Everyone knows everything except one very important thing—what they don’t know. We all assume we have the expertise and ability to speak confidently about every topic.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, we should be able to admit we don’t really know enough to have an educated opinion about the various political and cultural controversies of the day, much less share that opinion publicly, even much more less demand others hold that opinion as well. Yet, this is the neverending drama in which we engage.
It requires humility to remove ourselves from the hot take hamster wheel. We have to acknowledge our limitations. We have to recognize that others have expertise and experience beyond our own. Since humility is at the heart of Christianity, this should come easy to us. The church should be the refuge from the social media storms, but too often it’s not. Too often, Christians are among the worst offenders.It requires humility to remove ourselves from the hot take hamster wheel. Click To Tweet
So why is that? Why do followers of Jesus who exemplified, even personified, humility struggle so much with a lack of humility when it comes to asserting our knowledge?
Prideful humans, humble God
In one sense, there is nothing unique about lacking humility. Christians can’t brag about being special in that regard. Every human being on the planet struggles to be truly humble. Christianity explains this shared trait through our fallen nature. We inherently want to make everything about us.
But Christians are unique in that we follow One who intentionally humbled Himself. God cannot become flesh without humbling Himself. Not only did He humble Himself in coming to Earth, He came as a servant. Not only did He come as a servant, He died a humiliating death by crucifixion. Humility is in the very blood of the Christian faith.Because Jesus' humbled Himself to die on a cross, humility is in the very blood of the Christian faith. Click To Tweet
Christianity, rightly understood, teaches that salvation does not come from the things we do. There is nothing we can point to as justification for God saving us. Our actions can never be enough to achieve the needed perfection, but Jesus has done all that for us. So again we get to the question: why aren’t Christians more humble?
Ironically, Christians can lack humility because God displayed humility in speaking to humanity.
God’s revelation, Christians’ arrogance
God has revealed Himself in three primary ways: creation, Jesus and the Bible. We can see some attributes of God in what He has created. But the picture we get of God from creation is limited. God more fully reveals Himself in the Word made flesh (Jesus) and the written Word (the Bible). It is in the twisting of a right understanding of God’s Word that we can develop a wrong understanding of ourselves.
Among Christians, the idea that we can speak authoritatively about every subject can flow from a misunderstanding of what we’ve been given in the Bible. One of the pillars of the Protestant Reformation is sola scriptura, Scripture alone. God’s Word contains all the Christian needs to know and follow God. This does not mean, however, that any Christian who reads the Bible has all they need to comment knowledgeably on the war in Ukraine or student loan forgiveness.As we recognize the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, we should also acknowledge the errancy and fallibility of ourselves. Click To Tweet
There can be a rhetorical sleight of hand a Christian pulls as they move from recognizing the authority of Scripture to assuming that authority themselves. It can be so slight the Christian may not even realize he or she is making the move. They may honestly believe they are defending Scripture when they’re arguing about inflation policy on social media.
That’s not to say the Bible doesn’t have wisdom to offer us on finances or foreign policy or any number of other real world issues we face on a daily basis. But as we recognize the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, we should also acknowledge the errancy and fallibility of ourselves.
Checks and balances of Christianity
Regardless of how faithful we may be, how long we’ve been a Christian, or how much we’ve studied the Bible, you and I can make mistakes in my interpretation and application of Scripture. That’s why we need the full body of Christ. As we read and study God’s truth together, we can better understand and apply what He is saying.Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. — @CSLewis Click To Tweet
Every week, I teach a small group in our church. I spend time studying the text. I read commentaries and various translations. Yet, every week, I leave our group better understanding the passage and how to apply it than I did going in. Why? Because I get to hear from other believers and how they read the text.
I’m not saying a passage can have unlimited and even contradictory meanings. Instead, since the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture, lives in all believers, we better understand the Bible in community. Another person bringing to light a facet of a verse I’d never considered doesn’t diminish the truthfulness of God’s Word; it further illuminates it.
In addition to reading the Bible with others in my context, I should also read the Bible in concert with saints throughout history and around the world. This enables me to get past my cultural blind spots. Specifically speaking of reading books from previous generations, C.S. Lewis wrote:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. …
People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock
Since we live in an age where we have almost unlimited access to read Bible teachers and Christians outside of our context, there is no excuse to read God’s Word in isolation. As we study Scripture with others, we come to better appreciate God’s wisdom and better understand the limitations of our own.Christianity allows you to follow the One who is omniscient; it does not give you omniscience yourself. Click To Tweet
There is no shame in a Christian not having a response to every political and cultural controversy. You and I don’t know everything, and that’s OK. Christianity allows you to follow the One who is omniscient; it does not give you omniscience yourself.
Part 1: The Most Elusive Knowledge: Knowing What You Don’t Know