What is Secular Humanism?

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First, the student presented pejorative quotations concerning humanism. Josh McDowell wrote

One of the most organized, most challenging and most clearly non-Christian philosophies of today is secular humanism. It is ably represented and defended by a core of prominent scientists and philosophers at the forefront of new scientific and philosophical thought. Secular humanism has its own meetings, its own “clergy” of spokesmen, its own “creed” called The Humanist Manifesto, and its own goals toward which it desires all of humanity to work. Because of its cohesive world view and strong threat to biblical Christianity, it needs to be examined. [1]

James C. Dobson and Gary Bauer stated, “Nothing short of a great Civil War of Values rages today throughout North America. Two sides with vastly differing and incompatible worldviews are locked in a bitter conflict that permeates every level of society.”[2] Norman L. Geisler said, “Secular humanism presents one of the greatest threats to the survival of Christianity in the world today. It is for this reason that a Christian should carefully study its basic beliefs and scrutinize their adequacy.”[3]

To encourage the congregation to think concerning the above quotations, Justin posed a couple questions: “Why would these theists speak of secular humanism in this manner? Why is secular humanism so dangerous to the Christian worldview?” The student made clear that over the course of the sermon series the answers to those questions would become obvious.

Justin then turned to defining secular humanism with quotations from prominent humanists. H. J. Blackham said, “Humanism is a concept of man focused upon a programme [sic] for humanity”[4]; in other words, humanism focuses on man. Corliss Lamont defined humanism as follows: “To define twentieth-century humanism briefly, I would say that it is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science, and democracy.”[5] Paul Kurtz said

The key message of humanism is not that humanists are nonbelievers in theistic religion – atheists, agonistics, or skeptics – but that we are believers, for we believe deeply in the potentialities of human beings to achieve the good life. Indeed, we wish to apply the virtues and principles of humanist ethics to enhance the human condition.[6]

Robert Primack and David Aspy gave the following definition of humanism:

Secular humanists believe very simply that the human creature aspect of Christianity should be divorced from its religious beginnings and considered a major aspect of personal and social-political relationships. They suggest that making decisions on the basis of some supernatural force may lead to destructive irrationality. They believe the scientific methods should not only be applied to technology but to the very nature of human relationships. They are strongly committed to the democratic, pluralistic/humanistic, secular society in the tradition of Jefferson. Many are pacifists who, like Jesus, are prepared to turn the other cheek and to eschew all forms of violence. They also believe with Einstein that genuine religiosity does not involve blind faith, fear of life and fear of death, but a search for rational knowledge.[7]

The student then moved to describe the main points of secular humanism from A Secular Humanist Declaration.[8] Those main points are: free inquiry, separation of church and state, the ideal of freedom, ethics based on critical intelligence, moral education, religious skepticism, reason, science and technology, evolution, and education.

The student then turned to informing the congregants of scriptural teachings concerning those points. Since Justin would be dealing with each point specifically in the future, he did not spend time refuting humanism point by point. He only commented on what he perceived to be important concepts for the congregation to grasp.

Secular humanism is “a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world.”[9] However, Scripture teaches that man’s highest goal is to honor God. “Now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 10:12). “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). Man’s whole being is to be centered on honoring God and keeping his commandments, not on himself, and not even on making the world a better place.

The scientific method came about as a result of Christianity; Christianity provided conditions under which scientific investigation could flourish.[10] The first condition was a belief that the physical world exists. Many Eastern religions believe the physical world is merely an illusion. Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that this world really exists; therefore, the world can be studied. Second, Christianity teaches that nature is good but not divine. Many pagan cultures affirm that the physical world is the abode of the gods; therefore, studying the physical world would be greatly irreverent. Christianity teaches that this world is good, for God created the cosmos (Gen. 1:1); the world is not divine, for God is outside the universe. Third, nature is orderly and predictable. No pagan cult considered laws to govern the cosmos. But, Christianity holds that God is a Law-giver, and many early scientists set out to find those divine-appointed laws by which the universe operates.

The student then demonstrated that the ethical system espoused by humanists is anything but godly. Humanists claim ethics developed as a branch of philosophy prior to any claim of divine sanction for ethical behavior. Yet, where is their proof for such a statement? Ethics cannot be determined by reason – “I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Ethics flow from God’s character, not man’s reasoning – “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

The education humanists wish to give children is frightening, to say the least. They do not want children indoctrinated in any religious system, but they are more than willing to indoctrinate children in their belief system through the public schools! Moral education does not belong to the public schools but to parents. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:6-7). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). To Timothy Paul wrote, “From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). How could Timothy know the Scriptures from infancy if he was not trained by his mother and grandmother?

Secular humanists desire evolution and not Creation to be taught in schools. If secular humanists value reason and investigation so much, what do they fear if evolution and Creation are taught fairly side by side? The student would be more than willing to put the evidence for Creation up against the evidence for evolution. Scripture teaches that God created man in his own image (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26). If individuals hold that man is nothing more than molecules which randomly came together, they have no reason to treat human life as valuable. Why not have abortions? Why condemn Hitler’s atrocities? Why oppose murder? Why oppose euthanasia?

[1]Josh McDowell and Don Stewart , Handbook of Today’s Religions (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1983), 259.

[2]James C. Dobson and Gary L. Bauer, Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids (Dallas, TX: Word, 1990), 19, quoted in David A Noebel, Understanding the Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), 7.

[3]Norman L. Geisler, Is Man the Measure? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983), 7-8.

[4]H. J. Blackham, “A Definition of Humanism,” in The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism, ed. Paul Kurtz (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1973), 35-37.

[5]Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism 6th ed. (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1982), 12.

[6]Paul Kurtz, “When Should We Speak Out? (Secular Humanism and Politics),” Free Inquiry 23, no. 3 (2003): 6.

[7]Robert Primack and David Aspy, “The Roots of Humanism,” Educational Leadership 38 (1980): 226.

[8]Paul Kurtz, A Secular Humanist Declaration (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980).

[9]Lamont, Philosophy of Humanism, 12.

[10]Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live? With Nancy Pearcey (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999).

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