True Humility

Numbers 12:1-3 1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); 2 and they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" And the Lord heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.

One of the things that has always struck me in the writing and public speech of Bishop N. T. Wright is his consistent self-deprecation. He constantly qualifies his statements by saying things like, "I think," or "it seems to me," or "it feels to me," or "I guess."

And, as a result, people praise Wright for his humility... His "Christlike attitude" is contrasted with the "cocksure" approach of his Reformed critics. In truth, nothing is more vain in a messenger of God than the admixture of personal opinion with the Word of God. The job of a prophet is not to speak his own thoughts but to declare God's Word. Moses is thus, by God's own judgment, the most humble man who ever lived. Yet, at the same time, Moses is reviled by the people--and even his own family--for pride.

The more I read Wright's obsequious I thinks and it seems to mes, the more I question why so many regard him as speaking for God. By his own profession, he's just telling us what he thinks.

Meanwhile, let's agree that true humility requires speaking God's truth in God's voice. If Moses had spoken more haltingly, if, for instance, he had sprinkled the Decalogue with a few self-referential I thinks, he would have been guilty not of humility, but pride.

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True! It has taken me a long time to realize that if I constantly think about how terrible I am, I am still just thinking about myself! The pride that has no regard for others is often obvious, but the pride that is overly self-conscious is often very hard to see.

Sorry to disagree - really - but I'm pretty certain you're wrong. Here's why:

The decalogue is not what Moses said, it is - verbatim - what God said. Moses was a prophet, and Paul was an apostle - an absolutely crucial distinction between them and Wright. Unless you would require him to be one of those to be a bishop, in which case we may find ourselves short a few candidates! (Not that it would matter to me - I'm not Anglican, or anything else that has bishops.)

But even if he was, it wouldn't matter. I think one can make an argument that the apostles themselves did not always speak this way. For example, in Acts 15 James says, "I conclude." True Peter speaks with certainty in that chapter, but then he had been explicitly told by God about the issue beforehand through his dream. Whether this is a merely a rhetorical device or not, I am not certain, but it looks a lot like what you are complaining about Wright. [I note that the Geneva Bible note on this verse says: "In indifferent matters, we may be patient with the weakness of our brethren with the end in view that they may have time to be instructed." I disagree with how those notes take the matter in this chapter - Paul seems convinced it is anything BUT "indifferent" - but they may still make a good point. The notes on verse 28 are also interesting.] The church council writes that it SEEMED GOOD to the Spirit and to them. And, while the Spirit is mentioned there, they do explicitly say "seemed" and they cite not just the Spirit but their own position. Even Paul has moments that could be interpreted as not always speaking with the authority of God: He says "I say, not the Lord" several times. Not that Paul did not claim to have authority - he certainly did - but you appear to be arguing that expression alone is enough to convict, in which case, how could we not go after Paul?

(Furthermore, some issues are NOT beyond the scope of human limitations, even relatively simple issues. If I look at all the issues that men have spoken on in the past with absolute certainty - godly men who seem to be called to ministry - I wish that more people had been willing to admit that they didn't know everything. Because what we have after 2000 years is a lot of contradictory statements from a lot of people, many of whom were convinced everyone else was wrong. We have to follow our convictions, but let's admit we aren't omniscient. We would be better off, I say, if we copped to uncertainties more often.)

Crucially, your own example undermines what you are saying. God had chosen Moses AND Aaron for leadership - though of different kinds. But Moses was really the one with authority in this case, and Aaron tried to claim it instead even when it had not been granted. And God makes it clear only 4 verses later that MOSES IS UNIQUE! No other prophet at the time was to be taken as authoratative unless he had received a vision, but Moses was always authoratative. Now, we do have the Spirit all the time, but I know that the Spirit does not always gives us certainty on all things. If he did, we wouldn't have denominations, theological arguments, or anything else of that sort. So, better for N. T. Wright to make a judgment with the qualification that he has not been given any special knowledge than to be arrogant before God. It didn't really go so well for Miriam when she did that.

What I am saying is, based on experience and Scripture, I think Wright is not automatically wrong here. It may be there is some line that can be crossed, but I am not seeing that anyone is even attempting to establish such a line. I don't mean to defend Wright, per se - I don't know him at all, really - but rather to take difference with the logic used to condemn him.

What say you?

David, I say amen to your rebuke of feigned humility that seems to be the vogue virtue in our evangelical square (and I will agree is oft found in ole N.T.). By the way, I used to joke with my bros at RTS Orlando (and no, Carolyn James is NOT my favorite theologian) that N.T.'s actual second initial is'O'. Get it? Get it?! N.O.T. Wright?! Oh, well, my federal vision embracing friends didn't think it was funny either.

