Public Square & Theology 101

Making Assertions Without Arrogance

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Is it possible to make assertions about truth, justice, politics or theology without being arrogant?

It is often assumed that any assertion of a belief in religious or moral absolutes implies arrogance. As we will see, the absolute denial of absolutes is arrogant. Relativism arrogantly maintains that there are absolutely no absolutes. On the other hand, absolutes can be asserted without arrogance.

Certainly arrogant presentations of Christianity are far too common. But if we have sifted through the evidence, carefully weighed Christ’s claims and come to the conclusion that the evidence points to Christ being Lord and Savior, it would be arrogant not to submit to him and share that message with others if he asked us to do so. And in fact, he does just that in Matthew 28:18-20.

An arrogant faith in Christ is a contradiction in terms. Faith in Christ fosters humility rather than arrogance. It is possible to strongly assert the gospel without being arrogant.

The Tightrope

Once again, if we discover truth, it is not necessarily arrogant to admit it. If we have discovered that 2 + 2 = 4, that gravity is a force attracting celestial bodies to each other or that the second law of thermodynamics describes the increase of disorder, it is not necessarily arrogant to say so.

Some may think that their knowledge of these and other such truths makes them better than others and thus become arrogant. However, the antidote to this arrogance should not involve denying these things to be true.

We need to affirm truth but remain humble in the way we hold to it. In almost all cases, the truths that we believe are ones we have received from others. Denial of truth leads to blindness about others, about ourselves or about the world around us.

Receiving truth when we do find it is humility. Pride or arrogance, on the other hand, involves thinking that we are better, wiser or more knowledgeable than we are in fact. It is to have a false estimation of our capabilities or status.

Paul said in Romans 12:3,

Through the grace given to me I saw to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Notice that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Neither are we called to think of ourselves as less than we are but instead are to have “sound judgment,” or in the Phillips translation, “a sober estimate of our capabilities.”

Certainly is is easy to be arrogant, thinking more of ourselves than is appropriate. We can see plenty of examples of this tendency. It is just as easy, however, to think less of ourselves than is appropriate, failing to value the gifts, insights and opportunities we have been given.

While we do need to continually look to ourselves (repenting of our sin), we need to beware of doing this too long without also acknowledging who we are in God’s sight. We are made in the image of God and we are now accepted “in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).

For instance, although the apostle Paul was deeply aware of the sin in his past and current life, he never dwelt long on his sin without reminding himself of God’s grace. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 he seems to have been walking a tightrope, balancing to keep from falling off on either side:

I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain: but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

In verse 9, Paul lamented his sin, particularly the persecution of the church (see Acts 7:54-8:3;9:1-19). Because of this past life, he called himself the “least of the apostles.” Yet notice how quickly he moved, in verse 10, to talking about the grace of God. It was by this grace that he said, “I am what I am. ”

God’s grace is real. To pretend that grace is nonexistent or less than it is would be arrogant indeed. That would be to say that God’s grace is nothing rather than a significant something. It would be to say that God’s grace is in “vain,” or for nothing.

Paul’s next phrase seems to tip to the other side of the tightrope. He said that not only did God’s grace “not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them,” that is, the apostles. Now he seems to have gone from being the least of the apostles to being the most active of the apostles. This was arguably true, but was he now vulnerable to the charge of pride? Note that he immediately qualified this with the phrase “yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

The reality of God’s grace allowed Paul to know who he was and to assert what he had done without falling into arrogance.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Art Lindsley’s book, True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World.

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