HubrisismBy H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
Highbrowism claims that ordinary people cannot hope to fully understand the Bible text. By word and by attitude these intellectual snobs tell us that unless we have gone through "the grueling give-and-take of graduate education" we cannot know from our personal study what "cloth the Lord require of thee." We are dependent for a good grasp of gospel truth upon those who have advanced degrees in history and culture and in the Greek and Hebrew languages.
We agree that deep Bible knowledge comes from unflagging study. We are told to "Study — give diligence — to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). We must labor at the task of knowing revealed truth so that we are able to get it right and cut it straight. According to the psalmist, the man who is blessed is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord and in that law cloth he meditate both day and night."
We do not agree that those who have sat for endless hours in classrooms and have burned midnight oil in reading internationally known theologians with unpronounceable names necessarily have such Bible awareness. Such a one may be expert in the writings of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Buber, Schleirmacher, and Barth, but if he has not studied Peter, Paul, James, and John he is "sounding brass and clanging cymbal" — noisy but empty, mere sound and fury.
We are powerfully convinced that a person of ordinary intelligence who takes up his Bible daily and studies it carefully can know what God wants us to do and be. The average person can understand the requirements of Holy Writ and pass muster on judgment day. What more is needed?
There is hardly anything more insufferable than swaggering pomposity. Dwight Eisenhower said such a one is "a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell you more than he knows." Mao Tse-tung called the intellectual snob "one who is swollen in head, weak in legs, sharp in tongue."
There is, of course, a vast difference between intelligence and intellectual snobbery. A snob is educated beyond his intellect; real intelligence keeps a sense of humility and avoids an attitude of arrogance. Hubris is offensive and gives off a foul aroma.
Paul of Tarsus was a highly educated man, but he did not allow that to defeat his common sense. Though Paul could match degrees with the best of them, he did not flaunt it, but to the profound reverse warned the church against stuffed-shirts:
Bear in mind, Paul is not talking about bona fide intelligence, but about pomposity and haughtiness. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have distinguished themselves by attaining the highest degrees of academia. We are equally indebted to many highly educated men now living who have the ability and balance not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. It seems, however, that it is a rare thing for a person to earn academic heights and still keep his common touch.
To teach us that we are dependent on them for our salvation and had better mind our p's and q's some religious snobs tell us that unless we have terminal degrees in the original languages and in ancient history and culture, we can neither understand nor explain a verse of Scripture. Looking at these experts we note that not one of them holds doctorates in Greek, Hebrew, Ancient History, and Early Culture (that would be four doctorates). A doctorate in English would also be needed to be able to tell us what he knows. Five doctorates? No one has five doctorates. Therefore, if the reasoning is correct, there is no one person who can read, understand, and explain a passage from the Bible. It would require a committee of at least four and maybe five to do the work. This is the ultimate in removing the Bible from the common man.
Others, affecting an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority, claim that since God's knowledge is unbounded, he is too wise to be able to tell us what he wants us to know. These haughty teachers admit, in their weaker moments, that they are mortal and their understanding is finite. Still, they try, in their finite wisdom, to tell us about the limitations of infinite wisdom. This appears to be incongruous with reason and even run-of-the-mill horse sense (my apologies to the horse).
With pursed lips and furrowed brows some "intellectuals" claim that God can only talk to us in baby talk. The mighty maker of all things is reduced to gurgling and cooing and babbling out his frustration in not being able to communicate with his creature in grown-up talk. We wonder if it has ever occurred to these teachers that if God is infinite in wisdom then he is fully able to use language and signs adequately to make his will known to his creation.
If not, then it is unmerciful, unjust, and ungodlike for him to call us to account. If he gives a revelation that is insufficient for humans to understand what he is saying to them, then his wisdom is limited and not infinite. To reward or punish on the basis of jabberwocky is manifestly unfair. Such a being is not the great I AM.
Pseudo-intellectualism has as its goal the mastery of history and the banishment of tradition. This can never be the purpose of the church described in the New Testament because its identity stands or falls by her commitment to the Holy Scripture. Since the Word of God is the seed of the church, as taught in Luke 8:11, the two are joined and may not be successfully severed.
Liberalism makes a fool out of itself. It leads the gullible from one extreme to another and finally strips away all covering and leaves him naked. It is like dead sea fruit — it promises fair and performs nothing. Some are so blinded by this idol that they never recover from the malady. Overweening pride may cause some to be too ashamed to admit their mistake. The more intelligent may follow the piping of liberalism for a distance, but good sense takes over, and this foolish philosophy is abandoned, and the person who has been duped by it laughs at himself, if he has any wit left. One university professor of international reputation describes his odyssey in liberalism and modernism and postmodernism as follows:
The banality of what most liberals write is its own indictment of the insufficiency of the movement (see Carroll Osborne's book, The Peaceable Kingdom, as an example; other examples would be the Harris-Shelly book, The Second Incarnation, and any of the Leonard Allen books).
The pendulum swings out, and it swings back, though, as one writer observed, it may take many decades to complete the arc. In the meantime, we must be about our heavenly Father's business. Let us with utmost confidence in the readability, understandability, and reliability of the one and only Holy Book give ourselves to its study and then exercise ourselves unto godliness. Your English Bible is adequate. You can know the truth John 8:32). God's Word is truth (John 17:17). Truth is the one path to God John 14:6). We are begotten again by obedience to the truth (1 Pet. 1:22-23). See, it's not all that difficult.