In the opening of his book A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer discusses some of the differences between Christianity and Humanism. Truthfully, it is not just that these two worldviews differ at peripheral points, rather they are completely different and stand totally opposed to each other. Schaeffer says:
These two world views stand as total in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in natural results- including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law.1
Specifically, note that Schaeffer points out how these two systems will produce different results (covered in greater detail later). Why is that the case? It is because they are two completely foundations. What is Humanism and what is its foundation? Let us allow the Humanists themselves to tell us in The Humanist Manifesto:
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.2
Did you notice how they affirm that they live life without supernaturalism? Essentially, they believe in life without God and that mankind guided by his own reason is the ultimate authority. How does this viewpoint differ from biblical Christianity? Here is what Schaeffer says about Christianity:
When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality – the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal infinite God. Christianity is not just a series of truths, but Truth – Truth about all of reality. And the holding of that truth intellectually and in some poor way living upon that Truth, the Truth of what is brings forth not only certain personal results, but also governmental and legal results.3
Therefore, Christianity is truth rooted, grounded, and established in the God of the universe. God is the One who determines everything. Christianity affirms that humanity and the reason of man is not the measure of all things, but God Himself is the standard! What we see then, is that Christianity and Humanism are two completely different systems of thought. They view the world through two entirely different lenses and are not compatible with each other whatsoever. Humanism must be rejected for Christianity is true
Schaeffer not only points to the fact that Christianity and Humanism are completely different, he also has brilliantly shown they produce different results. This difference is a natural and inevitable consequence. Since Christianity views the government as being ordained by God, then there are certain actions the government should not take and specific boundaries it should stay within at all times. However, under a Humanist understanding, the government has no such boundaries. Here is how humanists understand ethics:
Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.4
Ultimately, ethical values are determined by the analysis of the humanist as to what they deem best, and not upon the standard of the unchanging reality which is God. Therefore, there are no real boundaries in ethical behavior for the government to consider. They simply do what they view as the most beneficial action in each circumstance. If murdering millions of Jews like Hitler is what they deem to be best, then under a humanist’s foundational viewpoint they could not be refuted. However, God in His Word says murder is wrong (Exodus 20:13) and that command will never change. The two worldviews inevitably produce two different results because they are based on two different standards.
I simply use the concept of government as one of many to prove the point, Humanism and Christianity completely and dynamically oppose each other at every turn. I want to spend a few posts emphasizing the differences between these two systems. In this post, we took more of a foundational viewpoint seeing how Humanism contradicts biblical Christianity, and hopefully, I began to whet your appetite a bit for more. Next, we will examine how humanism cannot account for truth. Third, we will see how Humanism cannot account for morality. Lastly, we will discuss the need of the church to press against this system and its fruits instead of falling prey to it. I pray you will be benefited from this series and that it will enable you to give a more prolific defense of the faith against purely material views of reality, to understand current issues with more depth, and to pluck any inclinations towards Humanism out of your heart!
1 Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, p. 18
3 A Christian Manifesto, p. 20