Reclaim the goodness of humanism

Humanists have gained a bad reputation from us Christians who tend toward a conservative Christian worldview. We quickly label certain groups and people on the left-of-center as “humanists,” e.g. ACLU, John Dewey, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, and Gene Roddenberry, and etc. (I am a Star Trek fan so I’d have to give a cheer for Gene Roddenberry). The new term of “secular humanism” is used in anti-religious philosophy for the affirmation of humanity without reference to God. It’s a glorification of humanity without God in the picture. Thus, today, the word has strong secularistic and atheistic overtones because secular humanists do not believe in having an absolute moral code. The term “humanist” carries the assumption that a person subscribes to a belief in humanism so they are labelled as “secular humanists.” We have often used the word “humanists” in the wrong sense, including myself. So who were the humanists who were originally known as humanists? Humanists in the 14th-16th centuries were very religious. These early humanists were a diverse group and cannot be pigeon-holed into one single philosophy. Humanism was a movement of the Renaissance, which rose up as a reaction against scholasticism. It was out of an anti-scholasticism that the Christian Reformation arose in the 16th century. Humanism during the Renaissance wanted to return back to the original sources (ad fontes) and renew the church, not destroy it. The term “humanists” referred to those educated in the Greek and Latin classics. They were the literary scholarly types who were well-versed in Latin studies and pursued eloquent speech. Their desire to return back to the original sources was what triggered the Reformation of the 16th century. They felt that scholasticism was stale and did not provide the answers to the truth (which is not unlike how today’s post-modernists feel). Thus, came Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Philip Melanchthon (picture above), and Ulrich Zwingli. Good thing Luther returned to the original Greek and Hebrew and translated the bible into his modern day language of German. Today, we, as 21st century Christians, can and should rightfully reclaim the goodness of humanism.

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