Monday, February 22, 2016

Pride in Discourse

Those who have followed Faithful Thinkers for quite some time know that I not only defend the truth of the Christian worldview in general, but I also defend a specific view on creation (my reasons for defending specifics are detailed here and here). I have also entered into discussions on the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free will and have passed by a few on various other topics that are debated within the Christian worldview. As with anyone who has watched these discussions for very long, I cannot help but observe that in every one of these debates (and on all sides of the debates) are people who lack humility in their discussions. They act as if they have infallibly interpreted the Scriptures and nature and have arguments that are completely fallacy-free (though, ironically, their fallacies are easy to spot). Many even have the tenacity to proclaim damnation on those Christians who disagree with them.

In many of these discussions (I don't care which one or which side), pride seems rampant. We have all experienced this pride in one way or another- whether or not it is displayed in our discussions or is merely kept privately in our hearts. I do not exclude myself from this. Many times I have felt the pride swell up in me and I wanted to say something that would demonize or marginalize someone else. It is hard not to succumb to the temptation in the heat of a discussion. While I believe that I have been quite successful in keeping my pride inside only, I am struggling to change this prideful disposition of my heart. If that can be done, then the opportunity to be prideful outwardly becomes minimized. I would rather my heart not be full of the pride so that I do not have to work so hard to keep what is in my heart from surfacing in discussions. I have discovered two things that I must recognize in order to keep my pride in these discussions to a minimum. Those are what I want to discuss today.
"But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles and dishonors a man."- Matthew 15:18 AMP
Limited Correct Beliefs
First, It is important to understand the limit of the relationship that is affected by a particular belief. This will prevent us from over-estimating our relationship with God and under-estimating someone else's. I think there is something to be said for having accurate knowledge of anyone with whom we share a relationship. If I were to believe that my brother is an NFL quarterback, then my relationship would be quite hindered because I would be working with a misunderstanding (a BIG one) of who he is and what he has done in the past.

Any theological beliefs have the same effect on all of our relationships with our Creator and Savior. If we believe something wrong about God, that will hinder our relationship with Him; if we believe something that is correct, it will build our relationship with Him. The key seems to be, though, is to recognize that none of us is omniscient. We may have more accurate beliefs about God in one area of theology (say, creation) which will allow our relationship to be better in the areas that are affected by having the correct beliefs about this particular doctrine. We may also have very wrong beliefs elsewhere (say, in our understanding of the Trinity, the atonement, God's sovereignty, and even God's purposes for this creation) that will make our relationship with God worse in areas that are dependent upon those beliefs being accurate.

It is important to also know that God is so great, that no one will have comprehensive knowledge of God, thus, we will ALL have areas of our relationship with Him that will be just plain bad because we believe the wrong things about God. No Christian can really say that they are "more spiritual" or have a "better relationship with God" than others, because even though they may believe correctly in one area of theology, they most certainly believe falsely in another.

A Commitment to A View
Second, no one wants to believe that their beliefs are incorrect, so we like to believe that everything we believe about God is true. This seems to be an implication of our fallenness, and it is quite difficult to overcome. The force of resistance against the possibility that we may believe something wrong causes us to become committed to an ideology, an interpretation, or a caricature of God rather than the truth. We are no longer concerned with guarding truth but with guarding our pride. This pride gives us a "holier than thou" attitude. Humility is required but is not easy or painless.

While there is nothing wrong with holding to beliefs that are justified by the evidence we need to ensure that the beliefs ARE justified by the evidence. The fact that we are not omniscient necessitates that we always recognize that we COULD be wrong about our beliefs. It is not only important that we investigate beliefs initially, but that our investigation is ongoing. This does not mean that we must remain agnostic forever, but that we are willing to change our view as the evidence demands such. Of course, as I discussed in the post "Is Your View Falsifiable," this does not mean that new evidence may come that stands against the Christian worldview as a whole, it does, however, mean that the details of our Christian worldview may need to be changed as new evidence against our specific views is discovered and evidence for specific views that we thought were incorrect is also discovered. It is ONLY when the new evidence logically contradicts one of the essentials of Christianity that we would need to consider changing our general worldview. And even then, such contradiction needs to be demonstrated, AND what it contradicts needs to be demonstrated to actually BE an essential of Christianity (more on this in the post "Zombies of Christianity").

Both of these are quite difficult to recognize and practice because they both require humility. Because of our fallen state, humility does not come easily. It is painful to admit that a view we believed so hard for so long to be true is actually false. It is also painful to admit that we judged and condemned to hell those who believed what turned out to be true. However, recognizing that our commitment to a view rather than truth could be standing between a better relationship with God and us, could very well be the incentive we need to lay down our pride and allow God to correct our wrong beliefs of who He is and what He has done.

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