He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. –Psalm 25:9

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Ps 138:6; Prov 3:34 [cf. the Septuagint version]; Mt 18:1-4; Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). What is it about arrogance that God so abhors, and why does he regard humility so favorably? Both of these attributes are attitudes toward God and others (Lk 18:9-14). Pride has lost sight of the gap between the holy Creator and sinful humanity, producing self-absorption and contempt for others. Humility The path of pride burdenshas a vision of God’s majesty, love and forgiveness in Christ, producing love for God and one’s neighbors (Phil 2:1-5). How we treat others-whether living neighbors or ancient authors-reveals a great deal about how we view ourselves before God (1 Jn 3:10-17; 4:7-21).

The path of pride burdens us with defensiveness, while the way of humility frees us to receive teaching and correction. The first path seeks self-justification, while the second pursues truth wherever it leads. We cannot engage properly in theological reflection without due humility, both before God and before others. Humility recognizes one’s dependence on the wisdom and insight of others.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. –Proverbs 11:2

While Augustine is commonly considered the father of Western orthodox Christianity, he never saw his own conclusions as indisputable. In response to a letter that questioned ideas from one of his books, Augustine distinguished his own thoughts from those of Scripture’s binding authority. He described his theology as a work in progress, and he believed that since the goal was truthful reflection on God, he should constantly be open to revision. If he saw error in one of his conclusions, such a “mistake is not to be regarded with surprise or grief, but rather forgiven, and made the occasion for congratulating me, not, of course, on having erred, but on having renounced an error.”‘ It is the subtlety of “self-love” that hardens us, keeping us wanting others to be wrong and preventing our spiritual development. Near the end of his life Augustine put together a book titled Retractations, in which he looked at his own voluminous writings and revised countless claims he made earlier in his life. This was a sign of strength rather than weakness in Augustine’s approach. Anyone who stands at the end of his days and claims never to have changed his mind should not be praised for unwillingness to compromise but rather pitied for naive pride.

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that-and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison-you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Humility reminds us that there is One far greater than us. We love and acknowledge this Lord who surpasses us in every way. Humility also bears in mind our finitude and fallenness. Our finitude constantly reminds us of our dependence on others and of the incompleteness of our theological constructions. Theological error develops not simply out of our sin but also because there are limits to our attempts at cognitive harmony. We cannot fathom how all things work together; every time we believe our accounts are exhaustive, we inevitably discover just how much we do not know or all that we have misunderstood. No divine reality can be flatly reduced to words, concepts, images or narratives. God is never less than these, but he is more than them. The reality of God always exceeds our expressions and our understanding of them.

Request a copy of “A Little Book For New Theologians” with your donation »

A Little Book For New Theologians

Kelly M. Kapic. A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology

Related Articles:

Filed under: News