When we as Christians need to be reminded that humility is a virtue, we might be in a spot of trouble. Such is the point made in a recent New York Times op-ed. The author, Peter Wehner, laments the dearth of humility today and seeks to recall Christians to this quiet virtue. He’d like to see more of it not just in our churches but also in civic life and especially in the political sphere. I certainly second that motion.
I was especially interested in the way Wehner defines two kinds of humility: moral and epistemological:
I have become convinced that Christians should be characterized by moral humility. This doesn’t mean followers of Jesus should be indifferent to a moral order grounded in eternal truths or unable to judge some things right and others wrong. But they ought to be alert first and foremost to their own shortcomings — to the awareness of how wayward our own hearts are, how even good acts are often tainted by selfish motives, how we all struggle with brokenness in our lives.
Epistemological humility should also characterize Christians . . . This doesn’t mean one ought to live in a state of perpetual doubt and uncertainty. If we did, we could never speak up for justice and moral truth. It does mean, however, that we’re aware that what we know is at best incomplete. “We see through a glass darkly” is how St. Paul put it in one of his letters to the Corinthians: We know only in part.
Perhaps we could usefully think of humility as a spiritual practice, one that grounds us and helps us relate to God and our community. Might we also be called to humility as writers? Surely so. As we put words to screens and paper, we come up against all that we do not know and cannot express. We rely on one another and on God to try to come up with a fuller picture.
Read this op-ed in the New York Times.