Monthly Archives: February 2017

Ten Mangled Words – “Freedom” (1)

Freedom is another word that the disingenuous enjoy. Just as the Tolerazis cry ‘intolerance’ and pose as victims even while they terrorise and bully others, so similar people shout freedom while insisting that others submit to their choices, or at least abdicate legitimate authority over them.

Freedom has a nice ring to our ears. Restraint and submission do not – at least on this side of the Garden. Freedom comes to our ears with almost unquestioned innocence – as if freedom is always the better part that the wise and enlightened choose.

For those who prefer darkness over light, defining freedom is an annoyance. They would prefer a sentimental attachment to a vague notion. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we will quickly see that freedom is related to something outside itself. If you are free, you are free from something, and free to do or be something. So, when people tout their freedom, the first question to ask them is, “what have been freed from?”, followed by, “what have you been released to do?”

Most have not thought of free as a word requiring modification. For them, it means something like, “any sense of burdensome restraint has been lifted from me”, “permission to do all I want” similar to their definition of love, which would be “giving me permission to do what I want without judging me”.

The same inchoate, garbled articulations of freedom are found in the church. They emerge in defences of pet sins: “I’m free in Christ; you can’t bring me back into bondage!” They appear as attempted excuses for rebellion: “I don’t have to live under the bondage of this authoritarian, mind-controlling legalism. Grace has set me free!” They even posture as theological: “We are not under the Law anymore! We must enjoy our liberty!” These represent nothing more than a Christian adoption of the secular idea of freedom, giving it a (tacky) theological gloss.

Freedom or liberty might be properly defined as freely choosing to do what one ought. The various kinds of freedom – religious liberty, political liberty, individual liberty – are various applications of this idea. This definition is inescapably grounded in a transcendental view of reality. Liberty, in its complete sense, is composed of two parts: the free choice, and what the free choice is for – how it ought to be used. Oughtness can only be defined by an appeal to human nature, which is an appeal to natural law, and divine revelation. What we ought to do, is what is good for human flourishing, what is in accord with our created nature, what corresponds to the Divine intention of man – these can only be defined by appealing to the court of Design: what man is, and what he was made for.

Defining what we ought to do based on modern bureaucrat-speak in an exercise in circular definition or nonce-speak. Progress, communitybuilding, interests of society, healthy societies, harmony are all words that attempt to hide the essential need for values to rest on ultimate ideas. Progress towards what? What should a community, when properly built, look like? What exactly is in the interest of society? What constitutes health in a society, and what does the diagnosis of societal sickness contain? Around what kind of unity should society’s members harmonise? Of course, secular bureaucrats and educationists will never attempt to answer these questions, for it would impale them upon the sharp edges of some religious definition of reality, which they scrupulously avoid. But unless we define what man ought to do, we cannot define what he should freely choose. Liberty is inextricably linked to human nature.

According to this definition, freely choosing to do what one ought not to do is a move towards tyranny or anarchy. Freely choosing sin or evil may be an exercise of one side of liberty, but is an abuse of liberty, and therefore an incremental surrender of liberty. In the created order, abuse of liberty cannot go on indefinitely without enslaving the one abusing it. This is Paul’s point in Romans 6: whatever we freely yield to becomes our master. The tyrannical master of sin curtails our liberties until we find ourselves unable to freely choose anything but sin. The anarchical nature of depraved human nature means that the liberty of sin is a nightmarish nihilism, a torturous chaos, a quicksand of corrosive pleasures. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” (2 Pet. 2:19).

Mastery by Christ brings the liberty of continued submission: “I love my master; I will not go out free”. (Ex 21:5)

Rehabilitating “Tolerance” (3)

How do we rehabilitate this word?

First, we must insist that tolerance does not mean agreement, nor does disagreement mean intolerance. Tolerance actually suggests disagreement, for when you agree with someone, you do not merely tolerate him, you agree with him and welcome his opinions. We must patiently explain that disagreement or disapproval of one another’s opinions and actions is expected in a secular society where we have been thrown together through the involuntary forces of birth and economics. Peace is preserved by tolerating the other person’s opinion, and even action, though we may, and should be permitted to, voice public disagreement or disapproval.

Second, we must distinguish between private intolerance and public intolerance. Private intolerance may be disassociating with someone, switching off the radio or closing the browser window, refusing to purchase or sell somewhere, or refusing someone admission to your home. These intolerances are part of the freedoms of individuals. For a government to mandate or forbid these freedoms for the society at large, or for individuals to call for such, is tyranny. I cannot expect a secular society to outlaw what I refuse in my own home or private company, if such is not destructive to the society at large, nor can I insist they mandate all that I tolerate or choose. Conversely, unless my speech or activity is physically destructive to persons or property, no government should outlaw what I tolerate in my private capacity. We must maintain a clear distinction between the private freedom to disagree and disassociate, from what governments get to do through force.

