Piper on the Insidious Nature of Pride in Public Life (Including the Pastorate)


From John Piper’s reflections, ten years later, on what he might say differently (or more deeply) than he did in his inaugural lecture for Bethlehem College and Seminary.

I actually began the message ten years ago with a warning about pride. This may seem gloomy. But I spent so many years in the academic world, and even more years looking at my own bent toward self-glory, that it seemed fitting to make our first act a penitent renunciation of pride.

I also wanted to make clear that academic pride comes in more than one form. Craving praise for one’s scholarly achievements is one form. But just as potent is cowardice. This is the spineless flip side of boasting.

The pride of boasting seeks praise — especially from powerful people.

The pride of cowardice seeks to avoid criticism — especially from powerful people.

I listed ten positions we take as a school that elicit criticism. This means we cannot be what we are if the pride of cowardice holds sway.

What I did not foresee ten years ago was the normalizing of proud behaviors that would once have been considered disqualifying for ministry, or at least for maturity.

This process of normalizing self-exaltation has been energized by social media.

Virtue signaling on Twitter, for example, is pervasive: “I am among the few people right now who are praying about this tragedy rather than commenting on it.” “Take note, everyone, that my heart is broken over this injustice.”

Even more blatant is retweeting other people’s praise of your book or article. When Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” it does not mean, “Make other people the mouthpiece of your own self-praise.”

Two other symptoms of the normalization of strutting one’s self have emerged. One is the childish antics of grown-up NFL players after they do something outstanding. The gesticulating self-congratulation would have been regarded as disgustingly immature just a few decades ago.

Finally, and perhaps most damaging of all since I spoke ten years ago, we now have a president of the United States who seems incapable of giving any evidence of humility or fallibility or interdependence.

Therefore, if I were giving that lecture today, my concerns about the insidious nature of pride in public life (including the pastorate) would be even greater, and the subtleties of its influence would need more analysis and resistance.

Read the whole thing here.

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