Once, in a discussion with a class of Christian high school seniors, I wrote two sentences on the board. The first—“All views are equally valid”—expressed the current understanding of tolerance. All heads nodded. Nothing controversial here.

Then I wrote the second sentence: “Jesus is the Messiah, and Jews are wrong for rejecting him.” Immediately, hands flew up. “You can’t say that,” an annoyed student challenged.

“That’s intolerant,” she said, noting that the second statement violated the first. What she didn’t see was that the first statement also violated itself.

I pointed to the first statement and asked, “Is this a view, the idea that all views have equal merit?” The students all agreed. Then I pointed to the second statement—the “intolerant” one—and asked the same question: “Is this a view?”

Slowly, my point began to dawn on them. They’d been taken in by the tolerance trick.

If all views are equally valid, then the view that Christians are right about Jesus and Jews are wrong is just as valid as the idea that Jews are right and Christians are wrong. But this is hopelessly contradictory. They can’t both be true.


To escape this trap, I told them, return to the classical view characterized by two principles I learned from Peter Kreeft of Boston College:

Be egalitarian regarding persons.

Be elitist regarding ideas.

“Treat people as equally valuable, but treat ideas as if some are better than others,” I said, “because they are. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly doesn’t violate any meaningful standard of tolerance. Some ideas are true; some are false. Some are brilliant; others are dangerous.”

Real tolerance, I explained, is about how we treat people, not ideas. Classic tolerance requires that every person be free to express his ideas without fear of abuse or reprisal, not that all views have equal validity, merit, or truth.


But postmodern tolerance asserts that if you reject another’s ideas, you’re disrespecting the person. On this view, no idea can be opposed, even graciously, without inviting the charge of incivility. The offender can then be maligned, publicly marginalized, and verbally abused as bigoted, disrespectful, ignorant and—can you believe it—intolerant.

Jesus had no need for this kind of manipulation and no interest in it. He took the confrontations as they came and engaged them with intelligence, confidence, and grace. He answered his critics with truth, not with empty charges of intolerance. And he was willing to pay the price for his convictions in what was then a truly intolerant world.

Jesus understands real intolerance better than any of us, not as its perpetrator, but as its prey. In the end, though, he was victor, not victim, defeating all intolerance by an act of sacrificial love.


Mentoring you to model Jesus as you engage others is at the heart of everything we do. Because of you, thousands of believers like you are equipped every day with the knowledge, skill, and tact you need to answer the tolerance trick and other tough challenges that stop too many Christians in their tracks.

But to equip even more believers with the accurate mind, artful method, and attractive manner so needed in the church, I am asking for your generous support today.

The need for the training STR offers is immense, and there’s so much more we’d like to do. Please make a generous gift now to equip even more Christian ambassadors to stand strong for Jesus!

I’m so grateful for the kindness of your friendship. Please respond right away!

Yours for the truth,

Greg Koukl