Third, public intolerance (for that is the kind people are really talking about) can only be enacted by human government. What a society deems to be intolerable to its existence (murder, theft, treason) can only be removed by the rule of law. Human government is established by God for the preservation of order in human society. However much Christians feel the evil of abortion, no Christian is authorised to enact some form of public intolerance: harming doctors performing abortions, blocking access to abortion clinics, or sabotaging the private property of such places. Vigilante justice only increases the chances of anarchy, which is always followed by tyranny. In times of confusion, Christians of all people should make it clear that public intolerance belongs to the civil authorities.

Finally, Christians should do their utmost to urge that civil law be based upon natural law. As societies abandon transcendent moral principles, they flounder to judge what is genuinely tolerable and intolerable to a society. At such moments, rulers are susceptible to popular opinion, particularly the increasingly vocal opinions of the liberal left. If enough people claim that Christian orthodoxy is hate-speech, rulers may imagine a real threat to society where there is none, and make publicly intolerable what ought to be a matter of private intolerance. People don’t have to listen to Christian radio stations or read Christian books, but Christians should have the freedom to state Christian ideas in public. As long as those ideas (whether implemented or merely considered) do not incite violence – i.e. public intolerance – the society should tolerate their expression. Natural law will consider whether ideas and their expression harm the public good, by considering if those ideas and expressions are good or evil, not if they are popular or current with the prevailing political correctness.

As long as Christians accept the way the word tolerance is currently used, we will become slowly strangled by its anti-Christian meanings. Let us graciously challenge error with truth.

Tolerance (2) – We Oppressed Left-Handers

It is becoming abundantly clear to many that the call for tolerance has in fact not been a call to tolerate all opinions everywhere, but to express agreement and endorsement of certain groups and positions. The LGBT community, feminists, non-Christian religions, minorities or previously oppressed ethnicities are usually those said to be suffering from intolerance from others and requiring greater tolerance from others.

This is a tad disingenuous, for two reasons. First, if there were no tolerance of such groups, their voices would not be heard in the media, and their marches would be illegal. They would be in jail or worse, as the non-tolerated often are in despotic countries. Once again, tolerance is not the same as agreement. Christians and non-Christians don’t agree on the meaning of life, but our children play in the same parks, and we peacefully stand in the same queues. This is tolerance.

Second, the eclectic nature of the group supposedly needing more tolerance or experiencing intolerance seems suspiciously close to the List of the Previously Non-tolerated produced by liberal Western professors. When Marxism was in the ascendancy, liberal professors classified everything according to class warfare and economic motives. Now the hip rhetoric is to speak of oppression, domination, and ‘ontologies of violence’. All things Western and Christian (and in some cases, white or male) tend to be cast as oppressors exhibiting physical or verbal violence on all things non-Western and non-Christian. The tolerazis posture as championing freedom for previously oppressed groups, but it is obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the crusade is not so much for freedom for all as much as it is about limiting (or extinguishing) the voice of historic Christian or Western views. The New Tolerance is not for Christians – you’ve been tolerated long enough, don’t you know – it is for those on the List of Previously Non-Tolerated. But the List is not consistent.

Here’s an example. I happen to be left-handed. Now consider just how oppressed we left-handers have been, and what sort of tolerance we are now entitled to.

First, in almost every language, the word for ‘left’ is connected with the ideas of evil, deception, inferiority, or things sinister, while the words for ‘right’ suggest trust, correctness, goodness, or ability. To think of how the rhetoric of violence has used language to prejudice the other ninety percent of the world against us just chills my blood.

Second, many societies have (and some still do) force left-handed children to write with their right hand, being told that the left hand is the dirty hand, or the hand for cleaning oneself. This has caused learning difficulties for many. We’ve been held back economically, to advantage the right-handed. I’d be richer right now, if it weren’t for this economic intolerance.

Third, the world has trampled on our rights, neglecting our needs when it has come to door-handles, scissors, cars, can-openers and potato-peelers, the direction of reading, writing, and books in the West, and computer mice. We have been struggling through a world set up to favour the right-handed.

