We know that … God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:
“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”
In John Piper’s piece “What is Humility?” we see 5 descriptions of biblical humility and the notion that, “Modern-day humility would never cry, “Fire!” since the smoke might be vapor from the clothes drier.”
“We contend for the objectivity of truth, and we must insist that all persons do actually believe in the objectivity of Truth. The fact is that even the relativists objectivize their own positions. The difference for us is that we know that truth exists in God, who is Truth, and whose Word is truth. Our knowledge is true only in so far as it corresponds with God’s revealed truth. We are dependent upon the Word, the Word is not dependent upon us. As Martin Luther stated so clearly, “The objectivity and certainty of the Word remain even if it isn’t believed.” We have no right to seek refuge in a halfway house of false epistemological humility. To deny the truthfulness of God’s Word is not an act of humility, but of unspeakable arrogance.”
“This is our proper epistemological humility — not that it is not possible for us to know, but that the truth is not our own.”
“This is our proper humility. But we must be on guard against an improper and faithless humility.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:
“The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.”
Humility does not mean we question whether truth exists, but we instead question whether we have understood it. Humility does not mean there is no truth, but it means we must labor to ensure we truly know truth, because truth and God can be trusted, but our apprehension must be suspect.
Such humility will also show up in how we possess truth, with an appreciation for God’s giving it, and how we transmit truth, with patience for those not yet there.
“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7)
That conversation serves as a reminder that truth is not determined, but recognized, by the subject. The bumper sticker should not be “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” but rather “God said it. That settles it.”
- Previously posted at SEMPER REFORMANDA.