OUR NATIONAL DIVIDE: SECULAR MORALITY VERSUS THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW — PART 4C

What it is like to be mooned by a peacock

This the second part of the following topic in bold below.

Are The Conflicts That Arise Because Of The Differences Between The Christian Worldview And Secular Morality The Cause Of Our National Divide?

What is the subtopic in this post.

The Issue Of Pride

Why would Americans fight each other? There are so many possible reasons we cannot explore them all. We can only observe how we usually get along. We mind our own business, and we leave the people we don’t like alone.

What would prevent us from leaving others in peace? Pride might have something to do with it. When we won’t leave people alone, especially people who are not even bothering us, we have decided our needs or our wants override the other’s right to be left in peace.

James 4:1-10

New American Standard Bible

[a]What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? [b]Is the source not your pleasures that wage war in [c]your body’s parts? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask [d]with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request [e]on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose, “[f]He [g]jealously desires the Spirit whom He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. But [h]resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you [i]double-minded. Be miserable, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

The Bible identifies pride as a big problem. Note the solution the passage above points to, humbling ourselves in the presence of the Lord. Humility is the solution for pride, but humility is actually a rather a complex concept. Consider three different views of humility.

  • As a positional concept. Relative to others we find our self as being of equal or even lesser worth.
  • As a matter of focus. Instead of thinking about our self, we think first of others.
  • As a matter of obedience. We put obedience to God first and foremost.

The positional concept is the usual way we look at humility. Jesus’ humility is most obvious when we consider His birth, for example. The Creator of the Universe was born as a human being in a stable? This is probably why the etymology of the word “humility reflects the positional concept.

humility (n.)

early 14c., “quality of being humble,” from Old French umelite “humility, modesty, sweetness” (Modern French humilité), from Latin humilitatem (nominative humilitas) “lowness, small stature; insignificance; baseness, littleness of mind,” in Church Latin “meekness,” from humilis “lowly, humble,” literally “on the ground,” from humus “earth,” from PIE root *dhghem- “earth.” In the Mercian hymns, Latin humilitatem is glossed by Old English eaðmodnisse.

humility | Origin and meaning of humility by Online Etymology Dictionary (etymonline.com)

C. S. Lewis fostered the idea that we should not seek to lower ourselves to be humble. Instead, we should focus our minds on the welfare of others.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Quote by CS Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s…” (goodreads.com)

Is this a Biblical approach? Yes. Consider.

Philippians 2:3-4

New American Standard Bible

3 Do nothing [a]from [b]selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

When we are humbly obedient to God, we seek the kind of humility Jesus called for.

Matthew 18:1-6

New American Standard Bible

18 At that [a]time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you [b]change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to [c]sin, it is better for him that a [d]heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Children are small, vulnerable, and trusting. When Jesus walked among us, children also had little respect. People struggled to find food, clothing and shelter. Therefore, even though people might want children, when they had children those children were burden. Slave masters and even parents required children to serve and do whatever work they could to pay for their upkeep. Therefore, when Jesus told His disciples to become like children their jaws must have dropped. A child? Again?

Jesus wanted His disciples to compare themselves to an infinite God. When Jesus told His disciples — and by extension us — to become like children, He flattered us. Compared to God, we are nothing. Yet God loves us.

So far this post has been about humility from a Christian perspective. What about a Secular/Atheistic perspective? That is, what is the Secular or Atheistic perspective on humility?

Most Secularists/Atheists tend to explain ethics and virtue as survival traits, not as anything that has to do with our Creator. That is, Secularists/Atheists understand the communal value of ethics, but they don’t attribute ethics to God.

The African apes – whose genes are ninety-eight to ninety-nine percent identical to ours – go about their lives as social animals, cooperating in the living of life, entirely without the benefit of clergy and without the commandments of Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy. It is further cheering to learn that sociobiologists have even observed altruistic behavior among troops of baboons. More than once, in troops attacked by leopards, aged, post reproduction-age males have been observed to linger at the rear of the escaping troop and to engage the leopard in what often amounts to a suicidal fight. As the old male delays the leopard’s pursuit by sacrificing his very life, the females and young escape and live to fulfill their several destinies. The heroism which we see acted out, from time to time, by our fellow men and women, is far older than their religions. Long before the gods were created by the fear-filled minds of our less courageous ancestors, heroism and acts of self-sacrificing love existed. They did not require a supernatural excuse then, nor do they require one now.

Ethics Without Gods | American Atheists

How do most Secularists/Atheists make use the virtue of humility in practice? Well, Secularists/Atheists do use humility as a tool to undermine belief in God.

We think it’s not only more humble but a lot more honest to admit that the universe is billions of years old and countless billions of light years big, and that all this means that we’re not the center of importance, i.e., the universe probably was not all created with us in mind and it probably didn’t originate from a being curiously like us in personality (one obsessed with our sex lives and willing to become one of us, die for our sins, and grant us eternal life). In other words, we think that Christian accounts of reality that make the entire universe a cosmic play centered around humanity, to be arrogant and false. We think it’s humbler to not think this was all created by a being who thinks curiously like us and lovingly designed the whole shebang around us.

Atheist Humility | Daniel Fincke (patheos.com)

So, what is the difference here. Do Christians and Secularists/Atheists see pride and humility the same way? No. Christians see humility primarily as a willing obedience to God. Secularists/Atheists define humility in terms of the collective, putting the needs of the group above the needs of the individual.

Consider this Secularist/Atheist look at humility.

Humility is the virtue of properly recognizing not one’s excellences but rather one’s limitations, one’s deficiencies, and, most importantly, one’s dependencies, whether they are material or spiritual.  Where humility is clearly a valuable virtue is where it serves as a constructive power of caution, honesty, gratitude, and compassion.

We should feel humble when we objectively are humble, i.e., when we are objectively lacking in an excellence to a relevant degree for dealing with a situation in which we find ourselves.  I should be humble and recognize that if I am not an experienced mountain climber, Mount Everest is too much of a challenge for me and not something I should attempt.  When I engage someone far more knowledgeable about a certain topic than I myself am, being aware of my comparative ignorance contributes to my ability to properly respect my interlocutor.  This means that if I am going to debate her, I will pay proper attention to the fact that if I challenge her in certain ways her far more impressive degree of learning will inevitably overwhelm me.  This humility warns me to humbly home in on what I am most competent to address so that I can hold my own.

The Harmony Of Humility And Pride | Daniel Fincke (patheos.com)

Just as the Christian definition of humility is about submission (to God), this secular definition of humility is also about submission. The difference lies in to whom we submit. Whereas Christians submit to God, Secularists/Atheists demand submission to experts and the good of the collective.

Is there much overlap between these two perspectives? Yes, but the differences are dividing us. Because the Bible says man is a fallen creature, Christians regard experts and the collective will with skepticism. Instead of doing what we ought to do, we often choose to do what we want to do and rationalize our preferences. Hence, when Secularists/Atheists propose government policies based upon what they call “science” and the good of the collective, Christians will balk if they see a conflict with Biblical teachings .

This is part of the fourth installment in this series. What were the first three?

Where we at in Part 4 of this series?

Additional References

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