Intellectual Humility: A Hidden Christian Virtue

Herein we find the first hint to the solution of our conundrum. I have no right to be proud of those things which I have only borrowed. However, I am convinced that the whole truth lies deeper still.

Intellectual humility vs. Faith

For my part, I believe that intellectual humility involves not simply the thought that my ideas have their roots elsewhere, though this is a beginning. Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen farther than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” It also involves the very real understanding that I may be completely wrong in what I think.

I know of no better illustration of this truth than my having woken from a dream in which I flew to school and tried to explain that fact to my mocking classmates. I knew what I had experienced, and their mockery only served to heighten my sense of pride because I knew something that they didn’t, and was therefore somehow better than they were. I knew how to fly, and they did not. Alas, I did not even know that they did not exist, let alone that I could not fly.

A proper view of reality demands that I may not even know what reality is. This does not mean that will not argue my case, or that I am to live in a state of perpetual uncertainty. It does mean however that I must remember that I am not God. Martin Luther rightfully said:

“Knowledge and doubt are inseparable to man. The sole alternative to “knowledge-with-doubt” is no knowledge at all. Only God and certain madmen have no doubts!” –Martin Luther

In fact the more I search, the more I am convicted that I at least, have missed something very important. I have written repeatedly how the first step in changing the way we think involves changing our vocabulary to conform to the meanings expressed by the biblical authors.

I realize that in this I am a radical fish, and that few are willing to go to the same lengths to express what I think I see in scripture. This is a slippery slope that once started on seems to have no end. To remove apostle from our vocabulary and replace it with ambassador seems no great feat, and it has only a small impact on our thinking.  To abandon the word “Christ” seems heretical, and replacing it consistently with king is difficult due to the grammatical habits we have developed from our youth. Yet I have found doing so consistently yields great rewards both spiritually and intellectually. (For a full explanation of this please see my book.)

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