Your Own Conceits

The carnal nature in us, our old man, presumes we already know all we need to know; we don’t seek truth since we think we already have enough. It often operates in a vacuum of desperate self-deception (Re 3:17); the less we know the more confident we are in our understanding: in the extreme, it’s being utterly confident while knowing virtually nothing. (Pr 26:16)

We can detect this well-known principle operating in us, called the Dunning-Kruger effect, when we find ourselves over-estimating our own ability or knowledge, or underestimating that of others. Simply ask, what do I really know about this? How well do my ideas hold up under the scrutiny of experts who disagree with me? How well do I understand their best counter-arguments? Do I have training and experience demonstrating my capability under stress? What are the true boundaries of this area? Is my confidence based on facts or presumption? Whenever we find ourselves smugly confident, unwilling to listen to and deeply consider the claims, opinions or skills of others, we’re deceiving ourselves. (Ja 1:22)

Were it not for the restraining grace of God, our sin nature here would put each of us well beyond hope (Ro 7:24), for one who thinks he already knows has closed his mind (Mt 13:15) and can’t learn. (Pr 26:12) But this presumption is simply pride rooted in lies; we can learn from anyone, we can always improve if we’re poor in spirit and love the truth. As we perceive this arrogance operating within, it’s time to humble ourselves, soften our hearts, and repent. (Ja 4:10)

Rather than thinking we’ve arrived (Php 3:13-14) and are superior to others (Ro 2:19), God tells us all to be not wise in our own conceits (Ro 12:16c): helping each other seek and find the truth (a), esteeming others better, focusing first on fundamentals, along with the lowly. (b) Generally, when we’re missing it big, we’re missing the basics. (Mt 23:23)

This isn’t to say that we can’t be confident in our knowledge of God (Je 9:24), that we must always be doubting everything. (2Ti 1:12) There is room in faith and humility for confidence and certainty. (He_10:22) While that is true, it is also true that we don’t know everything about anything. (1Co 8:2) We can be both confident and teachable, grounded in the truth while ever seeking more of it.

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7 thoughts on “Your Own Conceits”

  1. Tim,

    Concluding sentence edifies.

    We can be both confident and teachable, grounded in the truth while ever seeking more of it. [excellent point you make] Balence.

    Thank you

    1. Thanks Stephen. This balance is an ongoing struggle, is it not? Never such that we don’t need to be on our guard for it creeping back in.

    1. Thanks Drake. Yes, the furnace of life is a refining fire. Hope you learn well and don’t need to re-learn again later.

      Same for me; it’s easy to forget important lessons – maybe that’s why it’s painful to learn them; Father doesn’t want us to forget too soon.

  2. Tim,

    I like the verse

    If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God

    Even though most of know we [fall short], yet speak with strength what one does speak. He will correct us. Speak as the oracles of God.


  3. Yes, we ought to speak what we know and testify of what we have seen. This helps us refine our perception and grow, as others challenge us where we’re still missing the mark.

  4. It has come to my attention (again) that I appear at times overly confident in my opinions, that I do not convey due reverence for the inherent complexities in many theological contexts, or for my inability to fully perceive all of the relevant nuances for any given topic.

    I find this criticism is reasonable. So, if you happen to notice me being overly confident in my understanding within a given context, please feel free to point this out. I may disagree and feel I have it nailed for good reason, but at least I will have another opportunity to correct myself, and for that I am, typically, very grateful.

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