What is arrogance?

Summary

Similar to overconfidence, haughtiness, and conceit, arrogance is believing you definitively know something (I Corinthians 8:2; Proverbs 12:15) and thinking you are wise (Romans 12:16) without hearing directly from Jesus (I Corinthians 13:12). Logically, arrogance is dishonesty about one’s own value (Romans 12:3) that comes from trusting in your own heart or mind (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 28:26). God strongly disdains arrogance (Proverbs 16:5), a type of pride that exalts one’s own wisdom over God, just like Satan (Ezekiel 28:5). This irrationality is based on the fear that the other belief can harm you, even though God protects us (I John 4:18).

Endorsements

Outreach Magazine writes, “arrogant leaders have all the answers” and “cocky leaders believe no one can offer them anything…”

Reasons

Arrogance is believing definitive rightness or wrongness.

“A fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). From a logical perspective, this means that you should not ever assume the rightness of your own beliefs. This is because we should not trust in our own reasoning abilities (Proverbs 28:26; Romans 12:16). This haughtiness is contrasted with humility (Proverbs 18:12). Confidence is being 99% sure, always being open-minded. Arrogance is saying I 100% “know fully,” even though we don’t see Jesus face to face (I Corinthians 13:12). Jesus rebuked Pharisees who thought they knew everything about righteousness (Luke 18:11-12,13,14), but no one “knows as he ought to know” (I Corinthians 8:2).

Arrogance is trusting in your heart or mind instead of the Lord.

Arrogance is believing definitively that you’re right based on your own logic or feelings. Some say, “I know I’m right…I can feel it!” God says no one can understand his own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Others trust in their own reasoning of the Bible (Proverbs 28:26), yet we should be trusting only in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5). Addicts are confident by their feelings alone, but we are confident in obedience to God’s Word, not trusting in our interpretation of God’s Word (I Corinthians 8:1-2) but in God who is our guide (Psalms 48:14).

Examples

Arrogance is assuming your faith is absolutely correct.

The definition of faith is believing in something that we by nature cannot know (Hebrews 11:1,3). The Bible repeatedly gives us examples that faith is not about logically knowing anything but actually doing while not knowing: Noah (Hebrews 11:7), Abraham (Hebrews 11:8), and Sarah (Hebrews 11:11) to name a few. “Belief” or “faith” is so important (Hebrews 11:6) because it directly counters Satan’s pride of superseding God (Isaiah 14:13-14): believing we can know anything (I Corinthians 8:2) without Jesus Himself (I Corinthians 13:12).

It’s not arrogant to think you’re smarter.

Thinking that you are smarter is not arrogance because arrogance is “dishonesty about one’s own value” (Romans 12:3). That is what Paul did (II Corinthians 11:5-6; I Corinthians 11:1) while realizing he is still very beneath God (I Corinthians 13:12). Paul can’t tell others to imitate him (I Corinthians 11:1) unless he had grounds for boasting (II Corinthians 12:6). Thinking you’re smarter can coincide with listening to others (Proverbs 12:15) and never boasting (II Corinthians 11:30). The key is to not become conceited with the truth of your power (Romans 12:16; II Corinthians 12:7) but never to deny your talent either.

Arrogance is talking over someone.

Probably the most obvious sign of arrogance is when someone starts talking while someone else is talking (Proverbs 18:2). Those who talk too much are foolish (Ecclesiastes 5:3; Proverbs 17:28) because it’s easier to sin (Proverbs 10:19). The wise don’t interrupt because they realize listening is more important (Proverbs 12:15; James 1:19).

Arrogance is equating the Bible to your opinion of the Bible.

The Bible is perfect (II Timothy 3:16), but no one’s opinion of the Bible is perfect (Proverbs 18:2; I Corinthians 8:2). We are not to love with mere talk but with the truth (I John 3:18). When we interpret the Bible, we think that is the truth, but the truth is Jesus alone (John 14:6; John 1:1). We as Christians need to learn the difference between leading people to the Bible and leading people to specific interpretations or pastors (Mark 7:8-9).

Arrogance is shown in strong state-of-being verbs.

The logical grammar of arrogance is the usage of a state-of-being verb or verb of power (can) and a reference to another with a logical negation of them being right or a reference to oneself with a logical affirmation of being right. Some examples:

  1. I am right…
  2. You are wrong…
  3. That is taken out of context…(He could’ve been trying to keep things simple and understands the context differently than you.)
  4. You’re misrepresenting God…

Examples of godly confidence:

  1. I believe that…
  2. I think this is…
  3. We agree on this part, but…

We are allowed to say “I am” statements that are followed by an adjective outside of righteousness, like when Paul implied, “I am skilled in knowledge” (II Corinthians 11:6). Some say this is arrogant (Proverbs 27:2), but boasting is for personal glorification, whereas Paul is speaking to teach others.

Arrogance is claiming knowledge of objective truth through subjective senses.

