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The devil, though his fall from grace was rooted in pride, knows how to use humility. Being craftier than the other beasts, he knows how to use nigh unto all things to bring about his nefarious purposes. He is resourceful and overlooks nothing.

Satan’s first attack upon man was to deny the very truthfulness of God, first casting doubt upon the word of God—“ ‘Has God indeed said …’ ”—and finally claiming that God had spoken falsely—“ ‘You will not surely die.’ ” Much later, as Western culture began to lose its moorings in the revealed Word of God, as enlightenment positivism posited itself as the arbiter of truth, that same strategy continued. God says we were made from the dust of the earth. The devil says we descend from a single-celled chef’s surprise that popped out of the primordial soup.

This strategy of the devil’s began to fall apart as it became painfully obvious that his truth claims didn’t hold any water. His wisdom showed itself to be foolishness. But he did not give up. Now, instead of holding up his version of truth as a competitor for God’s version, the devil has determined to assault truth as an idea. Instead of offering an alternative vision of reality and pridefully proclaiming that his is true and God’s is false, he humbly denies that his vision of truth is true and pridefully says that God’s vision of truth isn’t true either.

This is how our culture has moved from modernism to post-modernism, from the conviction that truth comes only through the application of our senses and minds to external reality, while God is silent, to the conviction that truth is not real, that we each create our own truth, and all we can know is that which we create.

On the surface, it looks like a bad deal. What could a culture gain by giving up truth? It gains the facade of peace, and with it the facade of humility.

Wars, both literal and figurative, are fought over competing truth claims. Whether it is two small children fussing back and forth—“Did not!” “Did too!”—or nations bombing each other over a truth claim that a piece of real estate is theirs, we find ourselves disagreeing. With only ourselves to serve as the final arbiters, with no transcendent source of infallible truth, we settle our arguments through battle. How much better if my daughter Darby says to my son Campbell, “To me, you shoved me,” and he replies, “To me, I did not shove you,” and they agree to disagree. How much better if the Germans says to the Poles, “To us, that region belongs to us,” and they reply, “To us, it belongs to us.” Children and nations alike then pat themselves on their collective backs for their humility. No one is making an exclusive claim to the truth. No one has the arrogance to suggest he or she has cornered the market on truth, that the other is wrong. And as both sides agree to disagree, swords are beaten into plowshares.

If it is only true for me that there is only one name under heaven by which a man must be saved, then it is not true that there is only one name.

It is the devil’s bargain. And when we trade with the devil, we always lose what we offer and never gain what he promises. Is there peace and humility in relativism? Suppose my son does shove my daughter. Suppose daddy explains to Darby that to her he did, but to him he didn’t. What is to stop him from shoving her again? What is to stop Darby from shoving back when the glorious humility gained from relativism removes objective guilt (which, by the way, is the real reason it is so popular)? Now my children no longer are arguing over who is shoving whom. Instead, they are shoving each other all over the yard. What happens when tax collectors from Poland and Germany enter the same region? We can’t agree to disagree when we finally have to act. If you think the right way is north and I think it is south, all the humility in the world will not make the car move.

My concern, however, is not with the foolishness of the world but with the worldliness of the church. The supposed humility of relativism resonates with us because we know we are called to walk humbly with our God (Mic. 6:8). We find ourselves caught between a rock and a soft place as we are called to press the truth claims of King Jesus while seeking to mimic His meekness. If the devil defines meekness for us, if he confuses relativism and humility in our minds, the battle is lost. The Gospel of the kingdom, if it is merely true for me, is the gospel of the devil’s kingdom. If it is only true for me that there is only one name under heaven by which a man must be saved, then it is not true that there is only one name.

We are indeed called to be humble. But true humility is that which bows before the truth of God, not that which would negotiate it. It is pride that leads us to humbly offer up the Gospel as one alternative among many, when the one who paid for us says He is the way. It is humility to say with our Savior, “Repent, or perish.” It is pride to turn Him who is the truth into a mere “true for me.”

The world tells us that we are arrogant, loveless, and judgmental because we claim to have the truth. The accusations sting, in part because we are arrogant, loveless, and judgmental. But it is pride that causes us to seek to wiggle out from under those accusations by wiggling away from truth. Humility means being willing, like Jesus, to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, being willing to be thought proud because we feed upon the truth and will not eat of the devil’s mock humble pie.

God knows our hearts. We speak and think coram Deo, before the face of God. He knows whether we are proclaiming truth for our glory or for His. And He knows, as we should, that every time we refuse to stand, we do so for our own sake. We are to be humble about ourselves. We are sinners still. We err in our thinking and our doing. We are a jumble of sins and lies. But we are to boast in Christ, who is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. If we will not proclaim Him before men as the only way, He will not proclaim us before the Father.

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From the February 2001 Issue
Feb 2001 Issue