Monday, June 19, 2006

Humanism??? Driven by Faith

I have a been brewing on some thoughts on humanism – an attempt to define humanity without God but at its core is fundamentally a reactionary philosophy. Anything that reacts to another philosophy means that inside the system it presupposes that the opposite is valid and actually true. Humanism -has a strong theological root system.

Our line of approach for 600 years has been to oppose it in every expression… maybe we need to embrace it at its roots but understand why it was reactionary to the thinking of the mainstream philosophies of its day.

As with any philosophical view points there are some flaws [as with Xianity as well] but there are soem very deeply powerful tenets to humanism that are more Godly than we think. Here are some tenets of Humanism... keep in mind that the original humansts were Priests trying to find where the church was missing it.

Need to test beliefs - A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on blind faith.
Reason, evidence, scientific method - Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
Fulfillment, growth, creativity - A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
Search for truth - A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it. [the truth is out there]
This life - A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
Ethics - A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
Building a better world - A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.

So could humanism be more faith driven than we think? Could it be that the formation of humanistic thought is/was a part of God's strategy to open doors for a greater expansion of the kindgom? [I will explain this greater in another post]

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Steve said...

Where does the faith sit though? In God? Or in people?
(I'm just saying it for saying it to make sure it is said. No other reason, really.)

Mark said...

Could there be a possibility that at its core it is both?

Jeremy Postal said...

Humanism defined as "an attempt to define humanity without God" is, in my mind, and inadequate thought. True, this may be the basic definition of secular humanism, however, it doesn't carry over into a definition of 'religious humanism.'

Steve, I think what Mark is brilliantly trying to say is that, as Christians, we may need to be more inclusive of a humanistic worldview because it is, in fact, actually a godly worldview.

A soft-humanist (I assume there is sucha thing) would no doubt ask the questions of mystery, the soul, and what lies beyond.

Mark, you ask, "Could humanism be more faith driven then we think?" I would tend to say yes; especially when considering Socrates quote The unexamined life is not worth living along with the points you brought up. However, at some point a humanist will need to deal with Bibles high view of God and low view of man. That, I would imagine, is the great divide.

For the humanist, is there any way around this? Can a Christian be a humanist? Can a humanist be Christian?

Great post!

Steve said...

I see what Mark is saying. I was just throwing out there that thought.

I don't think a Christian can be fully Humanist, nor can a Humanist be fully Christian. For certain aspects yes. But as, stated before, it comes to a point, what I understand, that there needs to be a decision whether to trust man, or trust God. Both can have eachothers values in some form, but not wholistically. Or atleast, from what I understand.

Mark said...

Traditionally I think we have known humainsim to be something that has too high a view of man. But what if both were giving a more accurate picture of reality. YES we need a hgh view of God but maybe a higher view [or not such a low view of man]. What if we still could maintian our high view of God but have a high view of man as well. It woudl seem to me that God has a pretty high view of man [he sacrificed his only son did he not]?

Jordan/Yoda/Clambo said...

