Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Pseudohumility of Christianity?

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Stephen Woodford has a YouTube channel called Rationality Rules and he posted a video titled The Pseudohumility of Christianity attacking the humility of Christianity.

Arguments Against Christian Humility

Christianity encourages its adherents to practice humility, e.g. Matthew 23:12 and Philippians 2:3. So what’s the issue? At around 4:53 Woodford says, “The issue is that these verses are predicated upon sheer arrogance, and here is where my rant starts.”

He says that Christians believe there is one perfect God and that we’re created in his image (true so far), “which is a not-so-subtle way of saying we are, or close to, perfect.” What? Why think that? Exactly what it means to be created “in the image of God” is unclear and is debated among theologians (we are like God in some ways, having mind, will, and emotions—perhaps it means this). Woodford provides no evidence or argument for his particular exegesis nor does he cite any theologian who adheres to it; he gives only his word for this uncharitable interpretation. What should be needless to say is that Christianity teaches we are far from perfect, so far in fact that it is while we were enemies of God that Christ died for us (Romans 5:10), which is quite far from perfect indeed.

At around 5:15 to 5:34 Woodford recognizes an alternate interpretation for being made in the image of God: us being created above animals and Woodford says this “stinks of hubris.” But does it? My parents chose that I exist because they wanted a child to love and care for, and presumably they valued me over any animal. Does this belief “stink of hubris”? After all, it’s not as if I did anything to deserve it. In a way it could be said that God “chose” us insofar as he created humans and we have greater value than animals, and Woodford seems to think this justifies his claim that it “stinks of hubris,” but this doesn’t seem to follow.

At around 5:41 Woodford says that “most Christians believe that the universe was created for us in mind.” So? It doesn’t follow that most Christians believe that the universe was created only for us in mind; after all there’s an awful lot more to the universe than just us! (To say nothing of the untold legions of angels that also exist in reality!) At around 5:45 he also adds that most Christians believe that “we are a vital part in a grand divine plan.” Well, we are a part and we are “vital” in the sense that God loves us very much, but so what? It’s not as if we’re the only part of God’s plan; we could well be one of innumerable vital parts. At around 5:48 to 5:54 he notes the Christian belief that we have personal consciousnesses that outlast our bodies. Again, so? It’s not as if we’re the only beings who will outlast our bodies, e.g. angels. At around 5:55 to 6:08 he says many Christians believe they have a personal relationship with God (so?) and that God answers prayers (so?).

I could go on, but you get the gist. It’s true that in many ways God is nice to us. Woodford’s arguments fail largely because of a failure to ask why God answers prayers, gives humans an afterlife, makes us part of his divine plan, etc. Does God do so because we’re so awesome when we’re not? If so, then this is arrogance. But if instead it’s merely due to God being generous, then this doesn’t imply arrogance. So which is it? Well, consider again Romans 5:10: Christ died for us when we were still God’s enemies. The reason God is so nice to us is not because we’re so awesome and deserving. Indeed, part of the Christian faith is that we’re not deserving! It’s because God is so generous in his sacrificial love. We don’t deserve eternal life; rather it’s a gift from God, so teaches Christianity. Thus, a litany of nice things that Christians believe God does for us (which Woodford apparently believes are “extraordinarily arrogant tenants,” around 6:45 to 6:51) fails to constitute a good argument for arrogance; the conclusion just doesn’t follow.


I’ve seen multiple nontheists charge Christianity with arrogance, a claim often that they often supply with little to no evidence. After all, the Bible nowhere teaches that the universe was created just for us. Christianity teaches humility and explains why we have good reason to be humble; we are sinners in need of a savior, and it is while we were enemies of God that God sent his Son out of sacrificial love. It wasn’t because we deserved it. At around 7:01 to 7:06 Woodford says that “There is nothing humble about asserting the universe revolves around you.” He’s right, but he’s also wrong in thinking Christianity teaches anything of the sort; it doesn’t, and Woodford fails to provide sufficient evidence justifying this assertion (after all, for all we know there could be intelligent life in many other parts of reality whom God loves as well). Christianity suggests that, metaphorically speaking, the universe revolves around God, not us. We’re just fortunate to be in orbit.