The Enormous Obstacle: Protecting against Pride

Breakpoint Commentary
August 31, 2005

Our mission here at "BreakPoint" is to equip people to think Christianly about all of life, to develop a strong biblical worldview that we can defend in the marketplace of ideas. This is an urgent need, because our faith is so often privatized. But it does present risks.

Let me illustrate by telling you about a man I met at a Christian retreat a few years ago. We had a very interesting discussion about history and theology. I was impressed by how much he knew and all the arguments for Christianity that he had mastered. Then he told me something that nearly made me fall off the chair. He said he was glad his wife had brought him to the retreat, because she was the believer in the family—he wasn’t.

After I recovered my composure, he explained. He had professed faith in Christ in his youth, but at college he began to study philosophy and science and couldn’t reconcile what he was taught with the faith of his childhood. This led to deep doubts.

So he started studying theology, history, and philosophy. He had read many of the books that I’ve relied on for developing my intellectual understanding of the Christian faith. And he came to realize that Christianity is true—but he was never able to recover his personal faith.

What hung him up? As he spoke, I remembered an experience I’d had. I’ve worked hard for years to develop a biblical worldview, and I have come to the conclusion that it is the only rational explanation of the universe. One day I realized I could prove God exists. But then in my quiet time it occurred to me that I couldn’t prove that when this life is over, I’ll see Him.

It wasn’t so much a crisis of faith as one of understanding. I had gained so much knowledge about the strength of the biblical worldview that I figured I could rationally answer every question. But of course, I couldn’t—no one can.

This bothered me for a few weeks until I realized the problem. Pride, which was my original obstacle to becoming a Christian, was in the way again. I knew so much, but faith, you see, is beyond the intellect. You have to have doubts; otherwise, it couldn’t be faith.

My friend’s problem was the same. I told him so, and, you’ll be pleased to know, later he returned to his faith. Now, remember, we need to understand everything we can about the world and about theology, but at some point, we have to realize that Jesus wants only our childlike faith. That’s the only way we can really love God. Otherwise, He’s simply another object to figure out. Only through faith can we learn dependence on Him.

The antidote to pride, as my colleague Ellen Vaughn writes in her wonderful book Radical Gratitude, is reminding ourselves of all God has done for us. Whenever I think of what He has done on the cross, I realize I would be dead today without that. I would be suffocated in the stench of my own sins. And this causes me to repent of my pride, and my faith becomes renewed and strengthened. Ellen calls this experience "radical gratitude."

So learn all you can, just as we’re equipping you to do here at "BreakPoint." Stretch your mind. Think Christianly. God wants us to use our reason and our knowledge to defend Christian truth in the world. But watch out for pride.

And remember that our greatest weapon against sophisticated pride is not more intellectual arguments. Instead it’s the practice of gratitude and simple faith that comes from it. It is a practice that Ellen Vaughn lays out beautifully in her excellent book Radical Gratitude.

This commentary first aired on May 23, 2005.

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About waynem

As a Minnesota based photographer and artist I have been greatly influenced by the Upper Midwest. I focus my skills and energies on portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, architectural and fine art work. My best work comes from images first painted in my mind. I mull over a prospective image for weeks or months, seeing it from different angles and perspectives, then finally deciding what to capture. The result is images that deeply touch people's emotions and powerfully evoke memories and dreams. My images are used commercially by companies and organizations ranging from Financial Services firms, mom and pop Ice Cream shops and The Basilica of St Mary to communicate their shared vision and values. Book and magazine publishers have featured my images on their covers. My photographs also grace and enhance the decor of many fine homes.
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