Judge Not?

Relativists believe they've discovered the ultimate weapon against the sense of right and wrong—a hydrogen bomb for the culture war and a doomsday machine against conscience. What is it? The accusation of "intolerance." If you think public officials ought to tell the truth, then you're "intolerant and judgmental." If you say man cannot live without God, you're "intolerant and arrogant." If you support the idea that marriage means one man and one woman, you're "intolerant and prejudiced." Like a powerful acid, the accusation of intolerance eats away at traditional morality, leaving nothing behind but threads. It seems that in today's culture the only way to be tolerant is to be morally "neutral"—to avoid moral judgments altogether and let everything slide. Well, don't give up hope. University of Texas Professor Jay Budziszewski sets forth the ultimate defense against the relativist's ultimate weapon: the power of logic. You see, those who shout "intolerance" are abusing the word in three ways, and all three are logical fallacies. The first of these, what Budziszewski calls the "Let-it-Be" Fallacy, is that tolerance just means tolerating, and the more you tolerate, the more tolerant you are. But logically that can't be true, because if it were, you would have to tolerate even intolerance. According to the "Skeptical" Fallacy, having convictions about right and wrong is intolerant, so the more you doubt, the more tolerant you are. But that can't be true either, because if it were, it would be wrong to hold the conviction that tolerance is good. According to the "Apologetic" Fallacy, speaking out about your convictions is the most intolerant you can be, so the more timid you are, the more tolerant you are. But this mistake is as silly as the other two because, if it were true, you would be too timid to speak out even about the importance of being tolerant. We see, then, that the relativist's idea of "moral neutrality" simply contradicts itself at every point. So why do we constantly hear the accusation of intolerance? Well, in the first place, the accusation is never applied consistently. It's applied selectively as a way to demoralize Christians and other defenders of traditional morality. For the accuser, too, makes judgments about right and wrong; it's just that his moral judgments are the only ones he wants people to be able to make. He judges that public officials don't have to be honest, that man can live without God, and that marriage doesn't mean a relationship limited to a man and a woman. The second reason is that the accusation makes the accuser feel virtuous, because he gets to call the other person intolerant. Not only that, he feels free because he's under the illusion that he has no responsibility for his own moral judgments—after all, it's always the other person who is "judgmental." We need to know that it isn't intolerant to make moral judgments, because we have to make judgments just to know what to tolerate. Jay Budziszewski's new book, The Revenge of Conscience, is an excellent resource for improving your understanding of these issues and defeating the arguments of relativism. True tolerance is not a total lack of judgment. It's knowing what should be tolerated—and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn't.


Chuck Colson


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