Probably the most frequent question I’ve received, even before starting this blog has been “What even is Christian Humanism?”. That’s a very good question, one I actually intended to answer a while back but for whatever reason never got to it. After all, it is right in the title of my blog. My religious beliefs have shifted since this blog’s inception, I now consider include myself in a broader Progressive Christian sense, though I’d definitely still consider myself a Christian Humanist. So, let’s dive into what I mean by that.
Let’s start by defining both terms, “Christianity”, and “Humanism”. Christianity is a large collection of belief-systems based on the life and teachings of 1st-century Judaean rabbi Jesus. Humanism, while not quite as varied, can still mean different things in certain contexts. Generally, though, humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that places emphasis on human worth, dignity, and agency; as well as preferring critical thinking and rationality over dogma and superstition. So, what do they mean together?
As with so many things in life, Christian Humanism can mean many things, and context is key. So when I speak of Christian Humanism, I’ll speak of it in the broadest sense possible. Keep in mind it can mean different things to different people.
- Most Christian Humanists believe people are innately good. They probably don’t believe in concepts such as “total depravity” or “original sin”. This belief usually stems from the principle of Imago Dei, which assumes that if people are created in the image of God, and if God is good, then aren’t people ultimately good as well?
- We also place a strong emphasis on free will. While you will find some Reformed/Calvinist Christian Humanists, most find the idea of a God who micromanages his creation and takes away their freedom of choice monstrous and contrary to the concept of a loving God.
- Rational reasoning trumps tradition and dogma. Just because something is tradition doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It doesn’t make it good either. We recognize that things have not always been the way they are now, and abhor harmful teachings. And if something doesn’t add up, we’re the first to reevaluate it.
- We’re usually still Spiritual, but are also very skeptical. Most Christian Humanists still believe in some form of the supernatural. A good example of this distinction is as follows: While I believe in the existence and possibility of miracles, and believe they have happened, I’m extremely skeptical of any reported miracles nowadays. They usually end up being fake, and when it’s unclear if they are I’m probably not going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
- We believe in making the world a better place. Throughout nearly all of Christian History, there have been certain groups that believe the world is ending any time now, and that we should be focused on “the world to come”. Even today we still see that. News flash: it isn’t. So rather than focus on hypotheticals, let’s focus on the here and now. The world isn’t slowly getting worse until some apocalyptic doomsday, rather, it’s our job to make it a better place. What do you think Jesus taught?
- We believe in equal human worth and dignity. This largely stems once again form the concept of Imago Dei. If all are created in the image of God, then all should be given the same opportunity and treated equally. There is no inferior group, there is no “other”. Everyone deserves the same level of basic treatment.
- We come from many backgrounds. Did you know that one group of Christian Humanists are actually atheists? They just really admire the teachings of Jesus and strive to live by them (most are theistic though). I know of Catholic and Protestant Christian Humanists, Evangelical and Mainline, Liberal and Conservative, etc. Rather than being a denomination or sect, Christian Humanism is more of a uniting philosophy.
This has been a very brief overview of Christian Humanism, and for those of you who had questions hopefully it answered some of them. I haven’t even touched upon the history of Christian Humanism or the biblical and nonbiblical sources it’s based upon (ooh, maybe that could be a future post). If you’re curious to learn more this and this are both great starting points, and offer some more general information.
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