Intellectual Arrogance

Paul the apostle wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

The law of rationality states that we ought to justify our conclusion by adequate evidence.

Christianity is a religion that isn’t afraid of evaluation. In fact, Christianity invites public evaluation and examination because Christians believe the evidence holds up under public scrutiny (e.g. Acts 17:11). One can see this in even a cursory reading of the New Testament. Advocates of Christianity were publicly tried on multiple occasions without complaint of the trial.

In contrast to that kind of thinking, many “religions” in the world today are woefully lacking. These “religions” don’t see truth as propositional and thus subject to criticism. They want “truth” in religion to be merely a matter of personal subjective conclusion and nothing else.

When asked whether what they believe is “right” or “wrong” the individuals involved in the discussion will not be so quick to claim to be right. They may say things like, “I don’t know” or “you may be right.” Such answers appear “humble.” After all, how could a person be arrogant if they aren’t claiming to know anything?

What is deceiving is that these individuals want you to believe what they believe. They wouldn’t be having a conversation with you if they did not. If an individual truly does not know something or believes that someone else is right, then they are not going to comment at all; that is the truly humble action in such a situation, namely, when you don’t know, to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

On the contrary, when an individual doesn’t know what he or she has, it is the height of arrogance to offer it up as a solution. The humble thing to do in that situation is to keep quiet and let someone who has solutions to answer. On the other hand, it is not arrogant to say, “I have the solution,” present the evidence to support it, and invite criticism.

The truth is that these religions simply don’t want to defend their beliefs under criticism. To justify themselves, they castigate individuals who want to “debate.” This, they say, is the problem. It’s curious to note that they don’t seem to have a problem knowing what the problem is. In a system that claims to know nothing, they know an awful lot when it comes to evaluating the beliefs of others.

Consider the following illustration: suppose you were stranded in the desert without water and you came across two people. One person said, “I have water and here is the evidence that proves it to be clean and healthy. Test it for yourself.”

The second person said, “Don’t listen to that combative fellow who wants to test everything. Do I have water? I don’t know if I do or not. It could be poison. I’m not going to allow you to test it, but let’s drink it together and see what happens.” Who is humble and who is arrogant?

Is there such a thing as false humility? There is. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:23 that some had a “show” of humility, but were not truly being humble. These were humble in appearance only, but not actually. So also those who today “don’t claim to have the answer” are only being apparently humble. The truth is that they want you to believe what they are putting forth, but they want you to believe it without setting forth any evidence or allowing you to subject their beliefs to criticism. Such is truly the height of arrogance.

They are also hypocrites. They are hypocritical because while they verbally deny any claim to knowledge, they certainly don’t live like that. If they lived consistently with their claim to not know the answer, they would give up their unknowable beliefs. The fact is that they live their lives based upon the things that they are teaching to others; their claim “not to know” what they believe and practice is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst.

What do you do when someone says to you, “You may be right and I may be wrong”? You ask questions like, “Then why are you living the way that you are living?” “If you may be wrong, then why don’t you give up what you are doing?” “If you don’t know, then why are you teaching others the things that you believe?”

The truth is that their comment “You may be right” is simply a ploy for them to escape criticism of their beliefs. It is simply a way to not have to defend what they are teaching to be true. It is intellectually dishonest, arrogant, and hypocritical.

Like the church at Colossae, we’ve allowed individuals who use such ploys to redefine humility. We need to come back to the true standard of humility. Humility isn’t shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I don’t know” but I want you to believe what I’m saying anyway. Humility is offering up what you have, defending it, and allowing others to either accept or reject it based upon rigorous evaluation of the evidence. As a Christian, I have no fear of that process. On the contrary, those who reject rigorous examinations of their beliefs have everything to fear.

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