Tolerance is often seen as a great virtue in Western societies, and has at times been held out as a moral absolute. The problem is that some points of view seem intolerable. Most obviously, those calling for universal tolerance cannot generally tolerate those who are themselves intolerant or call on others to be intolerant.
To those who are not Christian, the views of Christians are sometimes intolerable, and this results in inconsistency over the degree to which tolerance is commanded as a public virtue. Christians, particularly evangelicals, are often urged to be tolerant of ethical systems which contradict our own viewpoint. Disagreeing with the majority in society is seen as disagreeable behaviour. Our own views cannot be tolerated.
But I was fascinated to see the same kind of argument being made in an academic theological review recently. As I was reading through the latest set of RBL reviews, I noticed that this rather critical reviewer starts her concluding paragraph with this statement:
That people are more willing to adhere to biblically based theological convictions than they are to searching out the implications of their convictions is something that we, in the twenty-first century, can no longer afford to tolerate from otherwise loving people.
The reviewer agrees with the book’s author about what the text of 1 Peter says. But while she is refreshingly honest that her disagreement is with the Biblical text (rather than simply its interpretation), I was rather horrified by her explicit statement that those who honestly follow the injunctions of the Bible must not be tolerated any longer.