In my prior post I offered an affirmation and two brief explanations (from a Christian perspective) of Humanism.
In this post I offer some observations that are more critical.
Again, the claim of Humanists is that we can be good without God . . . And in fact we’re doing just that. Just watch us . . .
So if I may offer four critiques of Humanism:
1. Quality counts. I realize this is a subjective call, but in my estimation nothing beats Christian community empowered by the Spirit and rooted in prayer — to love, serve, think clearly, heal physical and emotional maladies, and live a moral life.
Humanism, by definition, has only human resources to draw from. Admittedly, that’s a lot. But it fails to tap into the fuel of the Holy Spirit.
2. Existentialism sufficient? One of the tenets of Humanism is the need to choose the good. This is a principle borrowed from a philosophy called existentialism.
Existentialism says, in effect, the universe is meaningless, but we humans have the capacity to be meaning-makers. So we must choose to be good, choose to act. Not to choose is failure.
But of course that’s precisely the problem. Unredeemed human hearts have only so much capacity to choose the good and carry it out (also true of nominal Christians).
3. Naturalism a weak foundation. Humanism stands on the platform of naturalism (atheism). So while I might affirm the basic outlook of Humanist ideals to “do good,” any project based on naturalism will depend on whether naturalism is actually true.*
After four decades of being in this debate, I’m still convinced Christianity is the most comprehensive, coherent position available to us. Definitely not naturalism. I’ve commented on this elsewhere.**
4. Why not be bad? There’s a joke among atheists/Humanists who’ve left religion behind: “I didn’t suddenly become an axe murderer.”
Right. I think we know that. But the problem with naturalism is that egotism and self-interest — even at the expense of others — follows just as logically as Humanism. To offer an extreme example, Joseph Stalin fits with naturalism as well as Thomas Jefferson.
To Epstein’s credit, he acknowledges the varied possible endpoints of naturalism, and he wishes to choose the high road. But if I am a contrarian and simply choose the low road of “me first no matter what,” there’s little in naturalism to restrain me.
* * *
Face to face with Humanism: Recently I had a 90-minute conversation with well-known Humanist Bart Campolo, an ex-Christian preacher whose famous father, Tony Campolo, helped shape a generation of evangelicals. I’ll tell you what happened with Bart and me in my next post.
*Ironically, I think Humanism would work best if Christianity is true. See my prior post for an explanation of why, from a Christian perspective, Humanism seems to work fairly well.
**See My Faith is Like Skydiving, ch 16: “How to Talk with Modern Atheists.” And/or this series of blog posts called “Love Your Atheist Neighbor.”
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