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Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Humility (7)


A busy kitchen remodel and a frenetic Disney vacation have given me time to digest some of the more subtle but still dramatically different ideas I’m hearing outside of fundamentalism.

In fundamentalism, appeals to humility are a persistent trope. Keswick author Andrew Murray’s little book Humility is a regular assignment to BJU undergraduates, and so it both describes and prescribes fundamentalist preaching on the subject. You can read the text for yourself. In essence, Murray laments that humility should be the chief virtue we pursue. Which is like saying that we have to work hard at relaxing or we need to wash ON some dirt. That just doesn’t make sense.

It’s as (oxy)moronic as saying that we have to earn grace.

So I sat with my mouth hanging open this past Sunday during the sermon about “Putting off Pride.” Pastor DuBose described pride initially with Edgar Allen Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” The antagonist Fortunato falls into a drunken state and is immured — goaded by his destructive arrogance in his own prowess.

The definition of pride in this sermon?

Pride leads to isolation. Moral self-righteousness, correct doctrine, or elaborate formulas all let the walls build up and destroy community. They are all prideful.

What? I have never heard that one before. Never. Never, ever.

I know that my rank introversion makes isolation an easy habit. Being social or part of a large group is not my bent. And that natural and God-given personality quirk can be good. But it can also be insulating and dysfunctional.

Even (dare I say it) . . . separating.

Fundamentalism got it all backwards. In that ethic, humility is putting yourself down to put God up. It’s binary. It’s either-or. It’s individualistic. It’s something to strive for.

In this new world, humility is being with. It’s being with God and with your brothers and sisters and with your neighbors and with your “enemies.”

And because this is so new and so against my personality, I’m really out of practice.

10 thoughts on “Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Humility (7)

  1. I *love* that definition of pride.

    Acknowledging the mysteries of God requires humility. When we give nothing but lip-service to his mysteriousness, we elevate our own understanding.

  2. The week before I left my Fundamentalist church, there was a message on pride—how to stop being proud, how to be humble. And not once did we talk about who God is. A how-to list is what we were given. A how-to list instead of God, instead of fellowship with the truth of His Word, instead of seeing how good and holy and worthy He is. As if humility is something I can work up or put on, aside from Christ.

  3. I do wonder if Fundamental moralism stems from the theological power centers being places where thousands of college kids are trying to be herded in front of a show window. Sanctification is often too slow of a process for that sort of thing.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that you can’t demand sanctification unless you ARE slugging right through the muck with the person you’re demanding it from. And if you’re slugging through it with them, then you wouldn’t demand it. You’d pray for it and encourage it, but you couldn’t demand it. You’d trust that it’s happening on God’s timetable.

    I haven’t figured out how to apply that to a 6,000 person institution where everyone needs a direct, close family and yet no one lives like a family… the vital, caring, flexible relationships just aren’t there. You’re forced into a crucible of growth without much support. If it’s not God’s structure and not God’s timetable, are we surprised at the results?

    1. @Jeff, you hit the nail right on the head. In all my time at BJU, I often wondered why there wasn’t a “neutral” counselor or person so struggling students could talk to someone without the fear of demerits or expulsion. There was NO way students would admit problems to the Dean of Men staff, hall leaders or even APCs. It really came to the forefront in the last semester when I was turned in by my dorm counselor who was currently counseling me! Seriously!

      Students at these places are propped up and supported by force so they look great from a distance but over time, their spiritual muscles atrophy which leads either to a spectacular collapse when the supports are removed or a complete dependence on them.

      To them, humility is just another support mechanism and not an actual exercise. Camille’s phrasing of “Humility with” is fantastic and something I myself have never heard taught before. Great post!

  4. Oh, yeah. I agree. You’re right. It’s a kind of group think. You get stuck in one culture and think that’s “real.” Not that there’s anything wrong with being 20 years old and worried about your career choice. But . . . there are other things.

    My dear dad is 86. And he recently was participating in a book study around a BJU press book. He got really frustrated. “All the sins and problems the author talks about have to do with SEX!! I’m 86. Come ON!! I can honestly say that that’s not what I struggle with!!”

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