A few months ago I said to my friend's dad "If I wasn't a Christian, I'd probably be a humanist." Before I say why I think that secular humanism is a hellish paradigm, I must first explain that its Christian binary opposite, (what I've come to call "the doctrine of we suck") is something I hold to, but see the inevitable and sizable problems with.
All thought that a human will ever do is rooted in the individual's philosophical presuppositions. Humanism is a possible philosophical presupposition. Humanism, from my understanding, is a system of thought stemming from the idea that humans do not "suck" (as had been the idea thereto forced by the Church). Humans, rather, have the ability to reason for themselves, and should be trying to figure things out for themselves.
As you said, it is a reactionary philosophy. The Church had been trying to stop people from thinking, and historical humanism was a rebellion out of that. That, in itself was a good thing.
Here's the way I see it. The need for humanism is isolated within the bounds of tyrannically imposed thought. Where there is not imposed thought, there is no need for humanism. When a nation is founded on the idea that people should be thinking for themselves, what need is there for a philosophy which tells people to do that which they are already doing? Humanism should have died with the Reformation. However, due to the natural human pride that Humanism amplifies, the philosophy only grew, and did not die. Philosophies never die. Like institutions, philosophies (and the groups of people that hold to them) are chiefly concerned with their own survival. Thus Humanism turned from being the necessary agent of a needed intellectual rebellion, to being the timed-out base of a newly formed intellectual social norm.
Humanism has been the driving force in forming Western beliefs since the Renaissance. It has continued to react against religion (perhaps it would be a wonderful thing if it were not still in reactionary mode?) and has caused secular thought to be in a constant anti-religion mindset. Science, which is largely filled with humanist thinkers, has the philosophical presupposition of secular humanism at its root. Thus, it counters religion at every turn.
It is possible that many Christians need more humanism in their belief, because we are filled with the modern Christian reactionary philosophy to humanism, which I call the "doctrine of we suck" in modern form. It is nearly identical to the doctrine which humanism was originally reacting to. The pendulum swings back and forth.
The Humanism I see now has evolved into the belief that nothing human can be evil. Secular Humanism has led us to the belief that homosexuality cannot be evil because some humans are "born with it". Secular humanism has led us to the belief that anything we (humans) believe to be truth is truth, because a human believes it. Secular humanism has led us to place so much confidence in our political ideologies (like French Revolutionary Democracy) that we act as if they cannot be improved. Why on earth are we still acting like representative democracy, being in opposition of autocracy, must be the only decent political system? Secular Humanism has led us to believe that a human has the right to choose whether or not an unborn child should live or not. Secular Humanism is at the root of the philosophy that nothing is real, and nothing is true.
The biggest evil that Secular Humanism is causing is the belief that every human should be allowed to do whatever he/she wants to do. This is rooted in humanist thought because humanism (and pride), is what causes people to think that anything we do is ok, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.
I see in the heart of man an evil called pride. This pride is what drives us to think something, and then stubbornly hold to it because it is what we understand best. Humanism is pride in humanity, and pride in our thought. The humanist without God will take pride in everything he/she thinks, and hold to it merely because that is what he/she thinks, and as a humanist one has the right to think whatever one pleases.
Humanism gives us the false notion that a human being can reason itself into a new idea, and that new idea can be truth, and that truth can be worth fighting and dying for. I don't believe that. I don't believe that a human has thought of a new philosophy in a very long time, and I don't believe that we can stand on anything outside of the Bible as truth. We are humans. We will come up with ideas, and live and die for those ideas, but in the end they will all fail. Even the ideas that seem to be the most obvious truths will fail. Democracies fail over and over again. Both Epicureanism and Stoicism fail. Canada’s perfect health care system fails left and right. All human thoughts fail. Trusting in God does not fail.
I see humanists foolishly standing on human ideas, brandishing their humanist pride. However, the fact is that every empire has fallen, and no human idea will last forever. Humans fail everywhere. In my search for truth I have learned that while it may exist, as a human I'll never find it. Humans can't find truth. All we can do is believe, and trust in God (faith).
The best way to find this truth is humility. Humility allows us to objectively search for truth. While Humanism does encourage the objective search for truth, it also runs on the prideful idea that as a human one can find truth. That idea actually inhibits the search for truth. As I said, Humanism is too full of human pride, as are we.
Jeremy mentioned Socrates, specifically his quote "the unexamined life is not worth living." If I had to list the top five historical figures I look up to, Socrates would be on there. Contrary to modern philosophers who are driven by the Humanist idea that they can find truth with their puny brains, Socrates demonstrates the kind of humility I wish I possessed. In his childhood he was called the wisest person on earth, so he spent the rest of his life literally trying to prove that wrong. He went looking for smarter people than him, just to prove that they were smarter than him. When he came up with an idea, he found someone who specialized in that area so that he could be proven wrong, since he naturally assumed that he was wrong. This is not Humanism, but humility, and it is the kind of humility we need to search for.
Another thing is that as Christians we believe that the Bible is the word of God. No matter how Humanist the Christian is, every Christian still believes that God is smarter than Man. Doesn’t it just make sense to prefer studying the Bible to trying to form our own thoughts? What kind of person burns the instruction manual for something he/she knows nothing about, and then tries to write another one? We were given truth to use it! The most valuable thinking a human can do is on hermeneutics. That is one of the few things we are forced to figure out ourselves (at least in part), though there is plenty of hermeneutical instruction in the Bible itself.
To sum up, Humanism began as a necessary and positive reaction to a tyrannical system. It then outlived its use and turned into the powerhouse of pride for modern extra-religious thought. It also has maintained its anti-religious tendencies, and evolved into an anti-religious ideology. It is now a tool of the devil, which allows people to think that human thought is superior to God-given thought. While Thought is God-given, not all thoughts are God-given. It is possible that Christianity needs a tad more humanism in it, but humanism in itself is no longer driven by or grounded in faith, nor is it a collectively positive force on the earth. It is a human philosophy, and, like all human thoughts, doomed to fail.

