Saturday, April 5, 2008


Chances are, if you run into someone on the street who calls himself a humanisit, you're talking to an atheist. "Humanism" has thus received a bad reputation among God fearing Christians.

We need to take it back.

The form of humanism above is secular or atheist humanism. The oldest form is aptly called classical humanism. This classical humanism was found in the ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. What these men believed was that the human person was essentially his soul. The soul has two main powers: intellect and will. Perfection would thus naturally come if one perfected the intellect and the will. To do this, classical humanists taught we needed wisdom to perfect the intellect and virtue to perfect the will.

Did Christianity reject this? No way! All we did was add to it by saying that supernatural perfection can only come from God. Only in Him can we find true wisdom (supernatural truths) and virtue (the supernatural theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity). This is called theistic humanism. It was found it's apex in the writings of St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

The scholastics following St. Thomas in the 14th and 15th centuries, however, began to focus on divine truths, leaving many to wonder about the meaning of our human existence.

Enter the Renaissance.

The Renaissance thinkers began to focus once more on classical humanism. One would suppose this rediscovery of classical thought would lead them back to the theistic humanism of Christianity. Some, however, rejected both classical and theistic humanism in order to deify the human person. To do this, the truths about the human person and about God had to be rejected.

Secular humanism in comparison to classical and theistic humanism is a loss, not a gain. Thus G. K. Chesterton would quip: "Paganism was big, Christianity was bigger. Everything since has been comparatively small."

Through the writings of the nominalist William of Ockham and the political philosopher Machiavelli, spiritual realities (like the soul and God) were rejected. Virtue was seen as an obstacle to success. Power - ultimately divine power - was the new summon bonum. This secular humanism would grow and develop over for hundreds of years, affecting us to this very day.

Freud, the father of modern psychology and secular humanist, would in a sense question secular humanism by asking: "Since we have become gods [through powerful technology] why aren't we happy?"

He forgot the words of St. Augustine: "God has made us for Himself and we are restless until we rest in Him."

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