We, like every age before us, are inclined to think we live at the pinnacle of human achievement, that we at last have reached that elevated status from which we may view, review, and pass judgment on all that has gone before us. More than 500 years ago, people started calling themselves “modern” and ever since then we’ve been getting moderner and moderner (hmmm, I think I’ve made up a pretty good word there). Suddenly, some people in recent years have been saying we’re “post-modern” but most of us don’t even know what that means, so we ignore it and continue thinking we’re the ultimate.
One of my favorite words as I’ve watched our hubris grow these past years is “sophomore.” It’s a transliteration from Greek and means, in an etymological sense, “wise fool.” The sophomore is the fool who thinks he is wise. One of the most common signs of a sophomoric mind is boasting in one’s ability to criticize others without actually having any insight of our own to offer. Ours is most certainly not a wise age but we’re happy to tear down everyone else’s achievements and to pick and poke at clay feet wherever we can find them. Ours is an age of immature foolishness. One need give only the slightest glance at Congress to confirm that.
I get a bit irritated (now that I’m old enough to be called a curmudgeon, another of my new favorite words) at how desperate some people are to find something or someone to criticize. I’ve just read a review of a biography of Bob Hope, one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. Here’s the opening paragraph of the review:
There is hardly anyone under the age of 60 aware of how phenomenally successful Bob Hope once was. His heyday may have been long-lasting—he hosted a top-rated weekly radio series from 1937 to 1953, appeared frequently on TV from 1950 to 1996, and acted in more than 70 films, many of which were hits—but the latter-day consensus is that he was never all that funny. When he died in 2003 at the age of 100, Christopher Hitchens brutally dismissed him as a purveyor of “comedy for people who have no sense of humor.”
Since we really can’t even define what is funny today, how much silly pride does it take to claim to know that yesterday’s humor wasn’t humorous at all? Christopher Hitchens was King of the Sophomore class: standing for nothing, understanding nothing, criticizing everyone. . .especially God.
Hitchens died not long ago, having drunk and smoked himself into an early grave. To adapt an old joke first told of Nietzsche: “God is dead, said Hitchens. Hitchens is dead, says God.”
Isn’t it odd that many of the very same people who think we are simply the coincidental product of evolution end up having a massive sense of pride? Atheists are like children who draw a picture and then take after it with scissors. They cut God out of the picture and end up cutting out the ground from under our feet. There is no foundation for meaningful human life apart from our Creator or our own self-will, as is shown both in today’s newspaper headlines and in Genesis, chapter 3.
The serpent told Eve that eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a good thing to do because then she would be like God, knowing good and evil. Eve thought that meant she would thereby become wise because she could choose for herself between right and wrong.
How many millions and millions and millions of humans have been killed and maimed by fellow humans since that fateful bite of the apple? And yet our hubris grows year by year, day by day.
Surely our day above all other has cause for humility. Yes, many of our achievements have been great but that have been balanced out by equally great evils. A little humility is in order. And a little honesty before God: “We make terrible lords of our own lives, Father. Deliver us from ourselves and make us truly human again.”