05 July 2013

Humility and Certainty aren't mutually exclusive

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in February 2010. Phil offers some thoughts about certainty and genuine humility in relation to the purpose of the blog.

As usual, the comments are closed.

This blog is not a place where we just think out loud. The stuff we write about tends to focus on a few (mostly important) issues we have thought a lot about and studied with some degree of care—mostly things we're pretty passionate about. Our opinions on such matters do tend to be fixed enough that it would take a lot more to change our minds than the musings of some fresh-faced high-school graduate who is just reacting in the comments section of our blog to an issue he has never before devoted 20 seconds thought to untangling.

But we're not dogmatic about everything. On many theological questions, you could barely even get me to offer an opinion. For example, if you asked me for a thorough account of how the Holy Spirit's ministry in the New Covenant differs from His role under the Old Covenant, I'd let someone else answer the question. Although it's a question that interests me, I haven't really studied it in careful detail, and I'm not going to be dogmatic...

If you're looking for a blog where ambivalence, uncertainty, backpeddling, and indecision are valued more highly than clarity and firm beliefs, there are plenty of blogs like that out there. It's a very popular thing to be wobbly nowadays. But that's not authentic humility. Search the Scriptures and see for yourself. I can't think of a single verse in the Bible that equates humility with vacillations of the heart and mind. In fact, before you can be truly humble you must at least be certain of your own fallenness and guilt.

I know people who undergo seismic paradigm-shifts in their thinking every three years or so, like clockwork. When their friends don't follow every wind of change, they tend to get really upset. In fact, the blogosphere sometimes seems dominated by people like that. They celebrate their own doubts and then blog nonstop about the recalcitrance of Reformed opinion. It's not that they have different convictions; they simply hate all conviction. They are cocksure in their own uncertainty.


The issues of uncertainty-as-humility and pathological paradigm-shifting have come up at our blog (and in the comments) many times over the years. I could name several fairly well-known quasi-evangelical pundits who think constantly renouncing whatever they themselves said just last year is the very essence of "humility." There are even whole blogs devoted to this notion, suggesting that everyone's "spiritual journey" ought to be filled with hairpin twists and turns (contra Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 4:14, and a host of other passages that urge us to be steadfast in the faith).


Once more: Scripture never commends people for the "humility" of claiming they're not sure what's true and what's false, or that it's impossible to clearly understand what God's Word actually means. The Bible never encourages us to remain unanchored about what we believe and celebrate our doubts—especially while we're functioning as teachers of others. Jesus referred to that as the blind leading the blind, and He indicated that it's a Really Bad Thing.