Arrogance and Humility: Whose Definition?

In my quick review of Piper’s Brothers We Are Not Professionals, I’m in chapter 22.  I presume I’m not the only one who resonates deeply with the issue raised in this chapter?  We live in a relativistic age where ‘arrogance’ is “the condemnation of choice in the political and religious arena for anyone who breaks the rules of relativism.”  (p160)  Any stand taken on biblical grounds will tend to lead to the charge of arrogance.

Piper cites G.K.Chesterton’s insightful description of that which is now fully fledged relativism.  The word ‘arrogance’ is used to hijack the term ‘conviction,’ and on the other side, ‘humility’ is used to hijack ‘uncertainty.’  In fact, the quote, from 1908, is so good, I will share it here:

“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 asset – himself.  The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason . . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.” (Orthodoxy, 1908, quoted in Piper, 162).

We stand in a precarious position.  Any biblical stand we take will be shouted down as arrogant (and not just by the world, but by many in the church).  Detractors will not engage meaningfully, but rather quench discussion under a mask of modesty.  At the same time we must constantly ask God to convict us of any pride on our part, for true pride is insidious and always ready to creep in.  So what do we do?  Do we allow ourselves to be silenced by tactics carefully contrived to checkmate us?  Do we allow ourselves to be held back by a fear of inappropriate motivations on our part?

Pride is a problem, so is inappropriate uncertainty.  We need to stand with conviction, not allowing misapplied labels of arrogance to quench our courage.  We need to address uncertainty, not thwarted by the misuse of the label humility.

We will take some knocks, some blows, perhaps even some suffering.  But if we do not graciously, yet firmly stand for truth, then who will?

4 thoughts on “Arrogance and Humility: Whose Definition?

  1. I agree, we need to speak God’s truth in boldness and love – watching out for pride. Its a deadly enemy, with a silent mission to have us conceited and makes us lose compassion for those we preach to. May God help us to keep a Biblical balance.

  2. Craig Groeschel (of did a series in January called “True-ish”. It was deconstructing a lot of the beliefs that are currently reigning in a lot of churches about there being no absolute truth and other lies from below.

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