Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why Liberalism Breeds Arrogance

For some reason the term "arrogant" gets tacked onto conservatives. After all, they're the ones supposedly oppressing others with their view of morality.

But what does it mean to be arrogant? Arrogance is really a lifting of oneself over another. It is to think less of one who is outside of the Self and more of the Self. Hence, it is to exalt the Self over others.

The problem is that actually a true conservative isn't doing this at all. In fact, it's the liberal that does this. And he must do it, precisely because his authority is himself. Hence, whenever he judges something to be true, right, wrong, absurd, ridiculous, imperative, responsible, irresponsible, etc., he is at all times only expressing his personal opinion. His basis for holding that opinion is only his own personal experience (and whatever external authorities may happen to agree with him are used to bolster his claim).

Hence, he, unlike the conservative who basis his authority outside of himself, is actually imposing his opinion on other people whenever he judges something to be right or wrong, good or evil, true or false. But what sort of human being thinks of his own opinions so highly, his own experience so exceptional, his own abilities to judge an issue or a matter so great, as to subject everyone else's opinion, whether based on internal or external authorities, to his?

You see, that is why the Bible presents arrogant, haughty, self-important people as those who do not submit themselves to God's Word. They lift up their personal opinions so high they cannot possibly submit them to lower authorities as the Bible or the Church. In Scripture, the liberal is the arrogant man, not the conservative who follows the Scripture.

The one who is in submission to Scripture isn't impressing his opinions over another. He's not the one subjecting everyone else to himself and his experiences. He yields to another authority, outside of himself, in order to judge issues and matters. In other words, the conservative who follows the Bible is often called arrogant for telling other people what is right and wrong, true and false, but according to Scripture, he is what God considers a humble man.

In Isaiah 66:2, God declares that His Spirit does not dwell in temples made by human hands, but in individuals who are humble and contrite in spirit. And who are these individuals? The text says that they are those who "tremble" at His Word. They take God and His revelation seriously enough to submit themselves and their judgments to it. This is also why Moses was considered the most humble man alive, not because he didn't tell others what was what, but because he continually subjected himself and others to what God had said.

But the liberal's primary authority for judging reality (and therefore issues and matters in life) is his personal experience. He can't humble himself before God's Word. He has to poke holes in it instead. He must see its variations as ultimate contradictions rather than ultimate complementations. He must mock those who would place themselves under it, and despise those who would tell others what is good and true based upon it.

In short, the conservative is arrogant to the liberal because the conservative won't bow down to the liberal's interpretation of reality. He won't yield to the liberal's low view of the Bible and the Church. He won't concede to him the authority he so desires all to recognize.

This is also why liberals get so much more offended than genuine Christians often do when you correct them. The liberal is completely unteachable unless he wants to learn something new or be corrected, but he doesn't want the imposition of an external authority to be placed upon him without his permission.

I had a older pastor friend in the PCUSA who had a lot of friends who were liberal pastors. He once said to me that liberals were the most intolerant people he knew, far more than the conservatives he knew. I concur with this, as my friends are the same (or I should say, were the same, liberals don't stick around very long when they don't get their way and the conservative friend isn't one of those silent, passive types).

In essence, liberals are intolerant because their view of reality stems from their personal experience and to reject what they say about what is good and true is to reject them. The conservative, however, may be offended for his authority, but not for himself, as what he says doesn't really have its source in him. In a way, although he wants to emulate it, the good and the true is not intrinsically linked to who he is and his experiences necessarily. He is at all times seeking to yield to another, and so he has a lot of practice at looking at issues from a distance to himself first. To reject the issue is to reject the conservative's authority, however, not the conservative himself. Hence, he makes a better sparring partner in debate than the liberal who takes everything personally.

But the point of it all is that liberalism breeds arrogance because when someone exalts the Self as the primary interpreter of reality, and another comes along and rejects the Self as right in the matter, thus tearing the Self down from that exalted position, the liberal sees it as a personal attack. And this sensitivity is bred by the fact that the Self is used to being stroked by the individual as something great and honored. If one does not yield by allowing the liberal to interpret reality according to his own experiences, then he is viewed as a bad person. Only those who allow the liberal, in our relativistic society, to interpret reality for himself and judge others by it, are allowed to be good people in his universe.

The point is that the liberal is at all times speaking from himself, telling others that they need to be in agreement with him that his interpretation is valid in some way. If he does not get this submission, his wrath is great indeed.The bodies of any conservatives who may have disagreed will be strung upon the walls of slander and exiled from social acceptance (i.e., cut off from his people). One cannot defy the divine liberal without severe consequence.

Transgress one of his commandments (such as, "Thou shalt not bring into conversation an external authority that is greater than the Self"), however, and feel his wrath. As the Psalmist says, "The  arrogant  utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Thy law" (119:51). And again, "The  arrogant  have dug pits for me, those who are not in accord with Thy law" (v. 85).

Of course, there are different kinds of liberals, but the arrogance that is produced by liberalism is seen best when it comes into conflict with another authority that negates it. It is only then that you see the exaltation of man in all of his hubris, and his own little Babylonian tower that has been erected as a monument to the Self. In that conflict, the liberal is viewed as arrogant by God for lifting himself up above God's Word and the conservative Christian is viewed as arrogant by the liberal for lifting God's Word up over the liberal. Which kind falls into judgment according to the following verses seem obvious:

 Listen and give heed, do not be arrogant, For the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, Before He brings darkness And before your feet stumble On the dusky mountains, And while you are hoping for light He makes it into deep darkness, [And] turns [it] into gloom. But if you will not listen to it, My soul will sob in secret for [such] pride; And my eyes will bitterly weep And flow down with tears, Because the flock of the Lord has been taken captive. (Jer 13:15-17)

Everyone who exalts his own thoughts is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not go unpunished. (Prov 16:5).


  1. Thanks Hodge for making such persuasive arguments.

    With regards to the anecdote to your PCUSA pastor friend having liberal pastor friends and liberal Christian friends, I often times find little to no difference between theological liberals and political liberals. It seems that the overwhelming majority of theological liberals are also political liberals.

    Of course, the same could be said about theological conservatives. The overwhelming majority of theological conservatives are political conservatives.

    If this is more than coincidence, why do you think this is?

  2. Truth,

    I've often thought about that, but probably not too deeply to have a definitive answer for it. There does seem to be a connection, but what that is, I'm not sure. We can see the liberal trajectory in that it moves away from what is traditional, but liberals often wish to institute their own traditions as well. Maybe looking at the way each interprets something like the constitution might be a place to start. But whatever the connection, my primary concern is liberalism's encroachment upon the church. The idea that it's a viable alternative to conservative Christianity is a ruse. There is only Christianity that is conservative by nature. Anything else isn't Christianity. As Machen once noted, liberalism is Christianity's rival and another religion altogether. I guess that would often mean that its politics aren't informed by genuine Christianity either. Hence, one often follows the other, even though there are exceptions.