Friday, March 16, 2007

A good chop from one of my students

In a paper for my class Christian Ethics and Modern Culture, an adroit student wrote, "Christians should humbly try to be the smartest people on the planet."

Teaching does have its rewards.


D. A. Armstrong said...

You know when I was in Bible College, I had a long discussion about Christians should be the smartest people on the planet. I give two reasons, first Christianity should breed a work ethic that produces hard work, especially in studying. Furthermore, Christians have been given the Holy Spirit and the power that comes with the Holy Spirit.

Hugh said...

I collect quotes on my blog and this one makes the cut. I just wish I had a better citation than "A student of Douglas Groothuis."

But as someone once said, "a student is not above his master..."

Jonathan Erdman said...

I would suggest that it is impossible to be both humble and the smartest person on the planet. These two things are mutually exclusive.

Sermon on the Mount paraphrase:
Blessed are the poor in intelligence, for they will inherit the faith

john doyle said...

I think it would be impossible to be both Jonathan Erdman and the smartest person on the planet.

Jonathan Erdman said...

That may be true, but I take pride in being the most humble.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

There is no contradiction with being highly intelligent and humble. Jesus Christ was the most intelligent person to ever walk the earth and he was the most humble. Carl Henry was brilliant, and humble. I studied under him one summer. The same is true of Vernon Grounds, now Chancellor of Denver Seminary.

Your paraphrase makes no sense. It is the poor in spirit, not the unintelligent, that Jesus blesses. You are giving Nietzscheans fodder by this misunderstanding: Christians are dumb losers, so they bless stupidity and failure and curse intelligence and success. It is not true.

Humility means knowing where your blessing some from and not taking the glory for yourself; it does not mean refusing or denying the blessings, whether they be of intelligence, beauty, or anything else.

We need to outthink the world for Christ! And give God the glory for it.

Jonathan Erdman said...

If one is smarter than someone else then you are, by definition, superior to that person.

If you are superior to another then you usually know it.

If you believe that you are superior to another person then you are not humble

Christians are called to be humble.

It would not be good for Christians to be the smartest people on earth.

Jonathan Erdman said...

In general support for my premises I might add 1 Corinthians 8:

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.

Anonymous said...


It seems to me you believe you're superior intellectually by virtue of your leaving your challenging comments. By your definition, you are not humble. You also maintain a blog, I presume because you believe you have something worthy to share. Your definition of humility rules out this sort of elevation of self.

Food for thought.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Speers says...It seems to me you believe you're superior intellectually by virtue of your leaving your challenging comments. By your definition, you are not humble.

Excellent! As soon as I issued a superior argument I became superior and by virture sacrificed humility!

I will not dispute that point. I will embrace it. However, you do realize that means that you are not disputing my argument. That my humility has been compromised does not imply that the truth of my argument does not hold.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

If you believe that you are superior to another person then you are not humble"

This is false. I can know that I am better at philosophy than my plumber, but not be prideful about that. Why? I am not called to be a plumber, but a philosopher. Any philosophical ability I have is a gift from God.

Humility does not mean falsifying your own abilities. That is throwing God's gift back in his face.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Don't you think my 1 Corinthians 8 passage supports P3?

And just to clarify, I would not want to falsify a gift or ability or knowledge, or to try to be disingenuous. That would be wrong. As it would also be wrong to throw a gift back in God's face. However, I think that realistically speaking most of us become proud the minute we realize we are better at something than someone else. It seems to be human nature, and it seems to be unavoidable, which is what I think Paul's point is in 1 Corinthians.

For example, why do we use the example of a plummer? Is it because most of us think that plummers are uneducated idiots? Does not this example reveal a subtle pride and self-exaltation? The ironic thing is that most plummers would probably think that the "smart" philosopher-types are really quite useless in the real world! So, the plummer probably becomes proud when he interacts with the philosopher, and the philosopher is proud as he interacts with the plummer. So, it is probably just a matter of what a person thinks is important.