Obama's speech thrilled his supporters because it was all about them----about how great they are and how entitled they are to everything, said Bob Barr in his commentary, "Meet the N Generation." Barr aptly describes Obama supporters as narcissists unchecked by moral restraints; hypocrites who blame corporate greed while posting updates from their $500 phone; the millions who, "...because they are the beneficiaries of the miracles of internet technology and instant, worldwide communications, believe firmly they know all and are entitled to everything...(they) live on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; public stages in which they are the stars, demanding absolute and immediate attention from their peers. Self-worth is measured in "Likes" and "retweets..." (Barr, Townhall.com, January 23, 2013)
Barr adds that parents and adults share responsibility for creating this monster:
"For decades, parents were told by so-called parenting “experts” that offspring would be best raised on the belief each is special and entitled to all life has to offer. Now, trophies are awarded to every child on the team or in the class so no child's self-esteem is bruised by virtue of being "left out;" letter grades from "A" to "F" give way to vague and slippery narratives.." (ibid)
Narcissism is pride-- the natural inclination of the rebellious human spirit, the inward-turned navel-gazer whose contemplation is of gloriously entitled 'self' rather than God. In the Augustinian sense this is the serpent of superbia, the self-fixated soul's lust for self-glorification, power, dominance over other people as well as lust for position, control, wealth, admiration, status, star-power, and possessions deeply rooted in original sin.
Pride is the vice that is the root of all vices said Augustine. Pride is a "stubborn dumbness" that makes our soul wander away from God and lose itself in the darkness of self-contemplation. It is our,
"...crazy passion for vapid and vile things which, when we possess them, create in us anxiety, confusion, sadness, and fear. This is the madness that makes the human animal rejoice in fighting and war, in hating and plotting against others, in fraud and theft, in homicide and parricide, in savagery and cruelty, in fornication and adultery, in sacrilege and blasphemy, in calumny and lies and rash judgment. Indeed, the catalog of human sins is so long that it seems easier to commit them than to list them." (City of God, 22.22.1)
Barr agrees, noting that narcissism begets desperation, anxiety, and depression. And as narcissism denotes the inward-turned self-contemplative soul, it very naturally lacks empathy for others:
"Narcissists don’t empathize, or understand the needs and feelings of others. They are only concerned with themselves, and how they feel in the moment." (ibid, Barr)
The serpent of superbia is a movement of spirit having its taproot and energy in Satan, the father of lies, lust, hate and envy, the author of rebellion, blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy, apostasy, and of nihilism. Nihilism is the stubborn dumbness, the madness that issues in the arrogant proclamation of nothingness: no heaven above, no hell below, no immutable truth, no unchanging moral absolutes, and no accountability for what we do here in this world.
The nature of superbia is the opposite of the true Christian faith as opposed to the many counterfeits flourishing today. True Christian faith is submission to the Will of God. It manifests in the virtues of joy, patience, love, truth, humbleness, patience, perseverance and courage.
In the First Things commentary, "On the Necessity of Theological Courage in the Public Square," the authors flesh out the meaning of courage. They begin by defining courage, or fortitude, as one of the cardinal virtues:
"In the grand Christian ethical tradition, prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude or ‘courage’ have formed what are called the cardinal virtues, from the Latin meaning ‘the hinge of the door.’ According to our guides, all other virtues “hinge” upon practicing these virtues as necessary for experiencing the moral life." (On the Necessity of Theological Courage in the Public Square, Owen Strachan and Andrew Walker, First Things, January 22, 2013)
Courage is really the first and most important of the virtues because without it fear and uncertainty will paralyze man, thus keeping him from acting upon his moral convictions and speaking truth to the stubborn madness of superbia. Defining fortitude as theological courage, the authors describe it as,
"... courage driven by truth, biblical-theological truth. Its power is such that it impels Christians of all kinds to address matters of great import. Theological courage calls the inner-man to ignore his buckling knees and take theologically driven stances that, while potentially controversial, are righteous in nature...Theological courage, you might say, is God’s truth addressed not only to the academy, but the public world. This includes the central gathering place of this world, where ideas are debated and strategies for change vie for adoption: the public square." (ibid, First Things)
Before moving on to what theological courage is, it needs to be made clear what it is not. It is not, for example, the path taken by theologians who dehistoricize the Genesis account in order to conform God's Word to modern evolutionary science. It is not the enormously popular feel-good pseudo-theology of "change" "progress" "fun" "novelty" "tolerance" "inclusion" and "feelings" that rejects discipline, authority, expository sermons and sound teaching. Nor is it British evangelical leader Steve Chalke,
"...who recently abandoned biblical sexual ethics. Chalke has characterized his grappling with Scripture as a courageous enterprise toward justice and inclusion. But what is courageous about cultural appeasement? Would Chalke have reached his conclusions had there not been great cultural pressure to do so?" (ibid, First Things)
So what does theological courage look like?