Though, I will agree in general with Ben's comments. I think, perhaps, your Moses analogy goes a bit too far.

John Piper has a chapter in his excellent book, Brothers, We are Not Professionals, entitled, 'Brothers, Do Not Confuse Uncertainty with Humility'. I commend it to you. Consider what he says in a sermon remarking on the 'false humility' that David is bemoaning in Dr.Wright:

"But beware of a modern mistake here. Humble does not mean wishy-washy when it comes to truth. Forbearing does not mean saying: truth doesn't matter. It is a great mistake to confuse humility with uncertainty. But many today do confuse them. They think that the only humble demeanor is the uncertain, vague, iffy demeanor.

Is that what Paul meant? The only way to preserve the unity of the Spirit is to be vague, uncertain in your grasp of truth? He didn't seem to be that way. I think G.K. Chesterton put his finger on our problem fifty years ago in a little book called Orthodoxy:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt--the Divine Reason. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.55)

I think that's right because later in this chapter Paul says he wants Christians to not be babes any longer blown about by winds of doctrine but to come to the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God (4:13-14). The humility that leads to unity is not uncertainty and doubt and vagueness and confusion. It is the demeanor that says: I am not the center; truth is the center and I submit to the truth and go where it leads. I am not king; God is king. My will is not the law; God's word is the law. I don't tell God how many faiths are acceptable to him; he tells me. I don't define the foundation of the unity of the Spirit; God does."

This argument doesn't even rise to the level of specious. It is absurd, childish and puerile. You are attacking a man because he presents his opinions in a thoughtful manner?

Would you really have more respect for him if he "shot from the hip"? Face it. You wouldn't like him no matter how he presented his argument. You are belittling a fellow Christian in the name of defending the truth.

You say, "In truth, nothing is more vain in a messenger of God than the admixture of personal opinion with the Word of God." What you don't understand is that you are doing the very thing you accuse Wright of doing, and you are doing it ungraciously.

You say, "The job of a prophet is--" When exactly did Wright claim to be a prophet? He is a scholar and a bishop. From where I stand, he is a first-rate scholar. As for his job as bishop, I am not in a position to judge him.

You say, "The more I read Wright's obsequious I thinks--" I find it difficult to believe that you've actually read a substantial amount of Wright's work. I suspect that you've just read the snippets that others have used in their attacks. I have serious disagreements with Phil, but at least he does his homework.

If you were to read what Wright has written, you would find that he has strong opinions. And he states them unequivocally. He doesn't, however, brutalize those who disagree with him. Would that make him a hero in your book if he did?

I'll treat you with more kindness than you have shown to Bishop Wright and not express the full extent of my disgust with you for your personal attacks against a man of God in the guise of defending "the truth."

Rod

Dear Ben and Erik,

Thanks for your comments, Ben. I realized that including the Decalogue in my point might be an unnecessary rhetorical flourish, but I left it in anyway.

The reason I did so is that it's the task of any pastor seeking to teach God's Word to speak God's truth as authoritatively as it was delivered by God. So for Moses to chisel "I think" into the second set of tablets would be as proud as for a preacher today to say "I think" when God has spoken clearly.

The problem with Wright is not that he occasionally says, "I think." The problem is that on issues ranging from justification to homosexuality to eschatology, the approach is the same: "It seems to me. . . ."

As the Reformers said, "the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God." Yes, they (and I) know there is a difference between special revelation and preaching. Yet the two merge when preaching is done correctly.

Returning to Moses. . . Yes, Moses is unique. But that's missing my point. It would have been just as wrong for Aaron to declare, "I think," where he spoke for God.

My point is not the uniqueness of Moses. It's the falseness of any humility which speaks God's Word with less authority than God has spoken it with--or which invests that Word with personal authority rather than pointing to God.

We may not be a vehicle of special revelation as Moses was, but the authority of special revelation lies in its Author, not its human deliverer.

It would have been damnable pride in Moses to say, "I think," when God said, "Thou shalt not." And the same is true of preachers and teachers today.

In Christ,

David

>If you were to read what Wright has written, you would find that he has strong opinions. And he states them unequivocally. He doesn't, however, brutalize those who disagree with him.

So he wouldn't use phases like "brood of vipers" and "whited sepulchres full of dead men's bones" to oppose those who are in error. Would that be because he holds such an approach to be sinful?

So he wouldn't use phases like "brood of vipers" and "whited sepulchres full of dead men's bones" to oppose those who are in error.

