Sunday, 11 November 2007

Christian Arrogance? 3

Aren't Christians arrogant to claim to know the truth?
[Lunchbar from Warwick CU - 3rd instalment]

Christians do claim to know the truth. But it’s not that we’re super spiritual and super intelligent and have it all worked out more than everyone else. No, as far as finding the truth goes, the Bible’s description is something like that we were like aspiring astronomers stubbornly sitting in a darkened room playing around with mud, while the teacher had set up telescopes outside. That’s how much we were super intelligent spiritual searchers. Christians don’t claim to know the truth because we were great, but because Jesus graciously stepped into the muddy dark room and blasted off the roof so we could see the stars, and then lifted our heads up so we’d bother, and enjoy. Jesus introduced us to God when we weren’t looking for it at all: he is the truth – he reveals God, he doesn’t just fit in with our search for him. Christians don't claim to know the truth because we were good, but because Jesus graciously stepped into our muddy darkness and took it on himself, so we could bear the light of God's presence without being destroyed. We know him and we want you to know him: not to know the truth as in to acknowledge that we’re right, but to know the truth as in to see that Jesus is true - we’re inviting you to see that and have the joy of knowing him.

But maybe you’re thinking, “I’m sorry, but so & so claims to be a Christian and is really arrogant when she talks about it!” Sadly, some of us do still struggle with pride and can come across as arrogant. There’s no question! And it's revolting. You might be mistaken of course – maybe your friend is a really confident person, or happy, or nervous how you’ll react, and it comes across as arrogance! But for those who really do seem arrogant, now you know we have no excuse. And here I’d speak as much to those of you who call yourselves Christians. Because we need reminded that knowing the truth (knowing Jesus) leaves us absolutely no place for arrogance. No place for boasting. No place for pride. We need reminded – so listen up as I say this to Christians – this is what you can say to an arrogant Christian friend. “You’re coming across as arrogant when you say that – but you’re supposed to believe this – it’s inconsistent.”

The Bible describes how we are all completely on a level – we might try to do our best by our conscience, or by some religious law, but we’re no better off than anyone ultimately: we’re none of us reflecting God’s glorious design for our lives, living loving each other completely and selflessly, and living in thanks to God for everything. It’s not that some of us are further up a ladder than others. No. Some of us have shaken our fist at God and yelled in his face, and some of us have just quietly & stubbornly ignored him and got on with what we wanted to do, but as any teacher will tell you, the kid who quietly but stubbornly ignores you and gets on with his own thing is just as much rebelling as the one who’s screaming at you. Some of us have said, “There isn’t any God!” and refused to give thanks to him, not even considering Jesus. And some have done the spiritual thing and said, “I think God’s like this…” and refused to acknowledge the true God who revealed himself in Jesus. Some of us have said, “To hell with everyone else: I’m doing it my way!” and some of us have said, “I try to be nice to other people like I want them to be nice to me”, but none of us is so selfless that we love others even like that – the annoying ones, the pathetic ones, the arrogant ones(!), even the ones in our own family. No, we’re none of us reflecting God’s glorious design for our lives, knowing him, loving each other completely and living in thanks to God. We’re none of us any better off ultimately. We may be on different rungs of the ladder of goodness, but compared with God’s magnificence, the ladder’s lying flat along the ground in the mud. We’re completely on a level when it comes to knowing God, to knowing the truth. We can’t do it and we not even very interested! There’s no place for arrogance.

But that’s where Jesus steps in. He not only claims to know the truth, and be able to tell us the truth; he is the truth. As I said, he blasts away the roof on our hovel and shows us the stars. He doesn’t reject God’s glorious plan and refuse to thank God; he lives reflecting God’s glory, as intended. He doesn't rebel against God: in Jesus, God takes our rebellion onto himself and does away with it, punishing it. He announces that despite all our level best being level awful and full of selfish pride at the best of times, we can know God through him. We can have full life, through him. Rather than automatically doing wrong, hurtful things – you know, you wake up the next morning and say, “Why did I say that?” – we can know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

Where does that leave arrogance? Or boasting? There’s absolutely no place for it! That’s exactly what Paul says in the NT actually, after describing what Jesus did for us: he concludes, “So where is boasting? It is excluded!” You haven’t cleverly found the way to know God – no matter how nice a person, we all were level in the dirt as far as knowing God went, and yet we all can know him & enjoy his glorious life through Jesus. So if the Christian on your corridor comes across as arrogant, you can remind them of that!

We all fail, and can forget and get proud, or appear arrogant. It's disgusting. Which just shows all the more that it isn’t through better intelligence or goodness that we can claim to know truth and share it with you. But we invite you to know Jesus. We invite you to not be arrogant yourself as to presume to dismiss him without reading the accounts of those who knew him best and did a load of careful research to share it with others. They invite you to see what the best explanation of the evidence is – not to boast in your achievement, but to know Jesus and have life through his achievement!


Mary Jones said...

thanks for posting that. I'm a Christian, but I've never really gotten to see someone tackle that question in a thorough & gentle way.

Rhology said...

I've often thought it a bit arrogant that someone could claim to know for sure that Christianity DOESN'T have The Truth.

Dean McConnell said...

Great post. I have to deal with this objection all the time. I think the presentation in the post is a great answer.