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
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.