I seriously doubt it. Neither would I. Just because Jesus used such language to a particular group of people at a particular time doesn't mean that you have license to be abrasive and hateful in his name.

Rod

>Just because Jesus used such language to a particular group of people at a particular time doesn't mean that you have license to be abrasive and hateful in his name.

Care to expand on the reasoning behind that assertion? And what is the relevance of using the term "hateful" given that neither of the Bayly's have been "hateful"? Or is that a backhand way of asserting something that you know you couldn't demonstrate?

I'm so glad we have the Bayly's here to speak for God. Not only are they able to tell us exactly what God thinks, I mean, after all the Bible says very clearly that anyone who says "It seems to me" too often is obviously unregenerate.

What's great about the Bayly's is that they are able to tell us not only God's thoughts, but the thoughts of N.T. Wright as well.

As it is written, mere man looks on the outward appearance, but the Bayly's look upon the heart.

David,

You obviously have a different definition of "hateful" than I do. To hateful you can add spiteful, vicious and demeaning.

Rod

Rod, what you've just communicated is as follows:

Just because Jesus was abrasive and hateful doesn't mean you can be too.

Is that what you meant to say?

******

Wow Dean. That was deep. You go girl.

>You obviously have a different definition of "hateful" than I do.

I should hope so.

>To hateful you can add spiteful, vicious and demeaning.

Three strikes and you're out. But you did forget accurate.

Let's go back to hateful. You say I define it differently. How do you define it? And how do the Baylys fulfill that definition?

Joseph,

That's not at all what I said, and you should know better. I said, "Just because Jesus used such language" (David mentioned some strong words that Jesus used against the Pharisees.) "doesn't mean that you have license to be abrasive and hateful in his name."

Rod

Rod,

Forgive my stupidity, but what exactly did you mean then? At times it is clearly necessary and loving for one to be as abrasive as Jesus was with the Pharisees. This is clear because this is what Jesus Himself did. Friend, He defines love; you do not define it and then judge Him or anyone else by your own standard. Jesus' efforts to expose the Pharisees in their hypocrisy protected His sheep. In condemning the Pharisees so abrasively He exposed their hypocrisy and drew thick, clear lines for His sheep so that they wouldn't be deceived. In short, his denunciation of the Pharisees was calculated to protect His flock from the wolves, and was the display of a lover jealous for His people and violently opposed to those who would deceive His Beloved. The Pharisees were exercising authority over the Jewish people, and as such were called to a higher standard. Posing as shepherds, they were in fact, wolves, and our Savior had no tolerance for them in that regard. Therefore the method Jesus chose to expose their hypocrisy and to unseat them in the hearts of His people was to put them to open shame. These kinds of attacks even set Jesus' disciples' teeth on edge, and they often responded like this: "Do you not know that the Pharisees were offended at this saying?" Yet this was loving on Jesus' part and is therefore, unless you read hearts better than I do, not necessarily unloving on the part of the Baylys. Dear sir, I do not know if you've ever struggled with pride, but a good dose of shame will put almost any tender heart in its place. Unfortunately, the Pharisees' egos were too big, their pride and good standing too valuable to them, and their hearts too small, so they only became indignant and pulled rank on those around them. Then they accused Jesus of having a demon, being an apostate, and crucified Him outside the gate. The Pharisees were much like many of the academics of our day, pandering around in ivory towers, spouting out truths from the seat of Moses, and failing to meet the measure of a man.

Now lest you try and make this manner of speaking exclusive to Jesus, you should recall that John the Baptist used the exact same phrase, "brood of vipers." Likewise, if you read Paul or the Old Testament prophets, you'll find similarly abrasive speech. While the Baylys are neither Jesus, nor apostles or prophets, they are called upon to speak God's truth in such a way as seems most likely to them to effect repentance and to protect the Church from corruption. I doubt you'll argue that the best way to do this is to follow the Biblical model, and thus the model demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles and prophets.

So Sir, unless you cannot see the clear connection between the way the Baylys regard the household of God and fight for her purity and the way Jesus did, it begs the question of whether or not you really are indeed accusing our Lord of hatred. You can maintain all you want that Jesus' use of abrasive speech does not give anyone license to speak abrasively or hatefully. But you've proved nothing about the Baylys unless you examine the context and motivation of their choice of language in light of Christ's. You cannot condemn this manner of speaking when done for the purity of the church. You may contest the content and the analysis, but not the manner of speech. I've not read all of the postings about N.T. Wright and I can't speak to the entirety of their contents. But I have read enough to see a desire to protect the purity of Christ's church as these men are called and charged before God to do. To condemn this manner of speaking where the purity of the church is in question is to condemn Christ Himself, and in this, sir, you are gravely errant.

