Monday, July 17, 2006

O Lord, it's Hard to be Humble...

I greatly appreciated the recent mullings of my friend Ben after he read A New Kind of Christian. In response to my (ridiculously long) review, he said that one of the helpful things that he came away with from McLaren's work was:

"Be humble about your interpretation of God's Word in light of historical theology. It is arrogant to think that any era "got it right," and yet every era, (including modernism) got some things right."

Indeed. Being humble about your interpretation of the Bible in light of those who have gone before is essential. In addition, one must apply humility to the right sort of thing. I like what Ed Stetzer (a pastor for
Mars Hill Church in Seattle) says about this, in light of the Word's innate authority:

"I have been captured by the term "humble orthodoxy." It well expresses my own understanding of the gospel—that I have a humble certainty that God and His word are true...True orthodoxy is not subject to the whims of cultural acceptability; it is humbly submitted to the word of God. It is not humble to question what scripture makes clear."

Add to this that it is the Word’s paradoxical combination of humble and lofty truths which makes its authority so compelling, as Augustine points out:

“…it seemed to me all the more right that the authority of Scripture should be respected and accepted with the purest faith, because while it can be read with ease, it also has a deeper meaning in which its great secrets are locked away. Its plain language and simple style make it accessible to everyone, and yet it absorbs the attention of the learned. By this means it gathers all men in the wide sweep of its net and some pass safely through the narrow mesh and come to you. They are not many, but they would be fewer still if it were not that this book stands out alone on so high a peak of authority and yet draws so great athrong in its holy humility” (Confessions, Book VI).

But how to “pass through the narrow mesh” and come to Him? By conforming our wills to the intangible concepts written down in His book? In part, yes. But it never remains in the abstract realm, comfortably contained on a sheet of paper. It always involves persons:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves….” (Philippians 2:3)

Whoa. This is the more daunting part for me –submitting to other human beings (who may be smart, stupid, bullheaded, more articulate, mean, or frustrating, depending on the day). That is, I live in a world populated with sinful humans like myself (some on the road to sanctification, some not), and I have devoted myself to the idea that I must be in humble dialogue with them in order to be a Christian. This will require more of me than doing my philosophical homework or cleverness of speech. It will take a terrific measure of grace.

As my old pastor used to say, “grace flows to the lowest place.”

I’ve got some hills to be made low.

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