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Pride and Right Belief

May 12, 2011

We’ve had quite the spring here in Minnesota.  Last week it was winter, yesterday it was summer, and today is another in the long line of chilly, rainy, Minnesota spring days.  Along with them has come quite a bit of introspection.  I’ve spent a lot of time pondering a great many things: theology, prayer, my view of God… and I’ve discovered a theme running through much of my spiritual belief – it’s riddled with pride.

You see, over the years I’ve developed a pretty coherent view of God.  I’ve formed beliefs, behaviors and even prayers based on a theological system that seemed to work for me.  As I studied and went about the process of discovery, I began with books and lectures, not Scripture.  But, that’s exactly the problem.  It was based on what works for me, and not on the truth as it is revealed in the Bible.

Here’s the problem:  This approach – developing belief based on your personal perspectives – assumes we have enough wisdom and knowledge to determine right belief on our own.  This could not be further from the truth. Our knowledge is corrupt.  Paul writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)  Furthermore, this assumption is rooted firmly in pride.  It assumes that I know more about the truth than God.  Now, the Bible doesn’t mix words when it comes to pride:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  – Proverbs 16:18

“One’s pride will bring him low”  – Proverbs 29:23

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”  – 1 John 2:16

“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”  – Proverbs 8:13

So, given that pride is such a huge issue, one that ultimately comes down to the belief that I know more than God (sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?), why would I ever let it become the foundation of my theology?  And yet I did.

Well, what do we do about it?  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we must begin with Scripture.  There are many feel-good theologies out there (the recent hysteria over a particular pastor out in Michigan is a great example of a feel-good theology that doesn’t have its roots in Scripture).  However, many of them are easily thrown out after a little biblical research.  Remember, the point here is not to find something that “works for me,” but to find the truth.  And not just any truth, but truth about God.  We can also pray for wisdom as we seek out the truth.  The psalmist says this in Psalm 119:66, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge; For I have believed in thy commandments.”  God isn’t sitting up there trying to hide himself from us, as if he were playing a game of cosmic hide-and-go-seek.  He longs for us to seek him.  He delights in our search for wisdom (Psalm 51:6).

Now, I’m not suggesting God is perfectly knowable.  But, if the Bible truly is the word of God, and if it really does contain truth about God and his creation, then what better place to begin our search for right belief?  Our theology must begin with what God has already said.  Perhaps “declared” is a better word here.  We have no need to insert our own preconceived notions.

So, what did I do?  I went back to the Bible.  Some beliefs tumbled to the ground.  Others were strengthened ever further.  At the end of the day, my search is for the Lord.  My heart’s cry is to know God more fully.  The Bible not only explains that longing, but it gives us God’s response: The Cross.  As long as Christ is at the center of our pursuit, we can’t go wrong.

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