Do Not Know Thyself

Writing on the Wrightsaid email list some time ago, James Jordan said:

And it is spiritually dangerous to speak in such a way as to encourage people to inspect their own hearts. “Know thyself” is Socratic and demonic. We CANNOT know ourselves, and must trust in God to know us. We must accept what He says about us. We can judge ourselves in particular matters, but the heart is hidden from us. Our “heart experiences” are untrustworthy. We must trust God and His Word.

How contrary is this to most of what passes for even “Christian” thinking today? We have accepted the “know thyself” formula as if it is the key to enlightenment, when in fact the Bible tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?


4 thoughts on “Do Not Know Thyself”

  1. This is quite a brushback pitch! Wise advice, although I had two “Yes, but…” thoughts:

    1. How do you think that Jordan would evaluate Augustine’s Confessions? Is there a place for knowing oneself within the bounds of what God has said about us — that we have been created in His image with certain creative capacities, that we are sinful people with desperately wicked hearts, and that by grace through faith we are justified and being sanctified?

    2. Also, knowing ourselves in submission to what God says would seem to me to provide a knowledge of the battlefield on which we will be battling sin for the rest of our lives.

  2. I asked the man himself and here is what he said:
    To #1: Sure, in a secondary sense. Mostly Augustine is confessing what God has said about him, though.
    To #2: I don’t understand this objection.

  3. Thanks for that, Joel. For the second one, I meant that we have individual weaknesses that make us more vulnerable to some sins than others and I think it’s good to know that. But maybe that’s what Jordan meant by “judg[ing] ourselves in particular matters.” And I suppose it can be dangerous to decide that I am vulnerable to particular sins and develop blinders to other sins that we don’t notice through introspection.

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