Friday, May 12, 2017

Humility

We all know that the Bible lists humility as a virtue. Paul wrote, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil 2:3) (which, by the way, is something we all tend to do poorly) and then went on to give his prime example of this: Christ (Phil 2:5-8). As Christians, we ought to have the same humility that Christ had. This is true.

And, yet, it appears that the current popular thinking of the day is that we ought to have more humility than Christ had. How is that? One of the things that caused Him to stand out to people was that "He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Matt 7:29) Jesus stood without embarrassment or wavering on God and His Word. He didn't fumble about when Satan tested Him in the desert; He answered with Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). He assured His listeners that God's Word was ultimate and reliable (Matt 5:17-20). His "proof" was often "Have you not read ...?" (e.g., Matt 12:3; Matt 19:4; Matt 22:31; Mark 12:26) To Jesus, the Scriptures were always right (e.g., Matt 22:29; Matt 26:54; Mark 12:24; Luke 24:45). Not us. Today we are assured that genuine humility means constant uncertainty.

I, of course, would disagree. First, there's the odd fact that those people who are pushing so hard for "humility" by which they mean "you can't know for sure you're right" are quite sure they're right and you're wrong if you aren't "humble" as they mean it. Kind of a self-defeating argument. But I don't think that's what we find in Scripture, nor would I imagine that if "God is not a God of confusion" (1 Cor 14:33) He would have left this all to be so confusing.

Let's keep in mind that we are warned not to go alone (2 Peter 1:20). We are supposed to have the Holy Spirit. We are supposed to learn from teachers. We have the text, the context, and lots and lots of commentaries. And we have Church history from which to draw. There is lots to go on here that is not limited to "me and my closed little mind". There are key principles -- context, interpreting the implicit from the explicit, the clear meaning, word-studies, Bible dictionaries, logical coherence, comparison of parallel biblical concepts, proper understanding of literature types ... lots of tools and principles. I mean, it's not like we're all alone out here.

You'd think that the right handling of Scripture was to be "never certain", but Jesus was always certain. He didn't muddle about with "Were Adam and Eve real?" (Matt 13:35; Mark 10:6) or "Did Jonah really get swallowed by a fish?" (Matt 12:39-41) or "Noah's Flood didn't actually happen, right?" (Mat 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27) or the like. Jesus viewed Scripture as understandable (Luke 24:25), infallible (John 10:35), and authoritative (Matt 4:1-11). The Bible claims that it is suitable to make God's people "perfect" (complete), "equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Now, if Jesus believed this about Scripture and Jesus taught Scripture with authority and God has provided all these resources with which to understand His Word, how ought we to go forward? We should, of course, be "rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15), but from my perspective the idea that we should be perpetually uncertain is more arrogant than humble. "Yeah, yeah, our Lord and Savior wasn't like that and God has certainly provided us with lots of ways to understand His Word, but we're too clever to fall for that. We'll remain ... humble."

2 comments:

Craig said...

We also have multiple instances of Peter doing the same thing.

Marshall Art said...

False humility indeed. But then, if we're certain, how can we indulge in that which certainty dictates we shouldn't?