We have been talking about the kind of false humility that pertains to our attitude in defending the faith. It is a product of the misinterpretations of 1 Peter 3:15 and other verses, of unbiblical religious traditions, and of adopting non-Christian standards for social intercourse and surrendering to non-Christian demands as to how they ought to be treated.
Although this false humility has inflicted far-reaching damage, there is another kind that poses an even greater danger. This is the false humility that discourages complete certainty regarding the truth of the gospel, or the actual content of our faith. There are those who promote this view about the faith even as they claim to defend it. And some of them would suggest that it is dishonest and arrogant to affirm and to present the gospel as if we possess total certainty that it is true. They claim that honesty and humility require us to acknowledge that our faith in the Lord Jesus could be entirely misguided, in the sense that the Christian faith itself could be wrong.
This false humility that affects the certainty with which one affirms and presents the content of the Christian faith could be based on a belief about the appropriate attitude that one should assume, or it could be the result of a person’s philosophical judgment. Since I wish to focus on this problem of equating the admission of uncertainty to honesty and humility instead of why one would come to make such an admission, the reason for the admission of uncertainty is irrelevant to this discussion. However, since it is important to the defense of the faith in general, I will make a brief statement about it.
If one makes an admission to uncertainty because he thinks that a humble attitude necessarily produces this behavior, then I have already refuted this. But if a person makes this admission because it is the result of his philosophical judgment, then this becomes a matter of rational argument, and the answer is that no one can produce an argument that casts any doubt upon any aspect of the Christian faith. We are able to refute any such attempt without any difficulty or hesitation. Further, the biblical defense of the faith that I have outlined in various places preempt such an attempt.
On the final page of his book, Humble Apologetics, John G. Stackhouse, Jr. writes, “We Christians do believe that God has given us the privilege of hearing and embracing the good news, of receiving adoption into his family, and of joining the Church. We do believe that we know some things that other people don’t, and those things are good for them to hear. Above all, we believe that we have met Jesus Christ.” This is fine, but then he continues, “For all we know, we might be wrong about any or all of this. And we will honestly own up to that possibility. Thus whatever we do or say, we must do or say it humbly.”
He has stated some of the central claims of the Christian faith, and he claims to affirm these claims as true. So when he says that “we might be wrong about any or all of this,” he necessarily implies that Scripture itself might be wrong about any or all of this, that the entire Christian faith could be wrong. However, since the Bible itself does not admit that it “might be wrong about any or all of this,” when Stackhouse says that he “might be wrong about any or all of this,” he is no longer defending the Bible.
He might place the emphasis on his own fallibility, that he himself might be wrong about the belief that the Bible is God’s revelation, but this makes little difference, since it still returns to the point that if this is what he means, then he is no longer defending the Bible. He says that he might be wrong when he says that the Bible is right, which is the same as if he says that the Bible might be wrong. Because he says that he might be wrong when he says the Bible is true, so that the Bible might be false after all, he is no longer doing biblical apologetics.
The Bible says that when we affirm the things that it teaches, we can know with certainty that the things that we believe are true (Luke 1:3-4; John 17:6-8; Hebrews 11:1, 6). Christian apologetics is supposed to defend what the Christian faith teaches, and since the Christian faith does not say concerning itself that it might be wrong, when Stackhouse says that it might be wrong, he is no longer defending the Christian faith, but more than that, he is attacking it.
If the Bible itself claims to be God’s revelation and therefore completely true, then by what standard of humility does Stackhouse call his approach “humble”? Since the Bible is the ultimate standard of ethics, it also defines humility; therefore, when Stackhouse implies that the Bible itself might be wrong, he is not being humble, but arrogant – so arrogant that he says he might be wrong if he affirms what God reveals. According to biblical standard, it is not humble to say that you might be wrong when you affirm what the Bible affirms; instead, you are arrogant if you say that the Bible might be wrong.
