Whoever Trusts in His Own Mind Is a Fool - Geneva College
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Whoever Trusts in His Own Mind Is a Fool

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Biblical Wisdom

Proverbs 28:26 - Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Do we really need to be told not to trust in our own minds? Yes, because we want to trust ourselves, and because in our day putatively wise people constantly tell us that high self-esteem brings success. The steady thrust of American education pushes students to believe in themselves.

American schools still inflict Ralph Waldo Emerson, Unitarian preacher and essayist from the mid 19th Century on American students. “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all man – that is genius.” “If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.” What drivel, but 19th Century American elites ate it up!

William Shakespeare in his play Hamlet has an old windbag, Polonius, give platitudinous advice to his son Laertes as he leaves home.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man (I, iii.73).

Laertes, of course, does not fare well by the end of the play.

There were no doubt Emerson and Polonius-type characters in Solomon’s day, promoting self-trust and self-help. The Bible dismisses all that line of thinking as foolish. Why? The human heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and apart from God’s grace and the wisdom that begins with the fear of the LORD, it will deceive itself into sin and misery again and again. Excuses, rationalizations, wishful thinking, and self-serving arguments are the meat and potatoes of the human mind when it relies on itself and dismisses the wisdom of the elders and the revealed Word of God.

When the Bible teaches one thing and your “instincts,” as it were, disagree, whose wisdom do you trust, your own or God’s? American education at all levels whispers and shouts, trust Emerson when he tells you to trust yourself. The fact is that everyone needs to be delivered from his bondage to sin and folly, and only the Spirit of Christ can set one free. Emerson and his ilk naturally denied vociferously the doctrine of Original Sin, promoted the myth of the noble savage who learned from nature how to live in peace with nature and with other men, and trashed the Bible’s warning that whoever trusts in himself and his own mind is a fool. But wise people humble themselves like children and take Christ’s yoke upon themselves. They learn from him, in whom they find peace and rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

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Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash  

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Jun 4, 2021