Love or Truth? Love and Truth? (Carson)

The Intolerance of Tolerance The main point of D. A. Carson’s 2012 book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, is a good one: “[The] new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant” (p. 2).  Carson unpacks that statement pretty well throughout the book.  One thing I want to point out in light of this statement is how Carson discusses the Christian teachings of truth and love later on in chapter five:

“It is not uncommon for the new tolerance to pit truth against love in a zero-sum game: one or the other will be diminished.  If your church has a statement of faith, you may be trying to uphold biblical truth, but love for outsiders will be diminished.  If you think of the Christian faith as articulating, proclaiming, and defending the truth, you will diminish in love, for truth draws borders and establishes that those who disagree with you are ‘other,’ and the inevitable result is lovelessness and intolerance.  You cannot truly love and be passionate for the truth [they say].”

“Biblically speaking, this is a strange position, however popular it is today.  For instance, in his first letter the apostle John establishes three tests of genuine Christian profession: ‘a truth test’ (believers must believe certain things to be true), a love test (believers must genuinely love one another), and an obedience test (believers must do what Jesus says).  Transparently, all of us fail these tests, more or less frequently – and then the only comfort John provides (and it is entirely sufficient) is that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

“The point to observe is that these three tests must be applied together: it is not best two out of three, nor is there an option to excel in one and flunk the other two.  In particular, John senses no discomfort in pushing both truth and love.  One must conclude, therefore, that if we are tempted to pit one against the other, then clearly there is something fundamentally amiss in our conception of truth, of love, or of both” (p. 121).

D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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