Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
The great apologist Greg Bahnsen spoke often about the myth of neutrality which we must work to tear down in the minds of others. That myth goes like this: It is vital to take a “neutral stance, a non-committal attitude”* toward, well, anything really important. Whether trust in Scripture or thoughts on bioethical issues or philosophical beliefs – the new moral high ground, it seems, is neutrality. You will be best received if you are able to communicate an air of being “above it all,” unaffected by anything as corrupting as conviction.
Enter the New Tolerance. Built upon the myth of neutrality, the new tolerance is how that myth comes to us in the real world. Proving and explaining this new tolerance dogma is the goal of this 1998 book by the same name (Tyndale Pub.).
The authors begin by carefully explaining how the new tolerance is different from the old tolerance. The old tolerance meant that we could respect people and bear with their beliefs, while not being forced to call those beliefs true or valid. The old tolerance says we live in peace, despite differences, we accept others regardless of race, creed, etc.
The new tolerance, however, is based on a different assumption about truth: “Truth is relative to the community in which a person participates. And since there are many human communities, there are necessarily many different truths.” (
McDowell and Hostetler use the majority of their book to prove that this new tolerance really is the problem they say it is. Toward that end, the book is chock full of newspaper clippings, testimonials from students and parents, and so on. Identifying and pinpointing the problem is really the strength of this book. Fixing the problem isn’t; when it comes to the chapter on “The More Excellent Way”, the authors have little to offer other than “love your neighbor.” While this is a great and true commandment, they deny the fact that the missionfield is also a battlefield – that we have to be ready to tear down strongholds and defend the faith, graciously and lovingly.
The New Tolerance is effective in proving and defining the problem. It is not so great in helping to overcome it or even prepare to meet it. For that task, we do better to read authors like Greg Bahnsen, Larry Pratt, R.C. Sproul, jr., and Cornelius Van Til. Should you buy this book? If anecdotal evidence helps you grasp a situation more comprehensively and you’re a person who interacts with the tolerance dogma on a regular basis, this would be a helpful book. If you’re already convinced, you should probably move on to authors who will help you prepare for battle.
* From Always Ready, Greg Bahnsen, 3. I must say I dislike the use of the word “myth” in this way, because it implies that every myth is false. Some myths are good myths, reflecting Biblical truths…but I digress.