Month 6:11, Week 2:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year 5935:153 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 9 September 2011
Is It Biblical?
Throughout the course of my intellectual and spiritual development I have come across the 'Christian Humanists', men like English statesman Sir Thomas More (author of Utopia), famous French scientist, Blaise Pascal, the French theologian Erasmus (picture above) (who were devoted Catholics), Protestant reformer John Calvin, King Frederick (the Great) of Prussia, and the Lutheran Philosopher from Königsberg, Immanuel Kant...to name but a few. Precisely defining what a 'Christian Humanist' is, is rather difficult, however, because there are so many definitions of what this is and many schools of thought. Whilst Secular Humanism itself covers a broad spectrum from savage Marxist-Socialist collectivism to excessive individualism, Christian Humanism - when biblically-centred - can be said to operate a middle ground that avoids both excesses.
I consider myself to be a Christian Humanist because I believe that a true man (or woman) in Messiah has to be a humanist - it's what gives him a heart for people so that he doesn't become a glassy-eyed, cold, loveless religious fanatic. Humanism, I believe, is one of the three components of human wholeness, the other two being Salvation by Emunah (faith) and Obedience to Torah, as I tried to explain in a recent devotional, The Three Domains of Man and as illustrated in the following diagram:
Without the humanistic component it is, I believe, impossible for a man or woman to experience growth in all areas of life as the "new creature" made by rebirth in Messiah. For whether we like it or not, we share a commonality with all people of all religious and philosophical beliefs, people whom Yah'shua (Jesus) loves. As believers scattered across the globe we are expected to live, and get along, with all kinds of people, the unsaved as well as the saved. I learned this invaluable lesson existentially growing up in multicultural Singapore and Malaysia.
Many who call themselves 'Christian Humanists' are liberals because the Torah portion is missing from their lives. But I think they are best called 'Evangelical Humanists' - they are the 'Lawless Liberal Friends' in the diagram above. The more conservative type of 'Christian Humanist' are the 'Messianic Humanists' who love law and get along with people but who don't have much to do with any sort of relationship with Messiah, who are the 'Good Law-Abiding Neighbours' in the diagram. Then there are those
who view all the unsaved as damnable, hell-bound, lost-forever scum, the ultra-conservatives who are not humanists at all - they are simply too lost in the concept of Messiah and in Law but forget people. They can be 'Evangelical Christians' or 'Messianics', in name at least.
Though I call myself a 'Messianic Evangelical' a better term would probably be a 'Messianic-Evangelical-Humanist' as that encompasses, I firmly believe, all three areas of a whole believer's life. Since I am a Torah-obedient Christian Humanist my approach to the Gospel naturally differs from Catholics, Protestants and others who also use this label, for the pure and simple reason that a lack of Torah-submission leads to liberalism as opposed to libertarianism. Though the two words sound similar, they are radically different in substance.
A liberal Christian is, by definition, a lawless or Torahless Christian. Naturally there are different degrees of liberalism, depending on which scriptural laws you choose to obey. A libertarian can have many different beliefs and lifestyles - religious or secular - but basically he accept the right of each indivisual to live the kind of life he chooses provided it does not interfere with the liberty of others. Libertarian therefore fundamentally accepts the principle of free agency. To be a liberal does not necessary mean to be a libertarian - a liberal who denies freedom of choice is simply a liberal fascist. A conservative or a socialist who denies freedom of choice is simple a conservative fascist or a socialist fascist, respectively. Anyone who denies the right of the individual to choose his own lifestyle is therefore a social fascist. Both secular and religious people - socialists, fascists, Muslims, Christians, Messianics, and others - have been guilty of this fascist mentality.
Obviously things will change when Yah'shua (Jesus) returns and establishes a worldwide theocracy but until then people of every stripe have got to learn to live together. And the most desirable way to live together is without oppressing one another by denying each other's free agency. There are all sorts of philosophical difficulties, admittedly, but this is without doubt the safest course of action that needs to be defended by state law. Without it there is always needless suffering. Utopians of both the secular and religious varieties tend to end up in some sort of fascist mode which is why Utopia cannot exist until Messiah returns. Imposed religion or imposed secularism always leads to oppression. That is why the libertarian humanist component is so vitally important for the welfare of all people while they work out their salvation one way or another.
The only way believers can bring unbelievers into the authentic Kingdom of Messiah is if the unbelievers are not forced in, and to accomplish that there must be true liberty. As believers we are commanded to act as a force of attraction, not of compulsion. At the same time we must have the liberty to preach what others may not like hearing without being condemned or arrested for preaching so-called 'hate-crimes', and be mature enough to hear criticism from others. If we have the emet (truth), as we claim, we should have nothing to fear. We are supposed to be new creations living IN Messiah:
As a Christian humanist I can be devoted to nature and its beauty like other humanists even if my perspective of Yahweh as Creator is different from them. The mutual goal of both compassionate religionists and secularists (and compassion is the key word here) must be better government and social justice arising out of true libertarianism - liberty for all.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor.5:17, NKJV).
"For in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation" (Gal.6:15, NKJV).
Of course, it could be argued that this is just another variety of Utopianism and I wouldn't completely disagree with that. What I would say, though, is that this is surely the fairest way forward as proven by the fact that it was successfully employed, by and large, in the former British Empire. In a modern non-imperial setting of free libertarian nation-states, the traditional sense of 'fair play' would do wonders to our modern world.
So is Christian Humanism biblical? Yes, I absolutely believe it is, as understood in the threefold model described earlier. It is consistent with free choice and the true principles of liberty. If as believers we are not humanists, then we are to be greatly pitied, for not only will our good relations with others be seriouly injured, but we will never become whole in Messiah. Yah'shua (Jesus) was a humanist - a Yahweh-submitted, Torah-submitted compassionate, libertarian humanist, who let those who refused to follow Him go their way without pursuing or hounding them, like the rich young ruler and nine ungrateful lepers.
People will generally trust believers more, and not conclude that they are dangerous religious fanatics, if they demonstrate their Messiah-like humanity, which is what compassionate humanism is. (Needless to say not everyone who calls himself a 'humanist' is compassionate, secular or religious, so that qualifier has to be added). At the same time, this is something Satan hates and reacts violently to, which itself is a witnessing opportunity for the compassion of our Elohim (God).
Be complete in Messiah, be a Messianic-Evangelical Christian Humanist!
Continued in Part 2