For Stackhouse to claim to be a Christian and then say that his religion might be wrong is to say that Christianity might be wrong; therefore, instead of doing apologetics – humble or not – he is in fact attacking Christianity. If the Bible is the word of God, then to say that we might be wrong about it being the word of God is not humility, but blasphemy. If Stackhouse admits that he himself does not have certainty, then we may perhaps still accept him as a weaker brother, but when he says that we should not ever claim certainty, and even suggests that anyone who does is dishonest and arrogant, then he has made himself an enemy of Christ.
Rather than saying that we must “own up to that possibility” that we might be wrong, we must insist on the impossibility that we are wrong when we are affirming what the Bible teaches. When we affirm what the Bible affirms, it is impossible that we are wrong. If Stackhouse is so “humble,” he must also confess that he might be wrong when he says that he might be wrong about Christianity, for how can he be so sure there is “that possibility” that Christians can be wrong who affirm the Bible? Is he fallible when he affirms the Bible, but infallible when it comes to “that possibility”?
Man’s arrogance is revealed in his modest theology. The arrogant man’s confidence in his faith is in direct proportion to his confidence in himself, in his own estimation regarding his own intelligence and competence. Since this self-confidence, even if unrealistically large, is not absolute and infinite, then his “faith” must also be accordingly limited. His plea for humility is in fact a plea for removing God’s infallible revelation as the basis for faith, and to replace it with man’s arrogance as the only foundation for confidence in his religion. The basis for his apologetics is self-worship. Stackhouse’s approach to apologetics does not display the power and wisdom of God, but his inferior intellect and personal crisis of faith.
His position is unbiblical, irrational, and blasphemous; therefore, we must reject this false humility and scholarship in exchange for an approach to apologetics that is biblical, which is one that says, “We are right, and we are sure that we are right. You are wrong, and we are sure that you are wrong.” If this biblical position brings the world’s reproach, then so be it – let the unbelievers try to defeat us in argumentation.
He says, “For all we know, we might be wrong about any or all of this.” For all we know? Who gives him the right to speak for us? He should speak for himself. Unless he can defeat me in argumentation, proving that it is possible that the Christian faith is wrong, he cannot speak for me. For all I know, it is impossible that I might be wrong about any or all of this. And Stackhouse should honestly own up to that possibility that I am right, and that it is impossible that the Christian faith is wrong.
Then, notice that he makes the possibility of error the basis for humility: “We might be wrong…Thus whatever we do or say, we must do or say it humbly.” This makes us wonder why Jesus was so humble. In any case, this is not the biblical basis for humility. The Bible does not say that we must be humble because the Bible itself might be wrong. In fact, if the Bible itself might be wrong, then it cannot be an infallible authority by which humility is commanded, since such a command might itself be wrong, so that perhaps arrogance instead of humility is the virtue to pursue.
Since Stackhouse makes human fallibility instead of divine command the basis of humility, this humility is independent of his alleged belief in the Christian faith. In other words, he can be humble in the sense intended whether or not he is a Christian. Therefore, he is referring to a non-Christian humility. But if this humility is not based on divine command, then what difference does it make whether I am humble or arrogant, even by this non-Christian definition? Would Christ judge me for not showing a non-Christian humility? Would Christ rebuke me, and say, “Do not be so sure when you exalt my name before the heathens”? What, are you insane? And if Christ is false, then no one could judge me for not showing any kind or any degree of humility. Either way, Stackhouse’s version of humility is complete rubbish.
God does not send us out to proclaim a mere possibility for people to consider or investigate, but he commands all men everywhere to repent. This call to repentance carries authority and significance because the whole Christian faith is true. God does not send us out to tell people that we might be wrong, but rather, that we are right, that we are certain that we are right, and that we are certain that we are the only ones who are right. If you want to preach your own unbiblical opinion, then feel free to be “humble” about it, and feel free to say that you might be wrong. But when you claim to proclaim and defend the message of Christ, then it is not up to you to be modest about it.
