Monday, June 11, 2007

"Arrogance, Humility and Truth"

By Brock Hartwigsen


When a person claims to know something as true he often is accused of being "arrogant." When a person says that he believes something to be true, but admits that he could be wrong, he often is called "humble." Is it arrogant to profess unquestionable knowledge of truth? Should a person always qualify his knowledge of truth with doubt?

A common conversation about truth often goes this way: Sam: "I know thus and thus to be true." Mark: "Could you be wrong?" Sam: "No, thus and thus is true." Mark: "Do humans sometimes make mistakes?" Sam: "Yes." Mark: "Are you human?" Sam: "Yes." Mark: "Then could you be mistaken about what you said was true?" Here is the supposed logical trap. If Sam denies that he is wrong, he appears to be contradicting himself and comes across as arrogant. If he admits that he could be wrong, then he comes across as humble.

Sometimes the conversation runs another way: Sam: "I know thus and thus to be true." Mark: "Could you be wrong?" Sam: "No, thus and thus is true." Mark: "Oh, so you are perfect and have never been wrong before?" Sam: "No, of course not, I ' ve been wrong before." Mark: "Have you ever believed that you were right and later found out that you were wrong?" Sam: "Yes." Mark: "Then how can you be so sure that you are right this time?" Here again is the same supposed logical trap. If Sam denies that he is wrong, he appears to be denying what he just said and comes across as arrogant. If he admits that he could be wrong, then he comes across as humble.

Are These Arguments Sound?

These arguments about humility and arrogance appear at first glance to many to be sound, but in reality they are not. Yes, it is true that humans make mistakes, and no one is perfect. Yet, it is also true that we can know some things without the possibility of being wrong. I know that I am male. No, I cannot be wrong about it. I know that I am writing this article. No, I can't be wrong about it. You, the reader, know without a doubt what sex you are. Don't you? You know that you are reading this article. Could you be wrong about either of these facts?

When it comes to religious facts, Jesus said, "Ye shall KNOW the TRUTH and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). It is true that there are difficult passages in the Bible and Christians do not always agree about all of them. It is also true that there are difficult concepts that Christians do not always agree on. Jesus said though, that we could "KNOW the TRUTH" that could "make" us "free." Understanding about what all the visions in Revelation represent is not needed to be "free." Fully understanding the concept of the Trinity, or what the thorn in Paul's side was, is not needed to make us "free."

We can "know" without any question or doubt "the truth" that will "make" us "free." We can "know" that no man can come unto the Father and be "free" except through Christ (John 14:6). We can "know" that no one can be "free" unless they believe (Mark 16:16). We can "know" that no one can be "free" unless he repents and is baptized (Acts 2:38). There are other facts that we need to "know" before we can be made "free" and Jesus promises that we can "know" them and be made "free."

It is not "arrogance" to say that you know truth when you are simply repeating the truth contained in God's word. It is not "humility" to say that when it comes to the truth contained in God's word that you could be wrong. No, just the opposite, it takes an arrogant person to say that no one can know the truth. Such a statement contradicts Jesus. Surely if anything is arrogant, it is believing that you know more than Jesus knew and that you are right and he was wrong. The humble man will accept the reality of what Jesus said and not contradict him.
Do you humbly know the truth, or do you arrogantly deny that it can be known?

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Bill Yick said...

Speaking the Truth in Love, excellent article. I have been influenced a great deal by articles and sermons you have written, and appreciate your ministry.

Bill Yick
byick@cebridge.net
pulpit minister - Crystal Springs Church of Christ

12:08 PM  

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