There are two kinds of tolerant societies. The first is one which contains the principles of liberty within its framework of foundational values, and the second is a society in transition, flipping from one set of intolerances to another set. During the switch, during the transition, demands for tolerance are the battering ram used against the establishment intolerance, in order to make way for the new set of intolerances. As it suits them, advocates of the rising intolerance may pretend to be principled in their tolerance, but it is all just a sham.And so let us react to the coercion more than the cussing . . .
Speaking frankly, just between us girls, the first kind of tolerant society is a Christian society. Liberty of conscience is something that we Christians invented. “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship” (WCF 20.2). This is a topic well worth pursuing, and I would recommend this book as part of that pursuit.
Now we are currently in the late stages of transition, from a formerly liberal society to a very illiberal one. That liberal society was the leftover detritus from a formerly Calvinistic and truly tolerant society. Consequently, our tattered liberal society does not have any principles that are fixed in transcendent realities, and hence they are not capable of answering the new totalitarians.
It is not quite over and done, however. We know that we are still in transition because of how the debates can run:
1. “We can no longer tolerate hatred, however much it might be decked out in the language of traditional values. Either that traditional view must be eradicated or the new view of absolute human autonomy must be eliminated.” 2. “Very well, then. Since you force us to choose, we will stay with traditional understanding of society, sexuality, and marriage. The new understanding of absolute human autonomy must go.” 3. “You can’t do that. The free exchange of ideas in the marketplace of ideas is one of the hallmarks of a great society.”
As soon as the comeback under #2 disappears, so will the freedom. But as long as there are some Christians around to observe that the emperor is in fact nekkid, there will some others waving learned references to fig leaves they read about in a book once.
Like a circle, every society must have a center. That center is defined by the central principle of worship. The center must actually be a center, and a society cannot have two centers, any more than a circle can have two. If you have two centers, that means you have two societies, and one of them must prevail. So one circle can displace another one, and one center can replace the previous center. That can happen, but when a circle tolerates a new center it is in the process of ceasing to be a circle. Just so you know.
So Christian societies have a center, just like Muslim societies do, or Hindu societies do, or secular societies do. A society must have a center. The thing that distinguishes Christian societies is not the fact that they have a center. Christ is the arche, the principle of all integration, the center of all things. How could He not be? He rose from the dead, and He is Lord.
The thing that distinguishes Christian societies is not the fact of their center, but rather the size of their circumference — which is only possible because the center is a true center. Christians can afford liberty for others because Jesus rose from the dead, which was kind of a show-stopper. It is not easy for Christians, who serve a risen Lord, and who believe in the general resurrection of the dead, to be threatened by an atheist baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a little Catholic girl’s first communion party. Compare this to how threatened secularists are — the phrase “freak out” comes to mind — when someone politely declines to celebrate their lesbian nuptials with them.
And so this is why progressive bigots would have real freedoms in a Christian society, the kind of freedoms that Christians could not have in theirs. But there is more to it than that. Progressives would have many more freedoms in a Christian society than they would have in any particular hellholes that they might fashion for themselves. The revolution does not just devour God’s people like bread, the revolution also devours her own. Robespierre was not executed by the Christian Coalition. Trotsky was not taken out by the pope. Filostrato and Straik are sacrificed by Wither.
Real Christians love liberty, and real Christians love to share. But the only thing we cannot surrender is the one possible foundation of love and liberty, revealed first to Mary Magdalene. If the dead are not raised, there is no reason not to bite and devour.
Authors: Douglas Wilson