An ambassador who represents his king when he addresses another nation operates with the full authority of the king within the boundaries defined for him by the king. That is, he speaks for the king within certain contexts and situations. It is not up to him to doubt the king, or to criticize or incite opposition against the king. For him to do so would amount to treason, and depending on the policy of his home country, the ambassador could be removed from office, imprisoned, or even executed. The monarch would be within his rights to parade this traitor through the streets while his people curse him and spit on him, and then to behead him in the city square.
The kingdom of God is no less a kingdom than any earthly kingdom, and Jesus Christ is no less a king than any earthly king. For Stackhouse to advocate a policy of apologetics that introduces uncertainty and fallibility to the Christian faith is treason against the kingdom, the king, and all his people. And the fact that he announces this policy as a Christian professor and a public figure makes the matter much worse. For this reason, Stackhouse should be removed from all positions in any Christian seminary, church, or organization, and he should stand under official church discipline, which should implement anything from a rebuke, and if he exhibits no repentance and issues no public retraction, he should be excommunicated.
Lest it appears that Stackhouse is used as a special target here, I mean that any Christian who advocates such an approach to apologetics should be treated in the same manner. In fact, all believers and organizations who do not affirm and implement such a firm policy against spiritual traitors share in their guilt. They care more about the comfort and friendship of men than the honor of Christ. If you are one of these people, repent! Flee to Christ for mercy, for he said that it would be better for you to tie a boulder around your neck and throw yourself into the sea, than to cause one of his little ones to stumble. You should rather kill yourself than to undermine a believer’s confidence in the Christian faith. Jesus said it, and I am happy to repeat it. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I condemn Stackhouse’s “humble apologetics,” as well as all its variations, no matter who advocates it, as long as it suggests that we should admit that we might be in error when we confess the truth of the Christian faith. I demand that you do the same.
If you confess that you have doubts about the Christian faith, then that is your problem. It is a problem of ignorance, of irrationality, of deficiency in your righteousness and intelligence. What you need is prayer, study, counseling, and divine grace for your soul. It takes a special brand of hypocrite to translate this defective faith into an approach to apologetics, and then to enshrine it and call it humility. You introduce doubt to the people of God, and insinuate rebellion into their hearts. You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, undermining the confidence of the faithful, while excusing the sons of hell. Shame on you. May your humility burn in hell, because it proceeds from the limitation and the arrogance of man, and not the revelation of God.
People who called themselves Christians have criticized me for stating that I am invincible in the defense of the faith. Although I always explain that this is because I derive my arguments from divine revelation, and revelation is invincible, just as God is invincible. And I always insist that any believer who would likewise stand on revelation is also invincible in argumentation, because even the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men. This explanation is ignored by my critics, because they always stand upon their own merits, and their confidence is only as extensive as their estimation of their own abilities. For them, the self is the ultimate reference of what is true, of what is possible, of what is great and what is not.
When I say that I am invincible, I am saying something about God, not something about me. Although this should be every believer’s attitude, it is inconceivable to some people that anyone would think this way, probably because they themselves think in a thoroughly self-centered and self-righteous manner. This is the basis of their confidence, and since they are limited, they think that to acknowledge this limitation is the essence of humility. They measure everything by their own merits and abilities. So when someone says that he is invincible, even though he clearly credits this to Christ, they cannot help but think that he claims to be invincible in himself and because of himself. Because they do not think as Christians should, they deny that anyone does. The Bible teaches that he who boasts should boast in the Lord, but these people think that if a man boasts, let him boast about himself or not at all.
True humility recognizes that without Christ we are not just limited, but that we are nothing and can do nothing, so that we should have no confidence in ourselves at all. Rather, we look to him to grant us wisdom and power, so that our measure of faith in his abilities and our estimation of his greatness become the measure of our confidence. This is the basis of my claim that I cannot be defeated by non-Christians, and that I am invincible in the vindication of the Christian faith. We have to own up to the reality that, when we affirm the Christian faith, we are affirming something that is true, that is certain, that is beautiful and glorious, and that is invincible in argumentation.