The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Self-Esteem and Other Deadly Evils

Posted on | April 3, 2019 | 4 Comments

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Many years ago, I spoke at a national Christian home-schooling conference and my speech was more political than religious, addressing the issues of liberty involved in educational freedom. During the Q-and-A afterwards, I was asked: “How does your faith affect your political views?” Having not anticipated such a question, I was silent for a moment before answering: “I think it’s about that ‘Thou shalt not steal’ thing.”

From there, I went on to explain how the fiscal action of the Welfare State amounts to theft on a grand scale, taking money from the people who earned it and giving it to other people who didn’t. This is immoral, and our participation in this immoral system corrupts us. The government school system is a huge part of this corruption. Whereas the Bible commands parents to teach their children, Americans have outsourced this duty to government, and the education of our nation’s children is entrusted to bureaucrats whose loyalty is to the system that employs them, rather than to the parents whose children are being taught.

Perhaps I rambled on for 10 minutes in that vein, but my point is how that question made me think of something simple: “Thou shalt not steal.”

That’s not my rule. That’s God’s rule.

Part of what has gone so badly wrong in our educational system over the past half-century is that the ideology of self-esteem has completely suffused itself into the curriculum and pedagogy. Quite the opposite attitude inspired my old-fashioned teachers, who frequently punished as impudence my own excessive “self-esteem.” Back in the day, children were expected to be silent and obedient, and I was loud and disruptive, and my teachers were united in a determination to suppress my exuberance by the most direct and forcible measures.

None of my teachers gave a damn about my “self-esteem,” or else I would not have been paddled so regularly, and sent out into the hallway to write 500 times: “I will not talk in class,” etc. However much I resented this harsh treatment at the time, in retrospect I am grateful to have been among the last generation of American children who were taught with old-fashioned discipline, before the cult of self-esteem took hold in teachers’ colleges and utterly ruined our educational system.

“Self-esteem” is an ideology that values emotion over reason, and tells people that our feelings are more important than facts. Furthermore, the cult of self-esteem tends toward a denial of mankind’s sinful nature and thereby fosters atheism or, when self-esteem ideology seeps into religious teaching, results in an antinomian tendency that turns Christianity into a sort of gooey, effeminate, feel-good emotionalism.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” — Christian belief begins with the confession that we are sinners, helpless without God’s grace, and in need of the atonement of Christ. If we don’t believe that our sin condemns us, we have no need of a Saviour, and thus the suffering and death of Jesus was in vain, nor are we dependent on God’s continued mercy. You see how the cult of self-esteem, which tells us we are naturally good people, and therefore deserve to feel good about ourselves, is antithetical to Christian belief. “Self-esteem” begets a neo-Gnosticism that can be found everywhere now in popular culture, as in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker, on his final run at the Death Star, hears the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Luke, trust your feelings.”

What happens when people ignore God’s law and trust their feelings?


The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest and bloodiest battle in all human history. The Soviets lost nearly half a million men killed in this epic battle, while losses in the Axis army (including not only Germans, but also troops from Italy, Hungary and Romania) amounted to nearly 800,000 killed, wounded and captured. All of this bloodshed between two totalitarian armies resulted from the godless evil that arises when nations reject divine law and trust instead in human ideologies.

What inspired this lengthy examination of moral theology was something to which Mark Tapscott called attention: Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias was speaking at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, and a young man asked this question:

“Why are you so afraid of subjective moral reasoning? Do you think we all are just going to start raping and pillaging just because we don’t have a book telling us what to do?”

Do you perceive the “self-esteem” required to ask such a question? When we know what happened in history — there are still people alive who survived the Battle of Stalingrad — we know very well what atrocities are possible if “we don’t have a book telling us what to do.” However, Christians don’t think of the Bible as merely a book, but rather an expression of the mind of God. As wretched sinners, we understand that our own “subjective moral reasoning” is infinitely inferior to the perfection of the Creator of the universe, which is why the old hymn speaks with pleasure of trusting His judgment: “Thus saith the Lord!”

It is a sinful sort of “self-esteem” that makes people think they don’t need the Word of God, but are qualified to substitute their own preferences — their “subjective moral reasoning” — for divine law. In this sense, they impudently assert their authority to stand in judgment of God.

A sinful people, full of such “self-esteem,” will endorse a government that disregards God’s law (e.g., “Thou shalt not steal”) and will also soon do away with “Thou shalt not kill.” Had that young man at the University of Pennsylvania read The Black Book of Communism? Does he know how many millions of people were murdered by Marxist-Leninist regimes in the 20th century? We recoil in horror to think of the bloodshed at Stalingrad, where the two armies lost in a single battle about twice as many men killed as the U.S. lost during the entire war. But even that dreadful death toll was a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s dictatorship, and the even larger number killed by Mao’s murderous regime in China.

Answering the young man’s question at Penn, Ravi Zacarias made mention of this bloody history and said: “We killed more people in the 20th century than in the previous 19 put together.” Watch:


As horrible as the 20th century was, my fear is that we are headed toward even greater evils in the 21st century, simply because so many young people are so puffed-up with “self-esteem.”



4 Responses to “Self-Esteem and Other Deadly Evils”

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