The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit

Overview

Reconsidering one of our central political dogmas, a distinguished theologian argues that the principle of toleration—as reformulated over the last four centuries—is not the bulwark of social harmony that it appears. A. J. Conyers shows that toleration, by banishing questions of ultimate meaning from public life, has aided the consolidation of power in the state while debasing our politics and undermining social cohesion.

It is customary to regard the principle of toleration as ...

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Overview

Reconsidering one of our central political dogmas, a distinguished theologian argues that the principle of toleration—as reformulated over the last four centuries—is not the bulwark of social harmony that it appears. A. J. Conyers shows that toleration, by banishing questions of ultimate meaning from public life, has aided the consolidation of power in the state while debasing our politics and undermining social cohesion.

It is customary to regard the principle of toleration as the reasonable and humane solution to the religious strife that ravaged Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The real history of toleration, however, is considerably more complicated. Professor Conyers shows that the new nation-states of early modern Europe—comprehensive, jealous, and demanding—propagated a novel version of toleration based on indifference to all values other than political power and material prosperity. By dissolving the loyalties that bound men to their church, their family, and the other intermediate institutions, toleration produced the modern "bi-polar society," in which the isolated citizen confronts the unmediated power of the state. In its modern form, then, toleration is not a virtue but a strategy for the relentless imposition of secularism in the service of power and profit.

Professor Conyers attacks the modern superstition that our only choice is between bloody sectarian conflict and the suppression of all transcendent concerns. A more authentic model of toleration is to be found, surprisingly enough, in pre-Reformation Christianity, which preached humility rather than indifference.

Author Biography: A. J. Conyers is a professor at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Among his previous books are How to Read the Bible, The Eclipse of Heaven, and The End: What the Gospels Say About the Last Things.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Conyers (theology, Baylor Univ.; How To Read the Bible) examines the philosophy of toleration and its application through history, tracing the path of this rarely questioned principle to its current place in our culture and government. By examining the concept of tolerance as viewed by Thomas Hobbes, Pierre Bayle, John Locke, and others, he shows that, historically, toleration has existed in groups and societies that had moral purposes and a conscience. Whereas toleration had historically been group related, now we see individual personal preference as a major basis for toleration. Conyers contends that as a public policy tolerance is used to lay the ground for peace and harmony, but instead of protecting minority groups, it allows for the centralization of power and indifference to values. Conyers believes that there is a need, in humility, to recover God's overall purpose of "telos," a morality that recognizes final causes. This thought-provoking study is recommended for academic libraries. George Westerlund, formerly with the Providence P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Contrasting it to a Christian concept of a toleration that comes from humility while still seeking and asserting a universal truth, Conyers (Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor U.) argues that "toleration as a modern doctrine...has little to do with the survival of minority groups and everything to do with the centralizing of [state] power." He looks at the development of the concept of toleration in the works of Thomas Hobbes, Pierre Bayle, John Locke, Frederick Nietszche, and other philosophers and concludes that toleration without a reference to ultimate values necessarily leads to the conclusion that the power of the state must override the values of any groups ruled by that state. Finally he turns to Christian theology to offer an alternative that relies on the humility of the individual to make the formation of groups possible. He seems to believe that this formation of the idea leads to an ecumenical process that seeks to (and will) embrace all humanity. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
In The Long Truce: How Toleration Made The World Safe For Power And Profit, A.J. Conyers (professor at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, Waco, Texas) reveals how the new, comprehensive, jealous, and demanding nation-states of early modern Europe propagated a novel version of toleration based on indifference to all values other than political power and material prosperity. By dissolving the loyalties that had previously bound European men to their church, family, and other intermediate institutions, toleration produced the modern "bi-polar society" in which the isolated citizen confronts the unmediated power of the state. In its modern form, toleration evolved not as a virtue, but as a strategy for the relentless imposition of secularism in the service of power and profit. Original, scholarly, fascinating, iconoclastic, Professor Conyers' The Long Truce is stimulating, informative, iconoclastic, "reader friendly", and a very highly recommended addition to any personal or academic reading list or reference collection in European social history, economic history, and political development.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890626365
  • Publisher: Spence Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 12/28/2008
  • Edition description: 2
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

A. J. Conyers (1946-2004) was Professor of Theology at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. His previous books include, The Listening Heart: Vocation and the Crisis of Modern Culture (2001), The Eclipse of Heaven (1999), and The End: What the Gospels Say About the Last Things (1995).

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 The Cunning of History 3
2 The Ecumenical Impulse 21
3 A Feeling of Uncertainty 45
4 Thomas Hobbes and the Fears of Modernity 66
5 Pierre Bayle and the Modern Sanctity of the Individual 88
6 John Locke and the Politics of Toleration 121
7 The Triumph of Toleration 147
8 The Shadow Leviathan 169
9 Nihilism and the Catholic Vision 196
10 High Tolerance 225
Notes 247
Index 262
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