And then there is pride  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

Lent begins in two days, a period each year in which Christians are encouraged to take seriously the need to intentionally step away from being self-centered.

I grew up in a tradition that was dismissive of Lent. “Show me a verse that commands us to give up chocolate for Lent,” someone would say. And all those in the know would snicker, since there are none, of course.

The church mothers and fathers that bequeathed us Lent thought in different categories. They knew Scripture to be God’s revelation in Christ, not a list of rules detailing the minutia of life. Proof-texting would be appropriate, I suppose, if the Bible was given as a software manual, but it is not, so proof-texting must be seen for what it is: a misuse of God’s word. Our spiritual ancestors also knew that repentance is not a once-for-all experience, and that if we didn’t intentionally focus on it periodically we probably would fail to increasingly mature into lives characterized by repentance. Judging by my own experience, they were correct. I could give lots of reasons, but they all boil down to pride.

“Probably at no point,” John Stott writes in Issues Facing Christians Today, “does the Christian mind clash more violently with the secular mind than in its insistence on humility and its implacable hostility to pride” [p 37]. That’s not what would have come to mind if I were asked where the Christian mind differed most violently from a secular worldview, but I think Stott may be correct. “It would be hard to improve,” Stott adds in Life in Christ, “on Luther’s description of fallen man as homo in se incurvatus, ‘man curved in on himself.’ Human fallenness is human selfishness” [p 86].

The more I write this blog the less comfortable I am about this topic. Which is precisely the reason I need to take Lent seriously this year.

This entry was posted at Monday, March 07, 2011 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



In the vast majority of the Roman Catholic world today and in history, it seems that the Lenten season, particularly Holy Week, is an opportunity to promote a false gospel. There are places today where men whip themselves or have themselves crucified to pay for their sins. While I certainly agree that humility is desirable, I would just as readily argue that false gospel should be damned (literally). Christ paid the penalty for my sins, once and for all, and for that I am thankful, and humbled that I could never pain myself enough to pay my debts. The "bath water" of lenten observance appears to me so filthy that I doubt there is a "baby" worth saving in it. Sorry if this is too cynical but I have smelled the sweat and blood of the men who try to pay for their own sins. It's a sad and serious mistake that I would prefer to steer clear of.

March 8, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Self-flagellation. My goodness. I would not have guessed my post would be read in this light.

The misuse of something is never a sufficient argument for its disuse. Lent, like so much else in this broken world, has been misused and abused. No argument there, but that fact does not mean it cannot be used for good.

I intended my post to be about the need to grow in humility, the danger of pride, and how Lent was an opportunity to mature spiritually. I would never criticize anyone for refusing to observe Lent, but that refusal can be unwise if some observance is not substituted that will allow the same growth.

Thanks for commenting.

March 8, 2011 at 2:34 PM

I'd welcome your comments on our role in our sanctification. Our tradition rightly emphasizes that salvation is by grace through faith in the work of Christ and that alone. But salvation is more than justification. Any view of sanctification that doesn't include what I need to be doing, especially in the area of repentance, is a mockery of sola gratia, sola fide.

March 9, 2011 at 8:01 AM

Good issue to discuss in regard to Lent.

I agree with each of your three points. St Paul speaks of "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5) not because works save us or because our faith merits God's grace, but because true faith is characterized by always flowing out in obedience. Thus, I define sanctification as a gracious operation of God's Holy Spirit, involving our participation and obedience in gratitude for God's mercy, by which he removes the pollution of sin in us.

Though I am grateful for the Lutheran tradition and honor it, this is one reason I am Reformed not Lutheran. Their concern, it seems to me, to keep justification by faith pure of any hint of works, causes them to downplay our participation in sanctification in a way that is less than fully helpful or biblical.


March 9, 2011 at 8:42 AM

I would be interested in hearing how your passage through Lent influences your view of God, of yourself and the world in which we live. Would you be willing to give us a bit of a window to your heart in this journey?

March 13, 2011 at 9:33 PM

24/7 Mom:
I am humbled that you would request this, since it isn't the usual fare I assume people come to my blog to read. But yes, I will do some of this. Thank you for asking me to.

March 14, 2011 at 9:59 AM

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