True versus false humility
The Incarnation, Creation and evolution
Published: 27 December 2012 (GMT+10)
At this time of year, our attention is increasingly focussed on the amazing fact of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus, God’s promised Messiah. My own thoughts often turn to the wonderful prophetic words of Isaiah about the birth of God’s Son,1 “and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These tremendous truths, immortalised by Handel in his Messiah, should cause us to stand in awe of this Person who is so much greater and higher than we are.
The humility of Christ
And yet, this same eternal Word of God, through whom the entirety of the Cosmos was made (John 1:3), left the perfections and glory of heaven and ‘took on flesh’ (John 1:14). And so it is that we are also faced with the amazing humility of the Son of God in his incarnation as a baby boy. His majesty hidden from view,2 Jesus grew up in very humble circumstances, was familiar with human struggles, suffering and grief,3 ultimately submitting to the torturous and shameful death of Roman crucifixion. Of course, all of this, though at the hands of sinful people, fulfilled God’s grand purpose4 of procuring forgiveness, reconciliation and salvation for anyone who would now approach Him in true repentance and faith.5 It’s no wonder that we read, “How shall we escape if we neglect (ignore) such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).
Humility and the Christian
The Lord Jesus, in His life, ministry and sacrificial death is the embodiment of true humility—and a tremendous example to us all. Humility can be defined in many ways; modesty, meekness, and heart submission to God and those in legitimate authority. Christians are exhorted to be humble, following the example of their Lord and Saviour.6 A truly humble Christian receives grace from God but we read that God actually resists (opposes) those who are proud instead (James 4:6)! I believe there is a powerful and challenging connection between this subject of humility and the views of Christians concerning the creation/evolution issue.
Sometimes, those of us who take a stand for biblical Creation are told we should exercise more humility—Christians have many different interpretations of Genesis and, they say, we should ‘live and let live’. Some years ago, my colleague Jonathan Sarfati was responding to a former biblical creationist who was now arguing for millions-of-years (with its attendant suffering and death before Adam and the Fall). The person concerned argued for “humility and grace as we seek, first, to understand what God is saying, and seek, second, to acquire a consensus of understanding in the Body of Christ.” This sounds good on the surface of it, but as Jonathan answered him, “Humility and grace is an admirable goal, but not when it is a feigned humility used as an excuse for disbelieving what the Bible clearly teaches” (my emphasis). Perhaps this sounds harsh but I believe he is spot on.
Humility and the biblical testimony about Creation
Eminent English scientist and example of humility, Michael Faraday.
As CMI has frequently emphasised over many years, the vast majority of pastors, theologians, Hebrew experts and Bible college/seminary professors agree about what Scripture seems to teach: a six day Creation, thousands of years ago, original perfection (no death), a literal Fall, a global flood. Yet, tragically, so many of them argue that the prevailing scientific consensus today (evolution and deep time) means we should reinterpret Genesis 1–11, even though Luke, Peter, Paul and even Jesus Himself understood them as literal history.
Steve Layfield (a Christian teacher of science in the UK) makes this insightful comment about such compromise: “In the last 150 years, Christians have struggled to harmonise the plain, obvious sense of Genesis 1 with the so-called ‘assured facts of modern science’. Almost invariably, they have tried to hide their embarrassment of the explicit supernatural behind a smokescreen hermeneutic, which requires a mythological interpretation of the early chapters.” Humility involves childlike (one could say Christ-like) submission but these Christians would seemingly rather question the plain meaning of the Word of God than submit to the God of the Word. Layfield goes on to write about the attitude Christians should have about Genesis, “A proper awareness of this show of Divine sovereignty inspires humility and awe-filled worship.” How right that is. True humility is seen in those who prefer God’s testimony, even if it leads to embarrassment or ignominy.
An example of Christian humility
Famed scientist and committed Christian Michael Faraday worked for the Royal Institution for almost 50 years. In fact he started the famous Christmas Lectures7 in 1825 (which still run to this day) as a means of presenting science in an accessible way to lay audiences, including young people. A Fellow of the Royal Society, he was an outstanding experimentalist and made massive contributions to the sciences of electromagnetism and electrochemistry, achievements that would have made many lesser men proud. Yet, a biographer of Faraday says, “His true humility lay in a profound consciousness of his debt to his Creator. That Michael Faraday, poor uneducated son of a journeyman blacksmith and a country maid was permitted to glimpse the beauty of the eternal laws of nature was a never-ending source of wonder to him” (my emphasis).8 In his attitude of heart and towards Scripture (some would call him a ‘fundamentalist’ today), Faraday followed the example of his Creator, Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. What a challenge to us all.
References and notes
- Isaiah 9:6. Return to text.
- Isaiah 53:2. Return to text.
- See Isaiah 53:3. Return to text.
- See Isaiah 53:10, 11. Return to text.
- As Romans 10:9, 10 teaches, this tremendous promise of God is conditional on a genuine confession of faith. Return to text.
- This is especially emphasised in Philippians 2:1–17. Return to text.
