Posted by: topher274 | June 19, 2010

Christian Humanism

I remember the first time I heard the word. It was in 2002, freshman year, first semester, Western Civ with Dr. Howard.

My high school had 3 years of American history, but no world history at all. This Western Civ class was all brand new to me, from Eusebius to Rousseau. As the centuries of western thought trolled on over the course of the semester, we came to Erasmus (whose name I still get confused with Eusebius to this day :) Dr. Howard said that the was a Christian Humanist.

Now what is a Christian Humanist? I grew up to associate negativity with the word ‘humanist’, as a godless and heathen thing to be. It was a practice at the time to train up young people as aspiring “apologists” and acquaint us with various non-Christian philosophies and how they’re wrong. At least something like that. It worked okay on us ;)

By humanism, I think they were referring to Secular Humanism (SeHu) – but more of that anon. Humanism, and SeHu in particular, is the belief that there is intrinsic goodness in humankind. That as we look at the great language, literature, art and science of the world, it seems that there is a beauty and goodness intrinsic in what it means to be human. Humanism takes a very positive view of human nature. All the badness that people do is because of the concatenation of external circumstances. One by one, slowly but surely, they will all be done away with.

I think the best and greatest example of the Humanist dream is Star Trek. Right now, I’m watching through the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation. These humans, set a mere three centuries in the future, live a life where all their needs are met, and all are motivated mainly to better themselves, to create and contribute to society, and to explore the cosmos. Indeed, technological innovation is an important kind of beautiful art that further illustrates the glory of the human race.

SeHu is a brand of Humanism that specifically rejects the supernatural, God, religion and the rest. In fact, many secular humanists I’ve heard identify religion as the main external circumstance that promotes badness in humanity. It seems that this was just the next, logical progression from Enlightenment Deism. SeHu still holds close to it’s heart the horrifying destruction of the Thirty Years’ war and other religious conflicts over the years. It sees them all as proof positive that belief in God cheapens human life, encouraging ‘believers’ to kill and/or die for their beliefs. “Is religion inherently violent?” is a question they still ask. This is what we were taught to stand against in youth group and Sunday school – and, as Christians, rightly so.

I am a Christian Humanist. I believe in the goodness and glory of humanity, our art, literature, music, science Рthe whole nine yards. But I also deeply embrace God, the supernatural, the Bible, and Christian theology. The sinfulness of humanity is real and devastating, and there are many things that cause violence and badness (or evil) in the world.

We are mired in sin and evil but our depravity is not a Total Depravity. True we can do nothing on our own to save ourselves, but both the redeemed and un-redeemed among us continue to create, to invent, and compose. This is God’s design – his image continuing to express itself in us. There are wonderfully positive trends in humanity as we express God’s image, and terribly negative trends when we accept sin and step away from our humanity. But our human identity really is something special. God created us for love, for relationship, for beauty, for glory, and with the spark of creativity in the most robust sense.

The reflex of our suburban Christian sub-culture is to only accept the kind of art, books, movies that are tamely palatable (see here). But I say let us not run from who we are, but let us create, sing, dance, innovate, and carry on to truly express the image of God in us.

I will continue by posting some pictures illustrating what such Christian Humanism brings to mind. Though I could put in great renaissance art, these are all modern examples. If you have anything showing the glory of humanity, leave it in the comments!

This is an autotune science video from, which has a couple videos of this type. Severely Secular Humanists, we Christian humanists can appropriate the truth of it. Just beware of Richard Dawkins :) (actually, that’s not a joke)

The Great Leonopteryx from Avatar

The iPhone 4

A sculpture of Tetris blocks falling into an alleyway.



  1. K. Hijleh and I just had a chat about Chrisian Humanism a few weeks ago. I hadn’t heard the term before, but I liked it once I heard it defined. I’m not sure about your comment on “total depravity” (I’ve been living with Calvinists for a while and once in a while they persuade me) but I certainly see what you mean.

    I watched TNG from start to end this past semester. Good times. I still want to be Troi when I grow up.

  2. Whenever I talk about Christian humanism or debate total depravity with someone, I always try to go back to what is for me the bottom line: I like humans because God likes humans. His leadership is better than many people give him credit for; that even after the fall of man, his creation is still capable of much of what he put in us to do. Granted, we can only accomplish those original acts in a tragic, broken, rebellious way, but it says something that when God discovered the sin of Adam, he didn’t fire him and give his mandate to rule the earth to another creature. And we do not honour God rightly by thinking so lowly of those who bear his image.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Bildebrandt. In fact, I’ve already tried to draft a few sentences to reply – but I think you’ve said what need to be said. Thanks for so cogent a comment.

  4. Beth (I’m treading lightly here), this is a part of the reason that I’m not quite convinced by the doctrine of Total Depravity. In my view, the world seems to be filled with wonder and beauty that does seem to come from humans, Christian and Non-Christian alike.

    While it’s clear that un-redeemed humans cannot save themselves without God initiating rescue, I feel it is a serious charge, one way or the other, that the beauty I see around me is in fact utter ugliness.

    I’m more than willing to accept that I may be deceived and I may be seeing the world upside-down, but that’s the perspective I’ve come to have.

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