In Christ,

Jake Mentzel

Then, I say, let's fly over to Great Britian and burn the guy at the stake! Let's preserve the purity of the church the old-fashioned way!

By your logic, Rod, the Apostle Paul really intended to burn the Apostle Peter at the stake when he rebuked him publicly in the Galatian church, right? No, surely you don't think so.

And so why would you assume that's what David and I want to happen to Bishop Wright? Wouldn't it honor our Lord for Bishop Wright simply to repent of his promotion of the feminist heresy, his two-step communication of Scripture's condemnation of sodomy, and so forth?

Holding the office of pastor or bishop, or holidng one's membership in the Anglican communion can't possibly confer the status of being beyond criticism and repetance.

I take it Rod is incapable/unwilling to define what he means by the word "hateful." Practical definition would appear to be "something Rod doesn't like."

Well Rod, you've fallen to the same level as Dean, and so I give you the same encouragement.

Wow. That was deep. You go girl.

*****

The explanation for this statement is that I feel like I'm arguing with a little girl who likes to scream. When you are done throwing your temper tantrum feel free to begin debating again. This would require you to engage your brain and use some of that higher learning stuff that you are convinced the Baylys despise--you know, logic, reasoning, level-headedness, etc.

So that's what this is all about--misogyny?

Seriously Rod. Are you going to argue or not? The use of "little girl" was meant to paint a picture of something as different from what you actually are as possible, but ok, fine, I'm a misogynist.

Do you have anything to say, or are you just going to continue your 4-year-old routine of calling people stupid-head and meany-face?

Joseph, smiling quietly to himself, patiently waits for Rod to stop screaming and kicking the ground.

Dear Rod,

I notice you ask for civility and gentleness on your blog.

What gives, brother? You come here to avoid fouling your own nest?

David Bayly

So, someone disagrees with you and you get all of your cronies to gang up on him. This definitely furthers the work of Christ. You are treating this man with unbelievable disrespect. So what if he is confused. Do you think your tactics are going to bring him around? I am ashamed and saddened that much of this is coming from the fingers of pastors called by Jesus Christ to further His Kingdom.

Forgive me for not using my real name or email address; I was afraid for obvious reasons.

Dear saddened,

I would have been happy had Rod disagreed, but he hasn't. All he has done for some time is call names. I was hopeful for a moment, but no, it wasn't meant to be a discussion.

I recommend reading the post by Jacob Mentzel and Rod's response for an example of what discussion and disagreement shouldn't look like.

-Joseph

Dear Saddened, I thought long and hard before using satire to expose the tactics of several of our contributors here, and came to believe it should be done. It may reassure you to know that I don't believe for a second that our correspondent is actually confused. He's opposed to using argument to further God's truth, and that's a serious error which would carry a man to denounce very large portions of Scripture.

In the final analysis, I believed this man should not be dignified with any further serious responses, but should be granted a taste of his own medicine, and publicly rather than privately) as a warning to others.

After almost two years of running this blog, I can count on less than three fingers the number of times I've used this tool in the comments section to expose a commenter. And although this tool should be rarely used, I think, there are times nothing else will serve our purposes.

Scripture uses ridicule against false men, and although that doesn't mean I should have used it here, it certainly establishes a precedent.

Also, might I gently point out that men deal with each other in a way much different than women do, and this needs to be taken into account as you judge me. The man who argues with another man needs to do so according to the rules of combat long established among men, two of which are that we must not hit a man when his back is turned or below the belt.

Finally, I hardly think it's kind to refer to my brother and son as my "cronies," nor have we 'ganged up" on anyone.

Warmly in Christ,

Tim Bayly

**I would have been happy had Rod disagreed, but he hasn't. All he has done for some time is call names. I was hopeful for a moment, but no, it wasn't meant to be a discussion.**

So, because he has acted foolishly means all of you now have free reign?

**I recommend reading the post by Jacob Mentzel and Rod's response for an example of what discussion and disagreement shouldn't look like.**

I agree. I am saying that the way you all attacked after he stopped posting is wrong. I agree that he was looking for a fight, but it appears as though he gave up. Why are you egging him on and asking him to come back? Is it really because you have great Christian love for this man or is it because he insulted you and you are going to make him pay?

**Still, I think if I could sit down and talk with Rod, heart to heart; and if I didn't have to contend with all the booing and hissing and barking from you guys, creating a threatening environment, Rod and I might bond. I think he just needs to feel safe before he'll open up. We're all like that, you know?

So if he comes back, would you guys please--pleeeeassse!--leave him alone to catch his breath? Give me some spays to work, OK?**

Tim, if I am reading sarcasm into this comment then I apologize and take back everything I have said.

