Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Christianity: Deeper Humanism?
Before the Christmas break, I came across an interesting article* where the author posited that Christianity, essentially and almost naturally, outflows a better and more appealing brand of humanism. In effect, what the author was suggesting was that Christian humanism outdoes secular humanism in that it gives the individual a more compelling incentive to treat others right, to fight for social equality and to stand guard against the sociopolitical vultures of society. Christianity simply provides the winning formula that atheism couldn't.
It was an interesting article. My attention was reserved, at least, for the six minutes it took me to read the whole thing. Yet, the more I think, I grow skeptical that humanism could ever sit next to such a tall philosophical neighbor in Christianity, and the reasons for me saying this, cynical as they may be (though I think not), I find both apt and necessary for the mind to at least ruminate, however disposed that mind is.
That humanism and Christianity be mentioned in the same phrase sounds as though both a 'b' and the semitone below are simultaneously scratching my ear-drum. It simply doesn't sound right. And that's because both sounds are out of tune with each other. They don't match. There's no real harmony.
The human psyche, I suppose since forever, has craved for something that probably can't ever be realized. One could call it global harmony or world peace or economic equilibrium or environmental sustainability or a perfect earthly moment. Maybe this is where humanism came from. The over-intellectualized ambition of a psychologically evolving society impulsed that, since we are without God, therefore we must have Man. Or maybe it's that the radicalized trumpeters of rights and free love, altogether, figured that Man must be God. God must reside within human ambition subjective, relentless and young.
Religion, though, existed long before the humanistic worldview became the luxurious and popular commodity it's become today. And Christianity, during the tyrannic rule of Roman greatness, was born when men (generic men) realized that who they were was mad and crippled, and that what they could ever dream to be is futile, vain and deprived. Christianity was born when men knew of only one human who was inherently good and was ever worthy of service. Christianity was born when the inward light of disgustingly self-impregnating egoism was outward shone towards the moral and glorious infinitude of the one and only God--that humble Jesus of Nazareth.
Alright, let's take a step back. The demands of humanism is that people of all stripes be treated equitably. Isn't this, also, the demand of Christian religion? Ethical conduct and equitable behavior are in fact parts of the Biblical tradition of the Church. The institution and its faithful populace have long upheld the words of Christ that we must be defenders of the weak and providers for the poor, carers of creation and dispensers of human generosity all around. But, do these things necessarily equate to humanism? Do Christians love humans for the sake of loving humans alone? Do they desire harmony for the sake of a better earthly future?
God has called his people towards a humble life of goodness and intimacy with the rest of humanity. It is in His nature that He love that which He has created, and that is why humans are given this command--that we might do like God does, what is good, moral and pure. Christians do not predicate the goodness of activity on the subjective appeal of their ends. Biblical theology points to an ontological basis for moral action and this is, perhaps, what may be the distinguishing, philosophical factor between the utilitarian morality of humanism and Biblically informed Christianity which foremost asserts two laws: that you shall love God with all your heart, soul and strength, and that you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).
In conclusion, Christianity is not a deeper form of humanism. It goes deeper still. The faith of Peter and Paul presents instead the very threat to human goodness--not to be mistaken with human value and meaning which Christianity, not atheism, will assert--that few can appreciate without a foreknowledge of who God is. Humanism trusts that humans have all that is required within them (reasoning, imagination, innovation) to resolve the unanswered dilemmas preventing the evolutionary flourishing of our race. Christianity trusts only in God to accomplish the greatest conceivable good, which goes beyond petty earthly achievement. The hopes of the Christian faith go beyond what physical promise can bring and strive forward for something that ultimately humans haven't the right nor the capability to acquire, that which God alone promises: redemption amid depravity, salvation borne from surrender, and a New Earth at the end of our chaotic earthen disorder.
* http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/dec/05/point-christianity-creater-deeper-form-humanism (... Yes, the Guardian again.)