It is the love of truth that impels Creation Ministries International to staunchly defend the Genesis account of creation ex nihilo against Darwinism, Teilhardism, and evolutionary theism.
"...a mega-church pastor (or a small-town preacher) willing to preach not only against homosexuality, but against divorce, cohabitation, and sexual promiscuity." (ibid, First Things)
Theological courage is ex-atheist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn testifying to the evils he had committed and repented of and then calling upon America and the West to likewise repent and turn back to God. Evil (superbia), said Solzhenitsyn, cuts through the heart of every man. Atheism is the outworking of that evil while the unrestrained madness, hate, murder, and Gulag are its' logical expressions, making Communism, "... a concentration of world evil, of hatred for humanity..." (Communism: A Legacy of Terror, 1976)
Another great example of theological courage is Janice Crouse as she boldly addresses America's growing theological crisis. In her Washington Times article, "Beware: Hell Exists, There's No Christianity without Sin, Death, and the Resurrection," Crouse takes aim at the Evangelical Church, which because of pride has become divided against itself. Citing "Evangelicals Divided" in the April edition of First Things she writes:
"First Things warns, "If evangelical theology...does not exercise the kind of intellectual humility required by Traditionalism, it will not survive...it will risk disintegrating into ever more subjectivist and individualistic sects, many of them neither evangelical nor orthodox."
A final example of theological courage is Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his book, "The Disappearance of God" Mohler addresses the vice of pride at work within and tearing apart the Evangelical Church. There is a growing chasm, notes Mohler. On one side are the traditionalists and on the other, the haughty spirit of the self-autonomous contemporary church, which takes pride in defining itself over and against Traditionalism, or authentic Christianity.
Authentic Christianity is very narrowly defined, said Mohler. In this context, all Christians across a vast denominational range who hold fast to the fundamental doctrines are Authentic Christians while all who do not are not by definition Christian. Fundamental doctrines are:
"The Trinity (including full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ); the authenticity of Scripture (the Revealed Word of God); the Incarnation (death, burial, resurrection); justification by faith; sin (humanities willful revolt against God the Father); the traditional doctrine of Hell, and the absolute sovereignty of God the Father." (Psalm 1)
Pride is the "stubborn dumbness" that makes souls wander away from God and lose themselves in the madness of self-contemplation. Thus for today's Christian navel-gazers, God is an invention of their own desires, a deity of "all-inclusive love," a fun-filled deity that never speaks of authority, submission, wrath and judgment, making hell, sin, and repentance not just unwelcome, but "intolerable."
Where superbia reigns, whether inside or outside the Church, there is no living, supernatural God, no immutable truth, moral absolutes, virtues, meaning, purpose and accountability, and in this spiritual vacuum the rebellious will rules instead. But "the will" of the self-contemplative soul said Dostoevsky with his acute insight, "is the closest to nothing; the most assertive are closest to the most nihilistic."
If the American Church---and the Evangelical Church in particular---is to survive it must repent of its' pride and exercise humility. And it must summon the theological courage to courageously address God's Truth to Christian navel-gazers as well as throughout the public square. This involves,
"...the affirmation of moral transcendence on matters of moral consequence," for this is theological courage, "and theological courage is by nature motivated by love." (Owen Strachan and Andrew Walker, On the Necessity of Theological Courage in the Public Square, First Things)