We left-handers check all the boxes for the List of Previously Non-Tolerated:

* we are a minority
* our difference has been historically frowned upon
* people have tried to change us
* we have been at a social and economic disadvantage

To counter the vicious intolerance of left-handedness, and to promote society-wide tolerance of left-handedness, should I not march for left-handed equality? Should there not be a government-grant for left-handers to compensate me for the fact that I cannot cut straight? Should I lobby to have the terms “in his right mind” or “right-hand man” or “righteous” deemed culturally offensive and examples of micro-aggressions? Can we not classify the term “two left feet” as hate-speech? Should building codes and rezoning laws not be changed to reflect the reality of left-handers entering and exiting those buildings? Should right-handers not become automatically guilty of “handism” – a sin which I, as a left-hander, am completely immune to? Indeed, all right-handers are implicated in this systemic oppression which uses language, the media, and the economy to deny me my rights – my lefts, that is. Should they not contribute to some reparation tax?

Well, this illustration, as facetious as it is, shows the farce of the New Tolerance. The reason I don’t get to do any of those things is that left-handers are manifestly tolerated in the society I live in. I don’t need more tolerance, however much intolerance once existed. However much people might think us weird, no one imprisons us or executes us. We’re tolerated, in a secular society, precisely as many of the other groups on the List are tolerated. Perhaps some disapproval still exists. But no one, in the society I live in, is expelling left-handers from society itself by imprisonment, deportation, death-threats or execution.

More to my point, the fact that left-handers don’t make the List of the previously Non-Tolerated shows that the criteria for inclusion are eminently flexible, and ultimately, hypocritical. I have a hunch that the fact that left-handers are truly representative of every ethnicity, religion, and gender (including white Christian males) might be a reason we don’t make the List. In truth, I don’t want to be on the List – but I can’t see a very good reason, by their stated criteria, that I’m not.

To be clear, tyrannical intolerance is an evil. I am not mocking the genuine suffering that humans have inflicted on each other, or the true oppression (which God hates) that has happened and still happens. Racism, religious violence, or other acts of intimidation are evil, and Christians must shun them. What deserves our scorn is the hypocritical New Tolerance, which selectively tolerates, and is openly intolerant of Christians. It postures as a liberator, but it is a tyrant. It preaches freedom, but it means to enslave. It speaks of love, but it loves only those who love it – and woe betide those who do not.

Ten Mangled Words – “Tolerance”

Words are more than names. Words are things that either correspond to something in reality, or fail to. When words fail to correspond to something true about God’s reality, they become part of the darkening of human understanding. Like a sign pointing the wrong way, like a faulty map, the mangled word gives the human mind a false inner reality, and distorts the truth.

One of those words is tolerance. Tolerance, today, means something like embracing and approving of people and ideas without criticism. The tolerant man is the one who does not merely live peacefully with his neighbour, but muzzles any criticism he might have of his neighbour. That’s about as close as one can get to defining the modern idea of tolerance, because it is more of an elastic sentiment than a clear idea, one which morphs according to the target of its protectiveness, or, as the case may be, its inchoate resentments.

This idea of tolerance is incoherent, and not even internally consistent. It will soon be apparent why.

First, there is no such thing as absolute tolerance. No one tolerates everything. Every society sets limits on its tolerance, and those actions or ideas it finds intolerable, it punishes. Few societies, at least in principle, tolerate murder or treason. No school tolerates all behaviour, no employer tolerates all work, no country tolerates all views. When the point of intolerance is reached, some form of coercion follows: a spanking, a jail term, expulsion, public shaming, violence, or even execution. Sometimes this is evil; sometimes it is not. The question before us not, should we tolerate intolerance (for it is unavoidable)? The real question is: when should we be intolerant?

Second, modern tolerance tolerates only versions of itself. That is, it tolerates only those who have imbibed its idea of tolerance. Any person or group that holds different views on what should be tolerated and when, becomes a target of its ire. Indeed, Christians who hold to the authority of Scripture soon find that their view will not be tolerated. It is the transparent contradiction that the tolerazis cannot see: they are viciously intolerant of those who don’t embrace their view of tolerance.

Third, modern tolerance cannot distinguish between tolerance and agreement. If one agrees completely with another view, tolerance is not necessary. Tolerance, in fact, requires disagreement to make sense at all. Tolerance involves forbearance with a view as it is expressed, or even with a practice, without resorting to any of the coercive methods that stop it altogether. The modern idea of tolerance insists that one must agree with the view, and that disagreement counts as intolerance. To truly tolerate under this regime, only silent disagreement is permitted. Furthermore, publicly prosecuting your own view, if it conflicts with others, constitutes intolerance.

Much of this stems from secular relativism. If absolute truth is impossible or non-existent, then every man is right in his own eyes. As such, to express disagreement with his ‘personal truth’ becomes a kind of violation of his being, since it is apparently true only in his being. Once truth has contracted to exist only in individual brains, the only way to protect it is to prohibit public disagreement.

Were we to take this farce to its logical end, we should end all debate, discussion or dialogue. Again, the fact that the tolerazis would disagree with this post, demonstrates that they have to equivocate on the meaning of tolerance.