Tolerance, Externalism and Holiness


Orwell described a time in which words would mean precisely the opposite of what one expected them to mean. Hence, in the propaganda of the ruling party in his novel’s slave State, “freedom” came to mean “slavery.” In the decades after Orwell’s predicted date, this inversion of meaning appears in more ways than we might suspect. Surely, for instance, “tolerance” and “freedom” are among our society’s most cherished values, with deep roots in the Judeo–Christian heritage. Yet whereas “tolerance” once meant the willingness of those with some sense of ethical boundaries to permit others, within equally obvious limitations, to step beyond those boundaries, now “tolerance” has come to mean the abolition of all standards and thus “intolerance” against anyone who insists on maintaining consistent criteria of morality and truth. This inversion of terms pervades modern and postmodern society, affecting the church as well. As in society at large, so in the church those who would maintain any standards of Christian conduct are dismissed as intolerant, and freedom in Christ is interpreted in ways that seem to contradict Paul’s explanation of “freedom” in Romans 6 and Galatians 5. Tolerance, Externalism and Holiness shows the direct link between issues dividing contemporary Christians and the most divisive issues of society generally, such as the rise of movements deliberately aimed at abolishing time-tested patterns of marriage, family life and ethics. This seminal book’s depth of historical and philosophical insight into these issues, presented from a consistent Biblical perspective, will bring new resolution to a believer’s vision of both the world and the experience of true Christian liberty.