The Passive-Agressive Tolerance Trick

images-1We are not blank slates. Everybody has presuppositions. The problem is with the person who doesn’t think he has any. They are the ones who pull the passive-aggressive tolerance trick. As you can guess if you have followed my last eight posts, I have experienced online the passive-aggressive tolerance trick in several variations. What is the passive-aggressive tolerance trick? Here it is explained in Greg Koukl’s book, Tactics:

There is no neutral ground when it comes to the tolerance question. Everybody has a point of view she thinks is right, and everybody passes judgment at some point or another. The biblically orthodox Christian gets pigeonholed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too, even people who consider themselves relativists. I call this the passive-aggressive tolerance trick. The key to understanding this trick is knowing that everyone thinks his own beliefs are correct. If people didn’t think their beliefs were true, they wouldn’t believe them. They’d believe something else and think that was true.

This is how it works:

“You’re intolerant.”
“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you consider me an intolerant person?”
“Well, it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.”
“I guess I do think my views are correct. It’s always possible I could be mistaken, but in this case I don’t think I am. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your own views are right?”
“Yes, I think I’m right, too. But I’m not intolerant. You are.”
“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing?”

Of course, you are not missing anything; she is. Her move is simple name-calling. Labeling you as intolerant is no different than calling you ugly. One is an attack on your looks. The other is an attack on your character. Neither is useful in helping you understand the merits of any idea you may be discussing.

Koukl, Gregory (2009-05-26). Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (pp. 78-79). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Some interpretations are better than others in their accuracy to the meaning of the text of Scripture. I’d like to make sure that I am not distorting the Scriptures and the only way I am going to avoid a distortion error is to know my presuppositions and be willing to test them, to critique them and allow them to be critiqued by others.

The most dangerous person is not the person who brings his presuppositions to a passage of Scripture. The most dangerous person is the one who thinks he is not doing that and doesn’t examine them.

6 thoughts on “The Passive-Agressive Tolerance Trick

  1. Regarding tolerance, I read an interesting book by Any Orr-Ewing recently (IVP 2008) “But is it real?” in which she makes the observation that if tolerance can be defined as ‘the willingness to accept or tolerate somebody or something, especially opinions or behaviour that you may not agree with, or people who are not like you’, it is ironic that for tolerance to be real the integrity of different belief systems and cultures must be maintained. A charge of intolerance therefore for someone with a strong point of view, must in itself be intolerant. Perhaps an issue here is a misunderstanding or a re-defining of the term ‘tolerance’.

    1. Indeed, a well thought out analysis of the shift in meaning of ‘tolerance’ is D.A. Carson’s “Intolerance of Tolerance.”

    1. The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) does not ordain women to the presbyterate or episcopate.

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