Wednesday 27 January 2016

The attitude to Pride divides the Christian perspective from others

Lots of people know that for Christians Pride is the worst sin. This is distinctive to Christianity - where it has a particular meaning of rejecting the authority of God, the validity of God's creation, the Goodness of God.

If you don't understand Pride, or disagree with it being a sin, then you aren't a Christian.

(Of course, you may simply disagree about whether a particular thing is an instance of Pride and therefore a sin. But a Christian cannot deny that Pride is indeed a sin. 

But you don't need to live consistently without Pride! Christianity is about 1. acknowledging that Pride is a sin, and 2. repentance of the sin of Pride in oneself when it happens; Christianity is not conditional on the (impossible?) achievement of living entirely without Pride. (Christ came to save sinners, not perfect men.)

Some sins are almost universal, shared between religions and no religion, and seem 'natural' - but Pride is not one of these. Pride is distinctive to Christianity, and that Pride is a sin is known as a consequence of Christian revelation - it is not a product of instinct nor a result of logical analysis.

This is a living, active dispute. Many campaigns and organizations are structured around the goal of stimulating and sustaining Pride in some group of persons. Typically, they will officially define Pride in non-sinful terms such as 'self-respect', or 'love for' or loyalty; but equally typically they will sooner or later advocate sinful Pride - including the subversion, rejection or inversion of the Christian understanding of other sins.

The sin of Pride usually leads swiftly onto resentment and hatred - and this is a reliable way of detecting sinful Pride, and discriminating it from benign or neutral self-respect, love or loyalty. Non-Christians often argue that Pride is necessary - and indeed it does seem to be psychologically necessary to non-Christians, or at least mostly-so.

Most religions regard Pride as a good thing, not a sin - so long as it has the appropriate subject matter. For modern atheist/ agnostics, Pride may be the core of their being, the thing that keeps them motivated and active.

I would say that this was largely the case for my pre-Christian self: that Pride was what enabled me to stand against the social consensus, what gave me strength to do my thing. Pride was the fuel and Pride provided my direction: thus I would not have been willing to agree that Pride was a sin, and certainly not the worst sin. 

This is perfectly understandable and maybe inevitable - if you are not a Christian. 

So, the attitude to Pride is indeed a cleavage line between Christians and non-Christians. Pride can only be seen as the evil it is, when a person acknowledges that the values of the universe do not arise from himself - but are established by our Heavenly Father who is 1. the creator, 2. Good, and who 3. loves us - we being his children.

So the prevailing 'rules and laws', the order of the universe... this is not arbitrary, nor does it come from ourselves - these things are true, objective, external (even when our knowledge of them is imprecise and prone to error) - and the 'set-up' of creation is essentially benign and made for our ultimate benefit (individually and as mankind).

Because God is the creator, Good and our Father - God has legitimate authority over us. Or, to put it another way, since God created order - there is no ordered Good except within God's creation. If we reject God, then we, Pridefully, are setting ourselves up as a rival God - yet we have no created order to dwell within. Our position is therefore oppositional to the created, ordered Good.

Or else, insofar as it is not merely oppositional, in Pride we come to dwell in a microscopic subjective universe of our own self-will - perhaps trying to persuade others to subordinate themselves to our subjective micro-universe. We make ourselves God of a tiny world where nothing has created by us, but only co-opted from God's universe and subjected to our personal interpretation.

This Pride-full, micro-subjective universe situation is not impossible, it is not even irrational - but it is anti-God, anti-Christian, a self-exile outwith the bounds of Christianity.

Christians call it Hell - it is in fact plural: a group of multiple mutually-self-isolated mini Hells - but clearly some people prefer it and choose it. That choice is the consequence of ultimate Pride. 

Pride is a rejection of the basic fact that our shared reality comes from our Christian God - and the demand to define reality from within ourselves - which is why it is incompatible with Christianity. 


William Wildblood said...

Is pride the same as ego? If so, other religions do have a similar understanding of what constitutes the greatest barrier between Man and God. But it is absolutely true that only Christianity really gets to grips with the sin of pride, and I think this is because only Christianity fully understands both the fact and the consequences of the Fall. Also, the Christian remedy for pride, humble submission to the God of love as revealed in and through the person of Christ, is by far the best there is. Maybe the only one there really is.

The modern world is built on pride which has been transformed into a virtue. In its wake follow anger, hatred and fear, all of which, disguised and dressed up to look respectable, are the prime motivating forces behind so much that is going on in the world today. And all this follows on from the rejection of God. We need some good, old fashioned prophets thundering from the mountain top. Or maybe through a blog!

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - No, Pride isn't ego. It is much deeper than that. I'll try and express it differently...

Pride is (implicitly, seldom explicitly - except perhaps in the case of Satan) understanding and rejecting Christ's offer of salvation lived in the context of God's created reality; because you hate that reality and your subordinate place in it; and the desire instead to inhabit your own (tiny, isolated) reality, where you can set and live-by your own rules.

And, on top of that, to regard your own tiny self-created reality as *objectively* superior to God's; such that you feel justified (and 'virtuous') in wrecking God's reality - to the greatest extent you can; and also in wrecking other people's chance of happiness in God's reality - to the greatest extent you can.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, I would agree that pride is deeper than ego but it surely derives from it or they are part of the same thing which is the exaltation of the separate self.

Anonymous said...

I'd argue that a person could, in fact, have Pride while also abandoning Ego. Surrendering your since of self to 'something' doesn't mean you are surrendering your self to God.

There are lots of religions that tackle the notion of immolating Ego but don't address contrite and sincere repentance before God.

- Carter Craft

Bruce Charlton said...

@Carter - " Pride while also abandoning Ego" and vice versa. Agreed.

Egotism is more like 'conceit' - having a high opinion of oneself - which is a much more minor sin, and dissociable from Pride.

Unacknowledged, undetected spiritual Pride is a major problem of Eastern, ego-extinguishing religions.