Intellectual Humility

A PhD student attempting to subvert Christianity with modern psychology came up with a new term for cognitive surrender. Exploring it gives insight into how evil was able to triumph so easily and quickly over the Church.

Per the following article from Christianity Today, Steven Zhou is an incoming PhD student in organizational psychology at George Mason, with an MA in religion from Pepperdine. He has served in college student ministry and leadership development, and his research background is in the intersection of faith and psychology, specifically in leadership and motivation studies.

Sounds like a politician more than a Christian. Christianity is correct and while apologetics is always important, when it comes to combining Christ with secular paths of study it should be obvious which subject gets precedence. This gives the Christian scholar a tremendous head start on his unbelieving peers.

What Psychology Offers Christians Amid Political Polarization

By Steven Zhou, 24 June 2019

TL;DR Psychology offers honorable defeat.

Unprepared for all the political drama after the 2016 election, a number of churches split up over disagreements on whether Christians should support President Trump or not. As we face the 2020 election, the pressure to choose a side remains intense. Recent Democratic candidates have called for the establishment of a “religious left” to defeat the “religious right.” Groups like the Red Letter Christians vehemently denounce anyone who supports President Trump as “abandoning Jesus” and part of a “toxic Christianity.”

Any examination of those church splits reveals the cause to be Trump Derangement Syndrome, not theological differences.

Yet the church’s tension is also part of a national tension: The growing rift between the two political parties has hit an all-time high, with 97 percent of Democrats polling more liberal in viewpoints than the average Republican, and likewise, 95 percent of Republicans polling more conservative than the average Democrat.

Psychology explains this political polarization as an effect of groupthink: Put in a position of “us versus them,” people will strongly side with those who think and act like themselves and want nothing to do with the other side. This creates a spiraling effect which further widens the “us versus them” gap.

This is insightful. “Us versus them” does indeed pressure people to pick a team and wear the uniform. Neither religious nor national boundaries can exist without a clear delineation between the factions.

I think one of the famous Soviet defectors said that first. Yuri Bezmenov?

Thus, the first step in Convergence of one’s enemy is to convince him that the standards he uses to determine “us versus them” do not exist or cannot be trusted. The resulting moral doubt is paralyzing and blinding.

A key mitigator to this hostility between groups is intellectual humility, a term psychologists broadly define as “recognizing that one’s beliefs and opinions might be incorrect.” The lead-up to the 2020 election has combined religion and politics in a way that is destined for social conflict. As the election cycle begins with this week’s primary debates, we can learn from this study.

Cognitive surrender was the previous term. We Christians should not have any doubt on the validity of our basic morality. It is simple to understand and established by our Creator. That so many Christians are unwilling to claim moral clarity in their God-based positions is the first, and possibly only, step on the road to apostasy.

While this kind of humility may be particularly applicable to this contemporary moment, humility has always been integral to the Christian faith. We believe in a God who humbled himself “to the point of death” (Phil. 2:8). Jesus taught us to think of others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3).

A case in point. Zhou immediately outs himself an an apostate of Christ by conflating Christ’s lack of selfish pride with Christ’s imputed inability to believe God’s moral code is trustworthy. Suffice to say, His last words on the Cross were “It is done,” not “Maybe I really did deserve this.”

Despite the infancy of studying this concept formally, psychology has already pointed to the importance of intellectual humility in social interactions around hot-button topics. One study suggested that participants with greater intellectual humility spent more time trying to understand views with which they disagreed and also were more likely to accurately assess their own knowledge on obscure topics. Another study pointed to intellectual humility as an important factor in reducing strong emotional reactions to those who disagreed with them, even leading to more moderate beliefs in general. Furthermore, intellectual humility had strong correlations with openness to alternative views and prosocial values such as empathy, gratitude, altruism, benevolence, social desirability, and honesty.

“Intellectual humility is useful for achieving Convergence.”

Unfortunately, the research on intellectual humility also suggests that Christians lag behind the curve. Numerous studies have correlated low intellectual humility with extreme views on religion both in support and opposition. One study found specifically that intellectual humility is difficult to practice among religious leaders. Since religion, especially Christianity, purports to be the only answer to the seemingly unanswerable questions about life and the afterlife, when such questions are challenged it can shake the foundations of a believer’s worldview.

Purports to be the only answer? If Zhou is Christian then he would not talk like this. Christ IS the only answer to the question of humanity’s redemption. There’s no posturing in that. No alternative.

Thus, confidence in one’s faith in the face of threats is preached and encouraged in the church, which unfortunately can breed a lack of intellectual humility. Instances of low intellectual humility mixed with misuse of the Bible as a weapon can result in the acts of violence and evil and disunity within the church. This April, we witnessed this when a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian church opened fire and killed a woman at a Jewish synagogue.

That’s a black lie. Zhou refers to the San Diego synagogue shooting which was John Earnest, a Brenton Tarrant wannabe who posted a white nationalist manifesto before doing the shooting. There is no case to be made that the Orthodox Presbyterians were waging jihad against outsiders.

Does Christianity Today not have an editor?

