Saturday, December 24, 2005

Humility in the Academy

Humility in the Academy

Pride is unbecoming to the Christian scholar.  Confidence, expertise, ambition – these are all important qualities of a professor or researcher.  Arrogance, however, is unseemly even for the atheist.

The pride that springs from our proficiency is the particular concern I wish to address here.  We are experts, and expertise is no sin.  When superiority infects our self-confidence, though, we lose our ability to hear from our brothers and sisters outside our expertise.  We begin to think that our discipline has a corner on the knowledge market, and that anyone outside our circle is a second-class academic citizen.  Lest you glibly think to yourself, “Yeah, just like those jerks over in the ________ department,” let me say that I have observed this sin to be ubiquitous.  

Traditionally, the Hatfields in the humanities have been feuding with the McCoys of the sciences.  Both groups look down their bespectacled noses at the other, their patronizing glances lingering disapprovingly.  Both groups have their shibboleths.  They are both right about one thing – the “others” just don’t understand the finer aspects of their discipline.  But this difference quickly festers into disdain.  My contention is this:  such contempt is grounded, not in the others’ incompetence, but rather in our own arrogance.  We are naturally predisposed to consider our own point of view the best, and this is a case of such inclinations gone awry.  We all have a duty to examine ourselves, to see if this manifestation of pride has infected us.

Considering other points of view, while quite convinced of your own position, is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world to do.  This is exactly why humility must be our greatest ambition.  Our Lord, who knew all things, did not close his ears to others.  I’m not suggesting that he was uncertain of his own beliefs (although others have), but rather that his humble nature simply overflowed into his dialogues.  The One who was even willing to set aside his own equality with God was easily willing to sit and listen to his fellow man.  How much more should we be willing to listen?  You may say, “I will listen, but only to those who I deem worthy.”  Such a person has missed the point.  Jesus submitted himself to all sorts, none of whom was worthy.  “But Jesus vituperated some people, like the Pharisees.”  It is another subtle and dangerous truth that those who disagree with us often appear Pharisaical.  Pride colors even our perceptions.  Humility makes others seem better than ourselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Arrogance, however, is unseemly even for the atheist." That sort of subjective bias in criticism isn't arrogant at all, now is it? But I digress, for it is only that you're wont towards paradox. But seriously, do you have any sense at all of real and illusion? Do you have any idea of the actual origins of all this you so accept? Drink the ancient kool-aid! wooo. The harsh reality is that you're a prideful dope. Get over your nonsense already.

4:11 PM  

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