Faculty of Arts


Truth and Tolerance

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for THEOLOGY 708.


Is Christianity tolerant? Should it be? Is tolerance theologically or even politically desirable? Is it just a way of patronising or marginalising people you don't like - a subtle way of exercising power while pretending not to? Or does tolerance serve a positive and even necessary function in pluralist societies? Can we make real claims about the truth while "tolerating" alternative claims, or does tolerance ultimately lead to relativism?

Most modern discussions about political and religious tolerance have their roots in the distinctive history of western Christianity (ie, the Latin-speaking Christianity that gave birth to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism at the time of the Reformation). This course traces competing justifications for religious coercion, freedom and toleration from early Christianity through to the modern period. It pays close attention to the way these ideas played out in the Early Modern period (the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries) when the religious break-up of Europe led first to a century of war and then to the political stalemate out of which the modern theories of religious toleration arose.

The course also looks at debates about religious tolerance and freedom in New Zealand, which, right from the missionary period, imported Europe's religious tensions, as well as the constitutional work-arounds Europeans had developed to resolve them (thus the so-called "fourth article" of the Treaty of Waitangi). How adequate are these work-arounds in a society that is more culturally and religiously diverse than ever? What tolerance can religious communities expect from a state that is secular, and a society in which a large number of people subscribe to no religion? What tolerance can religious communities be expected to show other New Zealanders in return? 

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018




THEOLOGY 708A: 15.0 points

THEOLOGY 708B: 15.0 points



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