Today I’d like to look at a very commonly held idea regarding religious belief. It is often expressed somewhat like this, “It is arrogant to say that Christianity is true and that all other religions are false.”
We need to thoughtfully consider this statement, because if is true, it means that being a Christian is, to some degree, an inherently bad thing.
Speaking personally, I want to acknowledge that it would be best if Christians would not be so quick to argue that this idea is wrong. Ironically, this can be an arrogant, proud response. Our logic might be good, but the superior attitude undercuts everything we have to say.
As a brief aside, to my Christian readers, let me suggest that we need to start by confessing to God how we’ve become entitled, demanding, and self-righteous in our religious practice. We need to continue in prayerful repentance until our selfish desire to win the argument and defeat our friend is replaced by sincere love.
To put it another way: it is inadequate for Christians to have “the right answer” to this question if we don’t believe the answer strongly enough to put it into practice.
Assuming that we may at times come to a place of humility, what can be said?
First, I want to acknowledge what the objection gets right. In my own life, I do have times when I feel pretty special about being a Christian, and I am tempted to look down on others who don’t think and live the way I do. I also notice this proud attitude from time to time in the church.
Second, if we could talk in person, I’d want to ask a question. Specifically, “What experiences led you to think it is so arrogant for someone to believe that Christianity is true?” The stories I’ve heard in response to this question have often appalled me. Too many people have been hurt by judgmental Christians. Let me be clear: I think such offensive, prideful behavior is wrong.
Third, think about this principle as it would apply to politics. Would it make sense to say “It is arrogant for Republicans to think they are right and Democrats are wrong about Policy X”? Well, maybe. But there’s an important categorical difference between being arrogant and thinking, for instance, that a certain fiscal policy is good. You can’t escape this problem by becoming an Independent. Instead of being arrogant because you’ve got the right idea (like the Republicans or Democrats), you’ll be tempted to be arrogant precisely because you don’t claim to have the right idea. The fact is that everyone looks to find some reasons for why they are better than others. We need to see that arrogance can seep out of us whether or not we think we know the answers to the big questions of life.
Fourth, there is a reality that Christianity leads at least some people to humility. The daily confession of failure before God, and the experience of God’s grace and love, does in practice tend to work against this idea that you’re better than everyone else.
Does any of this imply that Christianity is true? No, not at all. All this post is attempting to demonstrate is that accepting Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins doesn’t necessarily make you arrogant, and might in some cases lead you to humility.
To conclude: there’s a crucial difference between thinking you’ve come to the right conclusion about something important and actually being an arrogant person. We should oppose arrogance, attempt to become humble, and remain committed to seeking for the truth.