Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Dangerous Humility

As we approach the bible, we must do so with a correct dose of humility. The scriptures present some topics that are difficult to understand. It is wise to remind ourselves that when we ponder these issues we should be careful about the conclusions we draw. In particular, let's avoid thinking that we have everything figured out. Too much confidence in our own interpretations is prideful and frequently leads to division within the body of Christ. The prudent believer will consult other Christians prior to making firm judgments about the meanings of particular texts.

What I've described above is an appropriate humility.

When it comes to interpreting scripture, a different type of humility also exists - a dangerous humility.

This dangerous humility takes humility to the extreme. It basically says that we cannot really know what the bible means. Therefore, we shouldn't be dogmatic about anything. This false form of humility is dangerous because it takes direct aim at the gospel itself. The glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is made up of some wonderful truths that we know about from the bible. If we do not hold to these things, then we do not know Jesus Christ. For example, we must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus came to earth, that he was crucified and resurrected, and that he is the only means of salvation. Apart from these truths and others there is no gospel.

I will hold to these truths no matter what until the day I die. I will be dogmatic about them. This is not arrogance. Rather, it is simply understanding that the bible presents some truths in such a clear manner that to reject them is to reject God. It is an insult to God to suggest that basic facts discussed in the scriptures are beyond our comprehension.

The place to be humble is when looking at issues that are important, but are not core to the gospel. These are the issues where Christians have disagreed, sometimes for centuries. A few of these include the meaning and mode of baptism, predestination vs. free will, specifics of creation, women's roles in the church, and the proper form of church gatherings. Many more exist.

Please let me be clear: we should always discuss any issue in a charitable and loving manner. However, this does not mean that we ought to be wishy-washy or unconvinced. When it comes to gospel issues, we must stand firm. It is not arrogant to claim that the bible is crystal clear on the gospel. Nowhere do the writers of scripture ever call any aspects of the gospel into question. They write about the life and teachings of Christ in a straightforward way. These writers meant to be understood.

Let's not fall into the trap of this false form of humility. It is a danger to the church because it calls the gospel itself into question.


Danny Dowell said...

I agree a there is a great balance needed. There are essentials and none essentials.
The bible has two principles of unity and truth.
There are elements of truth where the difference is critical and elements where unity is more important that truth.
Theology is always such a interesting thing to study because of the balance needed. I suppose that is why there is such a call in the OT for wisdom.

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting. You've hit the nail on the head when it comes to this issue. Unity is critical in non-essentials.

A problem I see today (at least in the USA) is that some Christians have raised non-essential issues to the level of essential ones. One example of this is the meaning and mode of baptism. Numerous denominations exist over this one issue. These believers will not have regular fellowship with one another because of it. This is deeply problematic.

My hope is that we cover in this country an appropriate balance, as you've said, between truth and unity.