Mark said...

Might be good visiting the post on 'scarey monsters' on this blog [April 12]. Some interesting correlation with the depravity of man. However I would suggest a few things here...

1] The presence of human pride does not discredit any philosphy... If that were the case Xianity should have been eliminated years ago... Pride is a human issue regardless of the perspective. to be noted this was probably why humanism was reactioanry to mainstream thought in the first place.

2] The thought that humanity sucks seems to be a dicredit to God himself... It would seem to me that after God created man it was the only moment in all of Creation that He said 'IT WAS VERY GOOD.' Man is the highest form of Creation... why do we seem to have a problem with that? I think a quote from Nelson Mendela [Williamson] might put this well.
"“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us... As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same."
Nelson Mendela, 1994
Good movie to watch - Coach Carter

Boomer said...

I have very little knowledge about humanism. I am assuming this is not a comprehensive list of characteristics, however according to these critera it would seem humanism is a part of any "well functioning" human. Sure one can be completly ignorant of these things, but that is exactly what you would be, ignorant, in every sense of the word. So it would seem a part of our design, perhaps to the point of reflecting something greater, should I be so bold as to say a Designer. Would this be a reasonable understanding?

Jordan/Yoda/Clambo said...

In response to Mark:

1) Yes, pride is a human inevitability that does not discredit a philosophy. However, there are philosophies that encourage the arrogant side of humanity, and philosophies that work to make us conscious of our pride and able to fight it. Secular Humanism, the way I see it, is one of the worst philosophies in respect to its effects on the already monstrous problem that is human pride. Christianity, with its claims of truth and righteousness, can also work to perpetuate pride. However, that is not true Christianity. True Christianity is anything that mimics Christ. Perhaps true Humanism is that which works to humbly develop human thoughts? Perhaps true Humanism, like true Christianity, is something good, but scarce?

2) Let me elaborate on my term "the Doctrine of We Suck." I do not literally mean that humanity sucks. What I am referring to is the seemingly necessary attitude of a Christian, whereby everything that goes right is to the credit of God, and everything that goes wrong is to the fault of humanity. The Doctrine of We Suck is looking at creation and saying "God made us good, then we chose to be evil." The Doctrine of We Suck is looking at every situation and thinking "I can't do this on my own because I suck, but I can do it with God." I am not a big fan of this "doctrine," but I see no way around it. I can't figure out way to rationalize to the Problem of Pain & Evil without using the Doctrine of We Suck. There are certain things that require us to admit "I suck too much to figure this out." Humanity itself does not suck. However, humility requires us to sometimes believe that on an individual basis we do.
I believe that humanity is a wonderful creation of God. However, I have to take the side of Hobbes and say that we are inherintly evil. I must also say that we are incapable of creating any system of belief that is truth. There will always be a flaw. The problem I still have with Humanism is that from what I have seen it ignores the bitter edge of flawed humanity. It points out everything pleasant, respectable, and progressive about humanity and human thought, while ignoring the observation that no human system is perfect.
The fact that sometimes humanity sucks is only credit to God's awesomeness. Here's how: God creates Man with free will. Man chooses to sin, not because God created us intending us to sin, but because we suck. God loves us despite the fact that we suck, and saves us from our sin. Now humanity sucks a lot less, being both freewilled and capable of being sinless. However, when we are full of pride and do not acknowledge that we sometimes suck, we sin more. It is to the glory of God that we must acknowledge that we suck. It is because we suck and we can ackowledget it, that we really don't suck. Still, we must acknowledge that we do, when we do.