- [This footnote added on 28 December 2012] Actually, when one looks at the content of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures today, it is just one example of many of how institutions set up by Christians, intended for good, have been co-opted to propagate a very different message. See e.g.: Christmas in the “Year of Darwin”—The 2009 RI Christmas Lectures trumpet the supposed 300-million-year evolutionary ‘arms race’ between plants and herbivores, 25 December 2009. Return to text.
- L.P. Williams, Michael Faraday, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1971, as quoted in: C. Ludwig, Michael Faraday—Father of Electronics, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, p. 194, 1978. Return to text.
I have always been taught, and I believe it to be true, that Scripture is sufficient for all matters of life and faith. True humility is the acceptance of all Scripture even though there is most likely a clash between God's wisdom and that of the world. For instance in Genesis we read that "evening and morning were the first day". It is only necessary for Holy God to speak and it happens, even though it may seem unreasonable (using the world's wisdom) to scientific conclusions. Remember, "the just shall live by faith", even though a "faith decision" may seem unreasonable or impossible.
True we must be humble. But how can the members of CMI express true humility when they set themselves intellectually and morally above tens of thousands of experienced, honest and intelligent geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, physicists, chemists, biochemists, biologists, paleantologists, geneticists and so on ad nauseum. People who are honestly bringing years of specific experience and mountains of indisputable evidence to building on the cumulative knowledge of the ages - to try to understand creation just as Faraday did.
Is it really likely that a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs (with help from the ocassional real scientist who has defected for purely religious reasons) can be right and all of accepted science wrong? Can it really be humble to believe that the case?
How can CMI be truly humble when it sets its 50 year old ideology above scholars of the ages. Scholars of Hebrew, biblical scholars, theologians stretching back to the time of Christ Himself and thousands of good honest non creationist Christians?
How can it be humble to assert clearly and without evidence that they and they alone understood HOW the creator created and what our magnificent God did? Knowledge that still taxes still the greatest brains in our scientific community?
Can it be true humility to blindly ignore all the people leaving the church because of what they are doing? Is it true humility to believe that God wants souls lost just to prove CMI right?
At the risk of repetition, the humility discussed in this article is characterised by a true submission to God and His revelation; i.e. believing "what the bible clearly teaches." Therefore, we in CMI are frankly more concerned about not setting ourselves "intellectually and morally above" God than "tens of thousands" of fallible sinful human beings. Compared to the teaching of an omniscient God, the knowledge and experience of the entirety of humanity (a fallen race) throughout history is as nothing at all.
Preferring the approval of men (whose ideas are in rebellion to God) to that of God is foolishness; it is before God that we shall all one day stand (see Acts 24:15-16 & Romans 14:10-12).
Here's two sections from Zechariah I've noticed that directly challenge the idea that compromising with the world rather than seeking truth is what is humble or peaceful. This is Zech. 7:9-12a, then 8:16-17a.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.
"...These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another..." [Also quoting the Lord.]
So our Lord actually connects truth and good judgement based on hearing the Word of God honestly, with kindness and mercy. This clearly backs up the idea that to claim humility is to put man's opinions, even if it's a vast majority, above God's Word is false humility. To stand up for what God told us is not proud, stubborn, or ignorant (though the Bible elsewhere warns against those mistakes for believers too; the point is that biblical belief is not inherently proud). It's the other way around. :)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...2 Tim 3 :16
I think at times people see Christianity as to whom can be the most peaceful & less offensive. Which is good & biblical to a point, but not at the expense of the truth; absolute truth is to be found in the Scriptures, inspired by God & taught by Jesus. Human truth in this post modern era especially, is all about what we think & feel, often changing with the times.
If only atheistic scientists got as worked up about the falsehood of some scientists' work as they do about some failings in the early church regarding science. You don't have to look far to find atheist/humanistic sites that seem more interested in propaganda & belittling belief posters than real science.
The Scriptures instructs its readers throughout the books that Creation was a 6 day event.
True humility may not be perfect but it is a solid good start. A human with true humility, who does not cast away what he/she knows is true, is precious before God who is not partial to anyone because John 4:23 says "... the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
Any endeavor, especially scientific research, performed without the true humility is on a shaky foundation which leads to strange results as ‘dark’ energy and ‘dark’ matter.
Thank Jesus that Michael Faraday did with true humility his scientific research which is valid even in this day and age.
This is an interesting and timely article for me, especially about Jonathan’s statement on feigned humility being used as an excuse for disbelieving what the Bible clearly teaches. For a long time I’ve been tossing and turning over how to handle the beliefs of some of my friends who claim to be devout Christians that go contrary to the some of the scriptures. I’ve always tried to open their eyes to the truth by using the scriptures. For a long while now I’ve taken the view that those who prefer to listen to the arguments of men, be they scientists or not, that go against the scriptures hence God Himself are treading on very dangerous grounds. Now I realise it has to be done in a way that’s not arrogant, self-righteous and full of pride but instead filled with true humility and grace laced with the scriptures. Thank you for taking me one step further along the righteous path.