Humility is for a man’s self, not his convictions

Two days ago Justin Taylor posted this spectacular quote from G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. This is why we must read old thinkers, they see through our contemporary blind-spots. In this case, Chesterton sees through our most significant modern blindspot – that we ought be humble about truth, and proud about self:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . .

The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. (Orthodoxy [reprint, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995], 36-37.)

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About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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