Anyway, I think history shows that we are not powerful beyond measure. Believing that we are will not do us good. Believing that God is powerful beyond measure and trusting (having faith) that He will use us is the only way to show power beyond measure. We must believe that without God we are powerless. That is true Humanism, for that is how humans can truly have power. Both Modern Secular Humanism and Renaissance Reactionary Humanism believe that humans have power beyond measure, and that is incorrect. We are an amazing creation, but are most amazing when weilding the power that can only come from a continuous relationship with God, being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit, and continuously humble.

e.d. said...

OK - I track with what you are saying. A question.

Jordan, you seem to be playing well in the end zones of 'humans are powerless' and 'humans have power beyond measure.' Wouldn't it at least be somewhat reasonable to consider that humans do, in fact, have some limited power? If this is true, then couldn't we become masters of this limited power? If we do, is God needed in those circumstances? Does grace apply to areas of life that we theoretically have mastered?

unrelated thought

As a side note; you said, "I must also say that we are incapable of creating any system of belief that is truth." How true do you believe this statement to be?


Jordan/Yoda/Clambo said...

A quote from The Matrix Reloaded:
"Choice is an illusion between those with power and those without."
If we have limited power, but God has the power to overule any decision we make, or overpower any action we do, do we really have any power? I don't think so. I think that all we have is "choice," but even that could be taken away if God wanted to. So no, we don't have power. If indeed we do have power, perhaps we could master it. However, it would be insignificant compared to the power of the Force (I mean, God). I am academically unprepared to answer a question on Grace. I haven't the slightest idea what Grace is, I'll get to it in a few months.

I believe that my statement is true. However, I do not know that it is true, and I would not die for that belief. I would not stand on anything on come up with as truth, but I would believe it. I don't know if that makes sense to you, but I know what I'm trying to say!

Boomer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Boomer said...

Power does not destruct when it finds something more powerful. The managers authority is not destroyed simply because the company has a CEO. To say that man has no power is to claim that God is a puppeteer. Of course a creator is the source of power in the same way a CEO employs the manager. Yet once hired, the manager now rules his department or domain, though he must answer to the CEO. This is a good illustration, but don't get hung up on it, it's not the point. Calvinism doesn't work for me, there is too much chaos, too much unrest for a world that is completely pre-destined, too much evil for a loving God that the Bible describes to not allow some kind free-will. I might suggest the illusion of choice is that all wield power and should use it wisely. A lack of action is unwise. Each man has a department in which he wields power, but must answer for his use of authority.

Mark said...

A Claim that man is powerless does not seem scriptural. Scriptures teach that man rules over all creation. I think what you are getting at Jordan is that there are pockets of humanism that would say man has the possibility of becoming divine through his own reason and resourcefullness. This I woudl agree is deeply rooted in pride and clearly wrong... howver this is not the mainstream thought of humainsm. there are also pockets of 'christianity' that would say that man can become god as well. This too does not eliminate all Xianity from the truth.
I would also ask about pride. Do we cease to be Christian if we have moments where we succumb to pride?

Also if man is created in the image of God - then there must be a capability for articulating truth. Conscience is a means of a truth guage is it not? [although can be seared or misguided]. Man's inherent desire for redemption is truth is it not?[this desrie]can be discovered in every culture regardless of Xian influence]. Look at the stories in every culture they are always filled with hope and the virtue.
To claim man cannot articulate truth seems extreme somewhat hopeless.

Dan Mack said...

Hey man props on finding my blog, and thanks for responding.

Jesse said...

Mark said: "The thought that humanity sucks seems to be a dicredit to God himself... It would seem to me that after God created man it was the only moment in all of Creation that He said 'IT WAS VERY GOOD.' Man is the highest form of Creation... why do we seem to have a problem with that?"

