Tolerance: Two Kinds

“Conyers argues that the practice of toleration actually antedated the early modern theory, although the practice differed by time and place.  Modern toleration, as an instrument of state power, enabled kings, soldiers, and bureaucrats to level out intermediate social institutions which once stood between individuals and the state. The result was not freedom, properly understood, but “Napoleon, War, Empire” (p. 10). 

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s terms, it was the triumph of “organized” authority over “natural” authority.  Given the crisis in which Christian European civilization found itself, the strong state imposing tolerance (once imposing uniformity had proved too costly) seemed a reasonable solution. But toleration literally means to “bear with,” to put up with error; this implies a standard of judgment. Late modern tolerance claims there are no certain standards.”