Book Notes: The Spiritual Condition of Infants / The Intolerance of Tolerance
Notes on two books I’ve read recently:
The Spiritual Condition of Infants:
A Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal
Wipf and Stock, 2011
What happens to infants who die? Most evangelicals agree that infants, though born in sin, go to heaven. But the way that evangelicals come to that conclusion varies, and the theological steps one takes to that conclusion can have ramifications in other areas, including the question of those who have not heard the gospel.
Adam Harwood’s The Spiritual Condition of Infants wades into the deep waters of speculation on this sensitive issue by providing a helpful survey of the views of sixteen theologians as well as an exegetical look at relevant passages. Arguing against the “spontaneous regeneration” view of Wayne Grudem, Harwood’s conclusion is similar to that of Millard Erickson and William Hendricks, that infants inherit a sinful nature from Adam but become guilty only when they sin. Harwood’s view would have been bolstered by appealing to the Eastern Orthodox view that Christ had a sinful nature and yet was sinless. But even as it stands, this is a careful, thoughtful book on a difficult and sensitive subject.
The Intolerance of Tolerance
D. A. Carson
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012
A few years ago, I was reading through D. A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited and benefiting greatly from his analysis of the church within our contemporary Western setting. He made some helpful remarks in that book about the “new tolerance.” Now, several years later, Carson has written an entire book on this subject. The heart of the book is a contrasting of “old tolerance” and “new tolerance.” He writes:
The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own. We move from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions; we leap from permitting the articulation of beliefs and claims with which we do not agree to asserting that all beliefs and claims are equally valid. Thus we slide from the old tolerance to the new.
The rest of the book unpacks the slide from “old” tolerance to “new.” Along the way, Carson exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of the new tolerance as well as its hypocritical application in a way that muzzles the viewpoints of religious people and those with objective notions of morality. In the end, Carson explains that Christians who attempt to be faithful to the Scriptures will necessarily uphold certain truths as being true regardless of relativism’s tyranny. This is timely work that gets to the heart of contemporary controversies over religious freedom and political involvement.