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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Christian Humanism

We're all aware, I'm sure, of the prevalence of Secular Humanism in our world. You know what that is. It's the premise that there is no God, making humans the focus of attention. As it turns out, Humanism has many shades. Secular Humanism is only one of them. Modern humanism started in reaction to medieval Christianity, trying to merge Christianity with philosophies like those of Plato and Aristotle. The idea offered by Thomas Aquinas was that humans have within themselves the full capability to answer all of life's most pressing questions. The drift, then, was a man-centered drift. The drift was what has become known as Renaissance Humanism. That was just the beginning.

There is a version called "Christian Humanism" that views Christianity as self-fulfillment by Christian principles. (I'm not writing about that.) Western Cultural Humanism focuses attention of the culture on humans. Science, politics, ethics, law -- all originate with and for Man. Modern Humanism is more of a rejection of the supernatural in favor of Man as the source of morality and anything else worth having. It starts with and for Man. So, in the final analysis, all humanism is the same -- a center on Man.

What surprises me is the number of Christians that operate as Christians from a humanist base. Here's how it works. God is all about us. If He is to be a good God, He has to be good to us. For instance, if He allows suffering and death, that's bad. Bad God! So we'll try to make excuses for Him. "He is limited by Man's Free Will." "He cannot know the future." The alternative, of course, is "Well, then, He's not a good God and I'm rejecting Him." Which, as it turns out, is an extremely common starting place for most atheists. They are or were mad at God because God didn't do for them what they wanted Him to. And that's humanism. It's all about us.

So God is required to be nice to humans. He must focus His attentions on us, work hard to make us happy, healthy, and comfortable, and this all while we are mostly rejecting the noxious "Name it and claim it", Prosperity "Gospel". Any Christian who has read the Bible with any sincere effort can see that this is a stupid theology, but we then proceed with our own humanistic Christianity based on God's obligation to Man. He must save us. Or try to. At least really, really want to. Because we are, at heart, humanists.

"History" is not a mere word. All of the history of Mankind is His story. It's about God. It's about His work and His glory and His interests. Our intrinsic starting point, Man, is the wrong starting point in a theistic universe -- the one we live in. The correct starting point must be, "What has God revealed about Himself in His Word?" and work our way down from there. Because I'm pretty sure that, when you do that, you'll find some rather startling and humbling conclusions about the centrality of Man ... or the lack thereof.


David said...

From what I can tell, Christians that disagree with TULIP are putting Man at a higher level than those that agree with TULIP. From my understanding, God would be perfectly just to condemn all humanity to hell without even a chance for redemption. It is only His mercy that causes Him to even save the few that He does. I think this humanistic approach is also applied to the truth that God is love. Thus, because we are so very important, that love must be turned toward us. But my theology states that God's love for Himself trumps His love toward us. That is why I can safely believe in individual election and the gift of faith and not in God only calling and waiting for us to respond. It fits into my view that God loves Himself more than He loves us.

Josh said...

Love was turned towards us at the cross. God must have found us pretty important if he was going to send His Son to die in our place.

Also, why must God's love for Himself be greater than His love for us?

Stan said...

Josh, if the reality is that there is none higher than God and He deserves the highest love, wouldn't that make Him an idolater if He chose to love another more? And if that other happened to be a creature rather than the Creator, wouldn't that also make Him foolish? And if He violated His own command to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul, wouldn't that make Him a sinner?

Josh said...

As to your first question, I never said more. As to your second question, God's wisdom seems like foolishness to the world. As to your third, God's greatest command is for us not Him.

David said...

Josh, do you not know that He died for us as a price for a gift for Himself? His salvation of us was not for our sake, but for His glory. God is the greatest narcissist, but He is the only One that can truly be narcissistic because everything truly does revolve around Him. Our salvation is only a secondary benefit to us, not the primary benefit. The goal of saving anyone is to demonstrate His mercy and display His glory, oh, and some humans happen to get to bask in His glory for eternity.

So your contention is that God loves us as much as He loves Himself? We are as important as He is? Didn't I say that was the exact reason people don't agree with TULIP, you have an elevated view of the importance of Man.

Anonymous said...

Stan wrote, "And if He violated His own command to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul, wouldn't that make Him a sinner?"