Dear Saddened (I wish you'd use your real name, as we often request on this blog),

My son, Joseph, thought my comment wasn't helpful, so with you and him in agreement, I've deleted it.

Warmly in Christ,

Tim Bayly

Dear Tim,
Thank You. Your words to me were kind (I may be brave enough to use my real name soon). I apologize for the "crony" comment.
I do not know Rod and what his confusion level may be, nor do I understand all of the ins and outs of the discussion at hand. The only question I still have is why would you do this to Rod as a warning to others? What are you trying to warn against.

Just for the record do not attend Covenant College.

did I imagine that you said something about the snow in Bloomington and Covenant?

Dear Saddened,

To answer your question would only extend a meaningless exchange even further (with Rod, not you), and since it's never been productive so far, I'd rather drop it. But a hint toward the answer to your question might be that there comes a time when one is fighting an opponent in the boxing ring, and that opponent is clutching and holding and clinching, one must reciprocate to get the referee to break it up.

Warmly,

Tim Bayly

Tim--Dear Saddened, I thought long and hard before using satire to expose the tactics of several of our contributors here, and came to believe it should be done.

Tim-- In the final analysis, I believed this man . . . should be granted a taste of his own medicine, and publicly rather than privately) as a warning to others.

Joseph-- Well Rod, you've fallen to the same level as Dean, and so I give you the same encouragement. Wow. That was deep. You go girl.

Joseph--The explanation for this statement is that I feel like I'm arguing with a little girl who likes to scream. When you are done throwing your temper tantrum feel free to begin debating again. This would require you to engage your brain and use some of that higher learning stuff that you are convinced the Baylys despise--you know, logic, reasoning, level-headedness, etc.

Joseph-- Do you have anything to say, or are you just going to continue your 4-year-old routine of calling people stupid-head and meany-face? Joseph, smiling quietly to himself, patiently waits for Rod to stop screaming and kicking the ground.

Joseph--I would have been happy had Rod disagreed, but he hasn't. All he has done for some time is call names.

Joseph--I recommend reading the post by Jacob Mentzel and Rod's response for an example of what discussion and disagreement shouldn't look like.

+++

Find an example where I called someone a name.

To reply to Jacob's post with a reductio ad absurdum argument is inappropriate how?

Rod

>Find an example where I called someone a name.

hateful

spiteful

vicious

demeaning

Technically adjectives but same concept.

Those were value judgments about actions. Not the same concept. Not even close. I did not call anyone a little girl. I did not make fun of anyone.

In addition to your unkind treatment of Tom Wright you have added Dean and Paul Owen. I can handle your personal attacks. But what I find hard to fathom is that you all agree that I was the one "out of line."

I can understand jingoism. But doesn't objectivity ever break through? Do you even listen to people who disagree with you? I mean really listen, not just mine their words for something to make fun of.

Rod

Rod,

You still haven't taken a go at defining what you mean by "hateful."

Here are some examples of my definition of hateful:

Joseph--The explanation for this statement is that I feel like I'm arguing with a little girl who likes to scream. When you are done throwing your temper tantrum feel free to begin debating again. This would require you to engage your brain and use some of that higher learning stuff that you are convinced the Baylys despise--you know, logic, reasoning, level-headedness, etc.

Joseph--Do you have anything to say, or are you just going to continue your 4-year-old routine of calling people stupid-head and meany-face? Joseph, smiling quietly to himself, patiently waits for Rod to stop screaming and kicking the ground.

Joseph--You might want to return to writing about puppies, socks, and Mickey Mouse. What I'd really like to see you write is exactly what you think it means to be a man.

Tim--Well, at least I can blame my stupidity on someone else.

Tim--In this gelded age, the revelation and authority of God are soft-pedalled by emasculated clergymen who like to think of themselves not as preachers and shepherds, but intellectuals and "academics."

Tim--The last thing we need today are men who are emasculated and "think," "wonder," "intuit," and "digress" instead of fighting the good fight with all their might.

Rod

Dear Brothers,

I really think it's time to stop trying to communicate with Rod. It pains me to see his name crop up on the new comment list each time I check the blog and I'm again considering removing the list.

I've asked Rod privately and publicly to maintain the same decorum in his posts here that he requests of visitors to his own blog (http://pastorrod.blogspot.com/2006/03/looking-for-fight.html#links), but he ignores my request.

So now I'd simply ask you not to waste more time on trying to engage him.

Your brother in Christ,

David

David,

You said, "He ignores my request." Does the mere presence of my name disrupt the decorum of this blog?

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