notion of absolute truth. As noted apologist William Lane Craig puts it when writing about the Christian perspective on homosexuality, “Today so many people think of right and wrong, not as matters of fact, but as matters of taste.” And if taste determines truth, then we’re all at the mercy of whoever’s in charge, because, ultimately we’re all intolerant. It’s simply a matter of who’s right.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2014, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World