Famous Christian philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that “a priori synthetic” judgments can be made only for fundamentals of math, science, and physics, rejecting the possibility that we can definitively know “a posteriori” information of God (I Corinthians 8:2). Albert Einstein later added to this, “Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world. All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” Both believe experiences are just opinions (Proverbs 18:2). No one can claim definite knowledge for no one has experienced everything (Genesis 1:1). Some claim we know 1+1=2, but arithmetic is founded on the premise of primality, yet primality has yet to be solved.

Arrogance is appealing to the authority of oneself.

Another reason why no person can definitively know anything is shown in an example of 2 people who disagree on something. Both think they are definitively right. Logically, though we know that one or both of them must be wrong in an aspect. So both people think that although they are definitively right, the other cannot be definitively right. Both appeal to their own reasoning, which is just an appeal to authority: that their interpretation of science or Scripture is better. Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy.

Arrogance is listening to correct but not learn.

The arrogant assume you’re wrong before hearing you (Proverbs 12:15), but the compassionate seek to understand the other first (I Timothy 1:7). They listen only to correct you, but this is “foolish” (Proverbs 18:2). A liberal at Fox News realized humility is to affirm an agreement with the other person. The Pharisees thought they weren’t like this (Matthew 23:29-30). Jesus said they will misunderstand and even kill foreigners due to their false teachings (Matthew 23:34). Christians do this too much nowadays: it’s rare for a Catholic priest to learn from an Evangelical pastor. It’s rare for an Evangelical pastor to learn from a Pentecostal prophet. 

It’s not arrogant to avoid those with purposefully bad character.

Although it’s wise to listen to good advice (Proverbs 12:15), that doesn’t mean we must listen to everyone who wants to give advice (Proverbs 29:12). The ungodly give (II Timothy 3:3) and give into insults (Proverbs 12:16), but the wise know if they should answer or not (Proverbs 26:4-5). If a person is uncompassionate to your claim that he is sinning and keeps doing it (I Corinthians 8:10,12), it means he is a wicked person you shouldn’t give your ear to (Proverbs 17:4). Ultimately, you can determine if someone should be listened to or not by the character in their lives (Matthew 7:15-16), for good advice cannot come from a bad person (Matthew 7:18).

Arrogance is appealing to the Bible to someone who disagrees with it.

Imagine a Muslim and a Christian debating and at some point they just keep retorting:

Christian: Jesus is the one true God!

Muslim: Allah is the one true God!

Both are appealing to authority, and both would think the other is arrogant. The Christian is using circular reasoning because the conclusion that Jesus is God is based on the premise that the Bible is accurate and the conclusion the Bible is accurate is because Jesus is God. Paul realized that when dealing with a non-Christian, we cannot utilize the Bible until they accept it as divine, because “becoming as one outside the law” means that he only uses arguments outside of the Bible (I Corinthians 9:21).

It’s not arrogant to challenge authorities.

Many people think it’s wrong to challenge a leader, especially if they are older, but the command is to be under their authority (I Peter 5:5). Timothy, who was disrespected for his age, was told to not let anyone look down on him, but to exhort and teach those who wanted to silence him for his lack of studies or experience (I Timothy 4:12-13). To the contrary, it’s arrogant to think any person cannot be challenged (I Corinthians 8:2).

Counterclaims

Jesus said others were wrong (Matthew 22:29).

Jesus actually knows everything and proved it with miracles, so it would not be arrogant of Him to correct others by negating them (Matthew 22:29). Moreover, Jesus purposefully put a historical error in the words of the Bible about the correction of the Sadducees; see Matthew 22:29 and Mark 12:24. This shows us that Jesus might not have actually said “you are wrong,” but rather, “Is this not the reason you are wrong,” where the latter is not an affirmation of rightness. We can’t really know which one Jesus said, but we are confident that only a fool knows he is right (Proverbs 12:15), unless He is God.

Arrogance is only about righteousness before God, not knowing one is right about anything else.

Confirming definitively that you are right about anything always logically leads to confirming definitively you are righteous before God. Some claim the example of Luke 18:11 only references absolute confidence before God, but the arrogance of his righteousness was founded in the arrogance of his actions and beliefs (Luke 18:12). The Pharisee thought he was right before God because he thought he definitively knew he was right about his beliefs. Also, the Bible defines foolishness as being right in your own eyes (Proverbs 12:15), not just about righteousness before God.

The Bible says “know” in many places (I John 5:13).

The context of this knowledge is one of confidence, not absolute assuredness. For example, the following verses say a person who believes in Jesus will confidently have all of their prayers answered (I John 5:14-15), but this confidence is based in righteousness (I Peter 3:12). Therefore, this confidence in our salvation is conditional on our real belief in Jesus through obedience (Matthew 7:21), not just verbally saying, “I believe in Jesus.” (See our article about confidence before God.)

The godless never know the truth (II Timothy 3:7).

We are commanded to always seek knowledge (Proverbs 18:15). “Arriving at a knowledge” of Jesus Christ is different than saying you see Him clearly (I Corinthians 13:12). We can know God (Psalms 46:10) but still have a lot to learn (Proverbs 12:15; I Corinthians 8:2).