He violates His own command to forgive others seventy times seven and as we'd like others to forgive us, when He sends people off to eternal torment. Instead of forgiving them after years of punishment, He never forgives them. Never. And yet this eternal unforgiveness somehow brings Him glory?? Glory in front of whom? Some other cosmic beings who live a very, very long time and are watching this whole drama unfold?

Stan also said, "Josh, if the reality is that there is none higher than God and He deserves the highest love, wouldn't that make Him an idolater if He chose to love another more? And if that other happened to be a creature rather than the Creator, wouldn't that also make Him foolish?"

If some of us mere human followers of God actually are "the bride of Christ" (which is incomprehensible in itself), that makes Christ the groom. Is not a groom to love his bride equal to or maybe even more than himself? Or is he supposed to always put himself first?

Stan said...

Clearly a skeptic, an "anti-Christian", but I'll play the game. God abides by His standards. God abides by reality. Reality is that He is the Highest. To love something else as much as or more than the Highest would be nonsense, irrational, foolish.

As for His command "to forgive others seventy times seven", apparently you believe that to mean "forever and ever for anything and everything", not included in the command or text. More to the point, forgiving indiscretions committed against me is simple, given the number of indiscretions I've committed and been forgiven (the point of the command) and the fact that ultimate justice will prevail makes that easier, but there are no "indiscretions" committed against God. These are Cosmic Treason to which justice demands a response. In other words, forgiving others is reasonable and logical, not violating ultimate justice; for God to forgive anyone and everyone for anything and everything is not reasonable, logical, or just.

You misunderstand the concept of "glorifying God". He has it. It's His. We don't provide it. We don't "bring Him glory" or "give Him glory" in the sense of providing something He doesn't already have. We simply recognize it. It is displayed, not provided.

You've asked the questions precisely in line with the point of the post -- humanism. Man is the starting point. God must conform to human rules. God must act as humans do. God must be as humans must be. Since He is not, He is not God. Manifest foolishness, of course, but quite standard thinking ... as my post was intended to point out.

Josh said...

David, obviously I've never said that we are as important as God. I just contend that God's love is a constant, not a variable. I would also claim to have a Bilblical view of the importance of man, not an elevated view.

Stan said...

Just a question for clarification, Josh. You argue that "God's love is a constant, not a variable." You would say, then, that God loves ... Hitler as much as He loves an innocent child, that He loves a Caligula and a Saint John in the same way? He loves those He sentences to Hell as much as He loves those whom He ushers into Heaven?

Josh said...

Yes, I would contend that. 1 John 4:8 states the love is not an attribute of God, but it is his very essence. God is love.

Stan said...

Thanks for the clarification. I certainly hope you're not married. If, commanded by God to love my neighbor, I loved everyone equally, my wife would be upset (to put it mildly). And if God can be said to love those who He puts in Hell in the same way that He loves those whom He sends to Heaven, I think you'll find a confused audience in Hell going, "Wait ... this is love?" And if Christ loves those whom He judges as He loves His Bride, I would think He Bride would be rightly upset.

(And I would be extremely cautious assuming that "God is love" means that love is the very essence of God. That will take you down some really strange paths. Like the church around the corner from where I used to live that said the very same thing and, therefore, worshiped "love" ... it was a sex church.)

Josh said...

Your view of love seems to be a human one. I do believe that God asks us to love everyone indiscriminately. This is not romantic love, but love as defined in 1 John 3:16:

"By this we know love, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."

God commands us to Love one another. Jesus is even so brash as to command us to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us, so that we may become children of our Father in heaven.

God's love is like a refiners fire. It burns away all that does not submit to Christ as Lord. If you are not submitted, God's love will feel as wrath. In fact all of God's attributes must be understood in the context of "God is Love."

Stan said...

"Your view of love seems to be a human one."

I have to say that's funny. You have no idea how many times I've been told I don't understand love because it's not like everyone else seems to think it is.

"Indiscriminately" was your premise. And you're saying that biblical love is defined as laying down our lives for our brothers? You're saying the essence of God (You said the essence of God was love) is laying down His life? In what way does God the Father lay down His life for God the Son? I know it sounds like I'm being silly, but it appears that you've defined love by what John says illustrates love and I'm not getting how that works in all these contexts.

So ... when Jesus said, "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15), He actually meant "for everyone"? And, if His sacrifice was made for everyone, how is it not effective?