Saturday, August 26, 2006

Arrogance

One of the most problematic attitudes common among CoC members is arrogance. It's easy, when talking to people who come off as arrogant, to become upset easily and react. When we run into pride, our automatic response is often more pride, we certainly don't want to come off as looking "less than" someone else who is puffing themselves up. But of course, that's the worst possible reaction, as it only results in a battle of pride.

Still, it's not always easy to remain humble when we should. One thing that helps me to try to keep my pride in check when speaking with CoC members who come off as arrogant is to remember my own arrogance when I was CoC, and to know I was that way because of what I had been taught. The very teaching about the sincerity of others (or lack thereof), if one believes it, can only result in apparent arrogance to non-CoC members.

If one asks a CoC member how they know that their interpretation of the scriptures is the correct one, and if they believe they are inerrant in that interpretation, certainly most CoC members, in a kind of attempt at humility will say, "It is not I, but the simple words of the Bible that are inerrant, I only read them and glean the truth from them." The problem is, anyone who has read the Bible knows it is not always the easiest thing to understand, and also knows one can't help but interpret it in some way. (After all, one of the clearest teachings, I think, is Christ telling us "For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed," and yet this is somehow understood to be symbolic according to the CoC.) In this denial of responsibility for the extrapolation of their beliefs, there is an undeniable implication that anyone else who doesn't come to the same understanding of the scriptures is either incredibly stupid or insincere in their search for truth. The more common belief is the latter, as it is a strongly held belief that the Bible is simple enough for anybody to understand. Most CoC members will say that if people truly and honestly search the scriptures, they will come to the CoC understanding of them, and many of them really and truly believe this, I certainly did! They conclude, therefore, that the whole of Christianity (that is, those outside the Churches of Christ) is just not sincere enough in their efforts to seek truth, rather than acknowledging that the Bible is not as "simple" to understand as they would like to believe, and this comes off as rather arrogant. When children are taught to assume ill intentions, or less than sincere intentions when someone disagrees with you, it can only result in astounding arrogance.

But despite this arrogance, I can't help but remind myself that I was once in their shoes, and I really didn't know better, and so I must give them the benefit of the doubt. I'm fortunate to have insight into the mindset having grown up in it, which allows me to have a little more patience than someone who didn't. It is absolutely necessary for CoC "theology" (if we could call it that) for the Bible to be transparent and completely understandable. Without this, the claim cannot be made that any old person off the street can read the Bible (with a sincere heart) and correctly determine what he must do to be saved. And without this claim, the frightening reality would be too much to bear...if the Bible is in any way difficult to understand, how could one ever be sure that his understanding of the Bible was correct? Especially if equally sincere people came to differing conclusions!? It certainly is a scary thought that the Bible would be anything less than "plain and simple" if you believe God handed us a book and expected each individual to figure things out for himself...but this fear keeps them from acknowledging their arrogant manner. Rather than admit that the Bible is not always easily understood, which would result in doubt and uneasiness, they prefer to believe those who don't come to the same conclusions just aren't sincere enough. It's a kind of self preservation tactic, without which they would not have any reason to believe their interpretation of scripture is any more correct than another.

And that is why my first step out of the CoC was realizing that there were truly honest and sincere people out there earnestly seeking truth who were not CoC. Once I crossed that bridge, my whole belief system began to unravel. And so I continue to remind myself, when speaking with CoC members who are coming off as arrogant, that they feel they must assume people who don't reach the same conclusions as they do are insincere, because their house of cards is so delicately stacked that to face the reality would certainly cause them to come tumbling down. And that is not an easy thing to face...so we must be understanding and kind, even when faced with attitudes that are less-than-respectful of our own beliefs. Trying to fight pride with pride will never help them see the corner they have painted themselves into, it is better to try and be an example of humility as Christ was to us, and to pray that they grow closer to Christ in their journey.

Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. - Matthew 11:29

4 comments:

Pup said...

i bought a flute

Stephanie said...

Lol!! That was random...plan on taking up the flute?

ZAROVE said...

Without gettign to long on it...

The same objection can be raised about Catholisism, or any mo vement really. IE, the Catholic well come off as Aerogant for saying there magestrum is infallable when detemining doctrine and the Pope is infallable when declaring Ex CAthedra a proffession of faith.

The Catholic Church also says if anyone is honest, they will understand the Catholic Church as the true Church from history and scripture, and will understand the need for an authority to interpret the scriptures and doctriens of the Church.

The Catholic Church has, in fact, been called supremely arrogant.

But the reality is that, although there are Arrogsant Catholics, the arrogance listed above is simply the core beleif.They bweive their beleifs are correct.The same is true of the CoC, otherwise they'd not be CoC.

Its not arrogant to be ocnvinced, and to see your own beleifs as true.

Stephanie said...

Its not arrogant to be ocnvinced, and to see your own beleifs as true.

Ah! And on this, I absolutely agree with you. But I think you're confusing my point with the above.

I'm not saying some CoC members can come off as arrogant because they believe they have truth. If that were the case, then yes, to be consistent I'd have to say the very same thing about Catholic, and anyone who claimed to believe in a certain truth!

I'm saying that because of the unique belief that I grew up with in my CoC congregation (and I've talked to many others who had the same belief) that "If you are *honest* then you will agree with me/the CoC belief," because of that attitude they come off as arrogant. Why? Because the flip side to that is, "If you disagree with what I'm saying, you're just not really being honest." And THAT is a judgement of heart that no human can make definitively, and certainly not just because someone disagrees with you.

The Catholic Church also says if anyone is honest, they will understand the Catholic Church as the true Church from history and scripture, and will understand the need for an authority to interpret the scriptures and doctriens of the Church.

Not in quite the same way. The Catholic Church acknowledges that there may be plenty of reasons that keep someone from being able to "see" the truth. Also, because of the Catholic belief that it is, in fact, necessary to have an interpreter for the Bible, this automatically assumes that it is not always easy to understand the Bible, and therefore Catholics don't blame a person who reads the Bible but comes away with a different understanding. They still believe they're mistaken, but they believe they are honestly mistaken, and have good intentions and a sincere heart. That's not the case with the CoC member who believes disagreement equals dishonesty. See the difference?

The Catholic Church has, in fact, been called supremely arrogant.

This is also true, and very much the result of a relativistic society who says that anyone claiming to have "the truth" must necessarily be arrogant. You and I, of course, understand that isn't necessarily true.

Anyway, hope that helps clarify the difference.