Moral Arrogance?

Guest Editorial


Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from a November 1994 editorial by Dr. Maurice Irvin, editor of this magazine from 1983 to 1996. As our nation is abuzz with opinions about the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, Dr. Irvin’s message is a timely reminder of how Christ followers should (and shouldn’t) respond to those whose beliefs differ from our own.
—Peter Burgo, editor-in-chief

Moral Arrogance—I found this phrase in a church newsletter. It caught my attention because I have been searching for a name for an unfortunate attitude I sometimes see manifested by some evangelical Christians.

Maurice IrvinObviously, we must maintain without compromise biblical standards of righteousness. In an age of relativism and amid eroding moral values, the believer must give unqualified support of absolute honesty, sexual purity, the sanctity of human life, and other such moral absolutes.

Sometimes, however, we communicate our convictions and/or we seek to uphold standards with moral arrogance. We heap condemnation upon those whose conduct we consider to be reprehensible. We treat with disdain those lifestyles that do not measure up to our concepts of right and wrong. We adopt a belligerent stance toward those whose opinions, we feel, are contributing to moral disintegration.

Sadly, such an attitude does not at all represent the compassion of Christ toward those who are lost. Moreover, our actions hurt those who really need healing. Our harshness and rigidity drive people away from the very truth that is the only remedy for the errors that so offend us. We make righteousness seem ugly rather than beautiful.

If we have been guilty of or if we have a tendency toward such an un-Christlike attitude, we need to remind ourselves of some truths. The first is that every person, no matter how wrong his or her views or how despicable his actions, is an individual whom God loves and for whom Christ gave His life on the cross.

In addition, we must recognize that we cannot measure the actions of others by our own perception of right and wrong. God holds people accountable according to the moral awareness they possess, and there is no way that anyone really can know about someone else’s understanding of rightness and wrongness. We have almost no idea of the kinds of influences to which they have been subjected. They need compassion, not condemnation; kindness, not confrontation; understanding, not argument.

Few things make Christianity so unattractive as people who are dogmatic when their opinions are not solidly based on God’s Word. We must not belligerently condemn people who do wrong nor arrogantly impose our standards upon society. Rather, we must teach and model truth with patience and compassion. This is Christ’s way.

Irvin signature

Maurice Irvin, former editor of Alliance Life

3 responses to Moral Arrogance?

  1. I am a Christian and am not an authority on the Scriptures. I am a graduate of Nyack College from the 50s. I do not live near an Alliance Church, therefor I haven’t been an active member. As I ponder the writing of Joseph Beckley, I am concerned for the Alliance. Yes, we have allowed divorced couples to marry and if we go to uniting same sex marriage, what have we done to family life and with God’s word? Will He hold us accountable? Just some thoughts. jb

  2. After being written more than 20 years ago, this is a timely, thoughtful, and encouraging call to moral execellence instead ot moral arrogance. Thank you for the reminder Mr. Irvin.

  3. Dr. Irvin has been my friend for many years. I have never fully understood why he blessed me in such a way but he did. His editorial is as prescient now as it was in 1994. I do not think our denomination’s recent response to the SCOTUS decision was arrogant. However, I think to issue it and speak for the entire denomination without appropriate discussion and debate was. And I think taking a branch of government to task for their decision was–especially when holding to our denomination’s statement on human sexuality does not require one disagree with the SCOUTUS decision. And finally to say absolutely and defiantly that NO CMA MINISTER WILL EVER participate in such a ceremony (ie, same-sex union) was also arrogant (IMHO). I still remember being told by my L&O Committee that I would NEVER re-marry a divorced person. And yet, all these years later, with denominational sanction, I have. Thank you for reprinting Dr. Irvin’s prescient words…. In humility, Joseph Beckley

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