At some point, whether in an argument or a debate, you’ve probably been shut down with the popular, dismissive response, “That’s just your opinion.”
That abrupt statement has become a handy tool in recent years, as postmodernity has gained a foothold in our regular discourse. It’s sometimes deployed as an exit ramp from confrontations and other uncomfortable conversations. And while it can be an effective way to deflect unnecessary conflict, it’s most often used as an offensive weapon, not a shield.
And while that argumentative tactic doesn’t work in every setting—criminals would be wise to avoid it with judges—it has a growing and problematic presence in the realm of theology.
I found it particularly frustrating when a female preacher visited my house. She claimed that the Bible is her final authority on all matters. But when I opened God’s Word to 1 Timothy 2:12 and attempted to explain to her Paul’s instructions for church leadership, she wrote off Scripture’s prohibition against women preachers as nothing more than my opinion.
Unfortunately, that experience isn’t an isolated incident. Today we are seeing an enormous amount of evangelical pushback when biblical doctrines collide with personal preferences. With a plethora of interpretations and opinions for any given text, absolute, authoritative truth has a diminishing presence on the evangelical landscape.
That’s the true legacy of the Emerging Church and its supposed “hermeneutic of humility.” Assurance is widely perceived as arrogance. The church is now overrun with people who believe that uncertainty about doctrine and unwillingness to be dogmatic are the true tests of Christian humility. Authoritative preaching and clear doctrinal truth are antiquated relics of a less inclusive, unenlightened church era.
But postmodernism’s militant, open-minded inclusiveness is antithetical to true humility when it comes to biblical matters. Even the vague doctrinal uncertainty that the Emerging Church championed was rooted in a refusal to take God at His Word. The Bible repeatedly proclaims an exclusive path to heaven through a narrow gate (Matthew 7:13–14; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The humble approach is not to seek out alternate readings of those truths, but to submit to the divine Author.
We desperately need that kind of humility in our pulpits today. It’s possible to deliver God’s Word, diagnose sin, and discern right from wrong without being arrogant. In fact, it’s vital. True humility demands that we depend on God’s standards rather than enforce our own.
It’s humble to preach authoritatively if you’re submitting to a divine authority. And it’s humble for Christians to make truth claims about facts God has already established. Assurance is not arrogant; constantly questioning what God has plainly stated, and imposing that uncertainty on everyone else, is.
The humble Christian has little interest in advocating for his own opinions. His priority is being a herald for God’s established truth. He wisely heeds Solomon’s counsel to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. . . . Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5, 7).
Moses’ preaching was always unyielding, uncompromising, and authoritative. And the biblical testimony concerning his life is that he “was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Moses boldly declared to Israel what God had declared to him, and God described that as unsurpassed humility.
We need to reject every false, postmodern notion of humility and embrace the biblical standard instead—both in the way we communicate biblical truth and sit under its teaching. God has revealed Himself to us in an inspired and inerrant text. He has spoken with clarity and authority, and He expects His people to do likewise.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 3:16–4:5)