In Islamic writings there is an interesting twist to the Genesis story. It is said that Adam’s supremacy in creation was acknowledged by all creatures, including the angels, who were commanded by God to worship Adam. All did with one exception – Iblīs [Arabized version of the Greek Diabolos] who refused. As a consequence of his refusal he was subsequently banished from heaven. The inference is clear – arrogance is the greatest of sins. And from the perspective of many Muslims the greatest arrogance they see is that exuded by the West and its leaders who think they know what is best for cultures with a totally different ethos from theirs. This, among other things, accounts for their general antipathy towards the West.
There is much that separates Islam and Christianity – but I would suggest such a view is not one of them. Even a cursory glance at the Old Testament reveals a God who will have no tack with pride and arrogance. Here is one example among many –
“I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and abase the insolence of tyrants.”
Isaiah 13:11 [TLV]
When God speaks of the things he hates and of the reason for his judgement in the world – pride and arrogance top the list most of the time. So we do not disagree with our Muslim friends on this matter.
Having served as a Police Officer for 30 years I met many arrogant people at every level of society. But nothing, and I really mean nothing, exceeded the arrogance I have encountered within the church. Some of the things I have experienced and seen would boggle the mind! And such arrogance – displayed by those who claim to follow Him who – “Humbled Himself— becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:8] – begs many serious questions – too many to address in such a short article.
At a more general level there is the arrogant assumption within many religious groups that they have a full revelation and understanding of truth. I have heard this said on many occasions. But as Pope Francis wrote recently – “ One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us.”* Precisely!
In a recent lecture Jordan Peterson the Canadian psychology professor said this –
“It is clear that the virtue of humility allows us to recognise that we need others to balance us, challenge us, and fill the gaps in our knowledge… The failure to develop this virtue is an invitation to violence. Indeed, the corresponding vice of dialectical pride is what lies at the heart of a tyrannical ideology.”
When we apply this to the religious groups and churches in which you and I meet the possible consequences are dire. Just this week I heard of a Christian lady who spent over 30 years in a church under a “tyrannical ideology”. She eventually escaped but will be scarred for life. Brothers and sisters – this is not true Christianity – despite the fact that is the name so much of it is goes under! We urgently need to return to the life and practice of the One who exemplified true humility and said –
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus – Luke 14:11 [TLV]
Unless we are willing to do this voluntarily – I truly shudder at the consequences for our church, nation and indeed western civilisation itself. We urgently need to give heed to the words of James the brother of Jesus –
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour.”
*Pope Francis  “The Church of Mercy” 7