Barth and religious tolerance

What is tolerance? Well, tolerance must not be confused with:

  1. “The moderation of those who actually have their own religion or religiosity, and are secretly zealous for it, but who can exercise self-control, because they have told themselves or have been told that theirs is not the only faith, that fanaticism is a bad thing, that love must always have the first and the last word.”
  2. “The clever aloofness of the rationalistic Know-All — the typical Hegelian belongs to the same category — who thinks that he can deal comfortably and in the end successfully with all religions in the light of a concept of a perfect religion which is gradually evolving in history.”
  3. “The relativism and impartiality of an historical skepticism, which does not ask about truth and untruth in the field of religious phenomena, because it thinks that truth can be known only in the form of its own doubt about all truth. This kind of tolerance is unattainable because the object, religion and religions, and therefore man, are not taken seriously, but are at bottom patronized.”

Thus, “tolerance in the sense of moderation [the usual type, I plead guilty], or superior knowledge [the modern type], or skepticism [the postmodern type] is actually the worst form of intolerance.”

So, why do we have to treat religion and religions with tolerance? It must be so because of “the forbearance of Christ, which derives therefore from the knowledge that by grace God has reconciled to Himself godless man and his religion.” Therefore, this kind of tolerance “is possible only for those who are ready to abase themselves and their religion together with man, with every individual man, knowing that they first, and their religion, have need of tolerance, a strong forbearing tolerance.” (I/2, 299) We treat religions with tolerance because we ourselves stand under the judgment of God. What is common or “properly basic” (à la Plantingian reformed epistemology) among all religions is not belief in God but unbelief in God.

2 thoughts on “Barth and religious tolerance

    1. septian Post author

      i really like how he puts those who think that “truth can be known only in the form of its own doubt about all truth.” it gives you a glimpse of (how he perceived) the early days of postmodernism.


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