That reminded me of something I read. You seem to read often that Jesus is disappointed with the 12 Disciples lack of faith. What faith did they lack? Did they not believe that Jesus could do all the things He said that he can do?
For example, did Peter fail to walk on water because He didn't believe that Jesus could keep him up? It's possible. He could have also took a swim because Peter believed that he couldn't be like Jesus. Then Jesus responds "you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Did Jesus believed more in His disciples then they did? It's an interesting thought.

e.d. said...

"Man is the highest form of Creation" Well, it would seem to me that woman actually was the highest form of creation!! lol

Jordan/Yoda/Clambo said...

I concede, we do have power. My original point was that we do not have power beyond measure. Modern Secular Humanism often goes overboard with its trust in human strength, just as Modern Christianity often goes overboard with its lazy dependance on God's strength. I get sick of hearing about Christians that go to altar calls and come back saying "God has healed me from my pornography addiction," then go back and assume that they do not need to continually excercise any sort of defense against the devil. What I am saying is that in Modern Secular Humanism, it seems to me that the extreme form of Humanism, whereby there is an overabundance of pride in humanity, is the dominant form of the paradigm.

Boomer said...

Changing the topic slightly as it seems we may have come to a concensus, I've been noticing lately on the news when people say things like, "They can't do that!" "It's my right" "That is so unjust." How do these statements fit in with the humanist perspective. Do these thoughts have validity, what then is the measuring stick for rights? (Maybe this is a completely different topic) Any thoughts?

Mark said...

Those are some good questions Boomer... I have those saved for a second post on indiviualism... a great source of pain for the 21st century church... but maybe not all as bad as we make it out to be. I would be curious to see though ....that many times when those type of statements are made they are reactionary to Corperate, institutional or establishment structures and systems that do not make way for collective thought. I would love to hear an example of something where that doesn't seem to be the case.

Jordan/Yoda/Clambo said...

I haven't really contemplated how human rights and Humanism correlate, but here's my take on human rights:

America claims the right to bear arms, while Canada does not. Either Canada is trampling on peoples' rights, or (more likely), rights are not a concrete thing. They are not universal or truly existent. Rights are only existent when granted. A human does not have any rights until a governing body declares that the individual has rights. Thus, the measuring stick for rights is the peice of paper that grants them, plain and simple. If an individual who is not a citizen of a country that has a paper granting rights (like Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms), and not a citizen of a country that is part of the U.N. which has its own rights-granting paper, complains "you're trampling on my rights," that individual is incorrect. So, as I said, rights are measured by the papers granting them.
Justice, however, is much more difficult. It is the subject of much debate. If you're really interested in the philosophy behind the concept "Justice," try reading Plato's Republic or Aristotle's Politics. One thing I can say is that Justice is a universal concept, and is not dictated by papers. Usually governments will try to agree on what is just and then write it down, but justice itself is a concept bigger than paper. The question is, what is just? Only God knows.

Mark said...

"It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist."
-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Steve said...

I believe we should strive for the unattainable, but rely on God to get us there.
What holds us back from the impossible, or unattainable? Us. But, God, the God of the Impossbile, has mastered the impossible.
It's not a matter of power. It's who we rely on for that power that matters.

Boomer said...

So what are we striving for?

When are you (and by you I mean we) going to walk on water? Move a mountain? End poverty?

What are we relying on God to supply?

Steve said...

Striving for perfection in the way God calls us to be perfect.

TO answer the question of "When". I say, "Where's the faith?" We can all do it.. Peter walked on water. He just doubted his faith. Maybe we need to accept the fact that we may get wet if we're to truely test our faith. And if we're relying on faith, is God the source of this faith? Therefore leading relying on God to supply possibly even faith and not just resources?

Nexus said...

On Humanism:

I find that if Truth is everywhere and if Truth is available to everyone, then no matter the ideology or religion, all humans are capable of finding, declaring, and living based on Truth. So the issue of whether "Original" Humanism or "Secular" Humanism or "Religious" Humanism has Truth in it and which one is "more Christian" seems irrelevant.

If you have the time check out Paris Reidhead's sermon "Ten Shekels and a Shirt." You can find it on and it is now over 20 years old, but truth is always relevant.