13 November 2014

How God defines humility and arrogance

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by DJP back in February 2010. Dan reminded us of Scripture's definitions for both terms.

As usual, the comments are closed.
The stance of the Word on this matter is plain and univocal, more than one post can do justice. But we'll give it a whack.

Let's start by way of Hebrews 11. We all know that the men and women in that chapter were flawed, yet they are held up as examples. In what way are they examples? In their weakness and vacillation? Not at all, but "by [faith] the people of old received their commendation" (v. 2).

Again and again, the writer focuses on the faith that motivated the believers of old, and describes them as those "who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight" (vv. 33-34). It was as they were nerved, strengthened, and moved to action by resolute faith that they served as models.

So cast your mind back to Psalm 1. You know the characteristic of the blessed man: rather than join in the walk and worldview of the wicked, he delights in and dwells on God's Word. To what does God liken him? To a tree, transplanted by streams of water (v. 3).

Think of trees. They're boring! They just stand there. And stand there, and stand there, and stand there. Imperceptibly, yet steadily, they grow and bear fruit — but their characteristics are (1) life, (2) fruitfulness, and (3) a certain immobility.

Much more exciting is the chaff. Watch the chaff driven by the wind: now here, now there, ever in motion, ever moving, ever dynamic — ever dead. See, that's why it's so mobile. It has no roots, no life, and no future (vv. 4-5).

Three times in Psalm 119 (Psalm 119:21; Psalm 119:51; Psalm 119:85) we see the insolent, who are arrogant and presumptuous. What characterizes them? God's word is not enough for them. They wander from God's commandments, they turn away from His law, they do not live according to His revelation.

And there is the soul of pride: God has spoken, but it is not convicting, not compelling, not enough.

Thus it ever was. Satan started right there: the conversation-starting open inquiry "Did God really say?" soon led to "God was wrong."

Very little has changed. When you hear A, start looking for B.

The believing perspective is the opposite. The believer is the one who finds God's word utterly sufficient, and utterly compelling. "The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8).

It is interesting that this stance will infuriate compromised ditherers not content to take the minority position. The psalmist notes, "The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts" (Psalm 119:69). Desperate to shush their throbbing conscience or quiet the fears of God's judgment, they must slander those whose example stings them.

God's stance is very plain. He in no way calls dithery, compromising instability "humility." In fact, listen to what He does so categorize: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66 2b).

So, in sum:

The soul of humility is to seek a clear word from God, and respond with "Amen" — that is, to find it, and stand on it without compromise or apology. It is about God and His glory.

The soul of arrogance is to take a clear word of God, and respond with "Has God really said?" — that is, to put energies into defending compromise, dithering, uncertainty, unbelief. It is about man and his straying.

God grant us true humility as He defines humility.