Friday, April 14, 2006

A Famine of Humility

The most detailed survey of Christianity to be published in recent years is Mircea Eliade’s sixteen-volume The Encyclopedia of Religion. This work seeks to provide a comprehensive summary of current knowledge of religion, but it contains no entries for “humility” and “pride.” In the course of the last three centuries the central moral teaching of Christianity concerning humility seems to have faded away so completely that entries for this virtue of Christ and the sin of the devil are not found in an encyclopedia of religion. The editorial team of The Encyclopedia of Religion also deemed it unnecessary to have entries for “vice,” “virtue,” “envy,” “hypocrisy” or "flesh."

A more recent example of what appears to be an impressive change in the meaning of Christian morality can be found in The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (2000). The editors of this 750-page collection described their purpose as “to provide a lively introduction, at once authoritative and accessible, to a living tradition of thought central to the western world.” The editors believed that the articles “pr
ovide a pretty fair impression of Christian thought as it flourishes today.” The introduction has no entries for “humility” and “pride.” A careful search uncovered a brief discussion of pride under “sin,” but there was no trace of the specifics of humility. In contrast, there were entries for “sexuality” and “chastity.” In modern religion, silence about humility and pride coexists with an intense interest in Christianity’s teachings about sexual morals.

The most recent summary of Christianity to be published in the United States is the Encyclopedia of Christian Theology edited by Jean-Yves Lacoste. This three-volume work follows the path laid out by Eliade and The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought. There are no entries for humility and pride. Furthermore, a survey of the volumes uncovered no “hidden” discussions of this virtue and its cognate vice; humility and pride simply are not aspects of the “Christianity” described in this encyclopedia.

-Kari Konkola, Have We Lost Humility? (PDF)

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