Who wants to bet that Zhou is a Chinese exchange student? *checks* I couldn’t confirm or deny. His undergrad was done at Pepperdine University. Huh, he made student of the year and gave a testimony that didn’t mention God but did mention his mentor, female Pepperdine Chaplain Sara Burton. No segue but here’s the link.

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While evangelicals believe that Christ is the only true way to salvation, we also believe in the transcendence of God and our own fallibility. His thoughts are greater than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8–9), and what we know and understand is only a part of the complete knowledge that comes in heaven (1 Cor. 13:9–12).

Your daily dose of Wormtongue. Christ is the only path to salvation but we aren’t smart enough to know that God also saves people via the Communist Party.

True, the Bible commands us to care for the poor and oppressed and to welcome the stranger from another land. Also true, the Bible commands us to defend the value of life and sanctity of marriage. Also important, though, Christians are commanded to demonstrate God’s love in their love for one another, so that in our unity, the world would know God. How are we doing this as we mediate between opposing political parties? Are we loving each other despite who we’re voting for or what party we’re a part of? Are we debating issues respectfully and with full consideration of each other’s ideas, rather than resorting to name-calling and personal insults?

Zhou speaks ill of the parts of Scripture claiming universal truth while speaking well of the parts useful for Social Justice. Such behavior makes me generally suspicious of advice to “take the good bits of a teaching while ignoring the bad bits”. If the source claims Christianity but doesn’t obey Scripture then salvaging his work is only a form of cover-up.

Research on intellectual humility suggests that it is not an unchanging personality trait; it can vary in specific situations. In other words, we can grow to manifest more intellectual humility through positive interactions and fruitful discussions with disagreeing individuals.

Peter set the example for us in Acts 10. Despite his strong convictions about staying away from “unclean” individuals such as the Gentiles, he was eventually convinced by God that the gospel is now made available for all peoples. He subsequently arranged for the baptism of Cornelius, a Gentile, as a new follower in Christ. Like Peter, we should be open to the possibility that our convictions may be incorrect and ready to learn from the work of the Holy Spirit in other Christians.

Israelites were required to keep separate from the Gentiles. God gave Peter a supernatural vision because Peter was trying to do right by God according to the Old Covenant and needed revelation to know that Gentiles were fully welcome in the NT church. When it came time to admonish Peter for treating the Gentiles poorly, Paul got the job.

When it comes to whom we should vote for in the 2020 election, the recent surge in intellectual humility research echoes a resounding biblical call to humility. If we transcend partisanship in the upcoming election in service of loving one another, we will ultimately demonstrate God’s love (John 13:34–35).

God’s love via totalitarian atheism and white genocide. Nobody, Zhou included, nags the atheist and SJW to be more tolerant of their opponents and always remember that they should never position themselves as intellectual absolutists. Let alone the vibrants.

We Christians have a monopoly upon spiritual truth. We didn’t make that monopoly; it exists because God is real and manifest in Christ Jesus, hated by the world. Anybody who tells you that you should not be dogmatically confident in your salvation and God’s basic morality should be assumed a false Christian.

The devil’s first deceit was “are you sure God said that?” From then until Zhou’s “intellectual humility”, nothing has changed. Self-doubt is a killer of principled conduct.

Who would Jesus vote for in 2020? Nobody, because Jesus is not an American citizen and would never break the law by voting. Remember that while you stuff the ballots, Social Justice termites. That is provably not what Jesus would do.


5 thoughts on “Intellectual Humility

  1. Yet another example of how many abstract and morally enriched terms are hijacked and misappropriated in public arguments for the purpose of confusing others and confounding the argument.

    This is why I take the time to examine concepts such as pride, humility, discernment, sanctification, and defilement.

    Zhou’s error is in shifting the frame from philosophy to moral relativism using an emotionally laden word (humility) that is poorly defined to mean something that it doesn’t.
    This is akin to describing a medical disease in terms of a mechanical malfunction. Anyone who is familiar with either the medical profession or mechanical engineering would immediately recognize this as quack science.

    It is often acceptable to use analogies and parables to describe spiritual realities, because there is no way to describe them directly. But anytime you see terminology reserved for abstract spiritual realities being used to describe something more concrete, rest assured that a lie is in the mix.

    This type of intellectual dishonesty is called “Eulerization”. For more information on this, see number three in the following post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Nobody, Zhou included, nags the atheist and SJW to be more tolerant of their opponents”

    The motto of non-Christians might as well be “What’s good for thee is certainly not good for me.”

    Where “intellectually humility” means admitting that you don’t know everything and might be wrong, this is generally a good thing. But when it comes to the words of Jesus, he was pretty plain on a whole host of issues, including the exclusivity of salvation through himself. I’m right there with you. If you can’t acknowledge that absolute morality comes from God, no matter what you or I think about it, you really can’t be a Christian. It’s pretty basic-level stuff.


  3. Pepperdine was Christian in name only when I lived in the area 20 years ago.

    “CINO” describes very nearly ALL “Christian” colleges and universities of any renown nowadays. Baylor and Notre Dame are two others that come very quickly to mind.


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