In the 4th and 5th centuries there was a crisis over the doctrine of God – one God in three persons, and over Jesus being fully God and fully man. For many this was resolved at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Reformation helped settle the crisis over authority in the Church and Salvation, by recovering the Bible and the doctrine of "Justification by Faith". But the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries have generated a crisis over the doctrine of "Man", particularly in the West. This has led in Britain since the 1960s from an Christian influenced world-view, to a secular humanist world-view as the default assumption for ethical decision making in politics, education, medicine, the media, the arts, some sciences, business and, yes, even now in sport. Most seriously and for religious freedom, in politics this has resulted in some legislation that needs to be repealed, albeit incrementally. But politics are "downstream" of the culture. So truly to help reshape the direction of the culture of the nation, Christians must be strategically "upstream" of politics witnessing to their world-view overtly but thoughtfully, politely and graciously, in their engagement with the world. This is one aspect of Godly Living – being salt and light (Matt 5.13-16). The following, from a defunct magazine, lightly edited, is a framework for action.
In our time the word "humanism" has been claimed by those who explain human existence without any reference to God. We are unwilling to yield the term to those views that are least able of finding depth of meaning in the life of mankind.
We regret that Christians have rarely offered a clear alternative to secular humanism, and we seek now to set forth the salient points of what for centuries has been called "Christian" humanism.
The Starting Point
The proper study of mankind is not man alone, but God and man together. The triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the Creator of the Universe and of each person within it. God, who is the ultimate meaning of the universe, is eternally self-existent, though the created order is not.
By thus acknowledging God, the Christian view of reality embraces more than does that of the secular humanist.
Who We Are
Human nature combines physical and spiritual, natural and supra-natural characteristics. To the physical, sexual, and social aspects of normal human life, in which we rejoice, must be added the understanding that human beings alone of all creation are made in God's own image.
We can, therefore, create, love, assert, reflect on our past and future, communicate with words, and distinguish good and evil. Even more fundamentally we can worship the One whose image we bear. This gives man an intrinsic dignity beyond mere animals. Human beings can never be understood only as animals, however complex, for at heart they are religious beings.
Value of Life
Because human beings, male and female, bear God's image, their life, which is his gift, claims our care and protection throughout, from the time of conception to the furthest point at which it can continue. Neither abortions of convenience nor euthanasia when social usefulness has passed can therefore be justified.
Why We Exist
The meaning of human life is moral and spiritual: moral, in the performance of God's will, which is both just and loving, spiritual, in a fellowship with God and other persons. No human life, however prosperous, healthy, or devoted to others is complete when this moral and spiritual development is lacking.
The Human Task
From his creation, humankind as male and female has been required by their marriages to people the world, given stewardship over nature, commanded by God to develop a culture and nourish human life from the productive earth.
Labour and leisure, science and art, family and state, belong to human life as God meant it to be. Yet the meaning of life is not found in these activities but in the God who enables them.
Science and Art
God created and maintains pattern and consistency in the universe, making science and technology possible. Secular humanism, lacking this ultimate foundation for science, must posit the consistency of the universe as a mysterious "given".
The form and materials of his creation also make art and beauty possible: human creativity thus echoes God's own.
Truth and Error
Something of God's character and will may be known by all people, even if dimly and with confusion. An awareness of God and of moral standards is natural to mankind, and the urge to worship, though often misdirected, is indestructible.
God the Creator has clearly revealed his character and will in history, culminating in Jesus Christ. This revelation, in which God interpreted for us the whole of human life and met in principle the whole of human duty, is now permanently available in Holy Scripture; and no one who lacks knowledge of it knows enough for a fully human life.
Though we know only in part, God's revealed truth is absolute not relative. Because truth can be known, error can be identified, and a path is thereby opened through the contemporary religious and philosophical confusion.
Human life is blighted by the alienation from God introduced by human disobedience after man's creation. Moral evil, although universal throughout history, is therefore abnormal. Its roots lie in human rebellion against God's Lordship and the rule of his law.
Ours has become a bent world: selfishness, violence, injustice, pride, self-destructiveness, and inhumanity everywhere pervade human life.
This evil may appear in individuals or institutions. It is manifest in governments, businesses, and families. The human will, rather than social conditions alone, however, is the decisive factor in evil. No explanation of human brutality that omits sinful choice is adequate.
In the face of this pervasive evil, God maintains a governance of human affairs that sets limits to evil, prospers human life, and preserves his purpose in history. The end of history, like its beginning, is under the sovereign control of God.
Human Restoration: Reconciled to God
To end our alienation from him and to restore human life to its original design and purpose, our Creator has acted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a first-century Jew who was, in truth, the second person of the Trinity, God incarnate.
The appearance of Christ, therefore, is the most important event in all human history. By his sacrificial death, he paid the moral debt of those sinners who submit to his transforming reconciliation.
The loving service of God and man which Jesus taught and practised perfectly is the model of true humanness.
The Kingdom of God Begun
From the ministry of Christ sprang an international, multiracial community of forgiven sinners. They acknowledge a common calling to proclaim Jesus as King and to bring all human life under his sway. This community, the Church, despite failures, inconsistencies, and hypocrisies, has pioneered a many-sided humanitarianism.
The Christian movement has been the cultural matrix of the modern Western world. Christian fruit, however, cannot continue in society without Christian convictions.
Current social problems are overwhelming: international tensions, crime, family breakdown, abuse of the powerless (including the unborn and the aged), scarcity of resources, nuclear threat and more.
Christian humanism offers, not a programme to solve these problems, but a framework for their solution – truth linked to spiritual power.
Pessimism, Optimism, Realism
Human life is not perfectible and progress is not inevitable, but despair at the human prospect is no more justified than is naïve optimism. Hope for mankind lies in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the Lord of all things, will make all things new at his Second Coming. The Christian Humanist therefore avoids both the pessimism and the over-optimism of secular humanism.
The individual Christian, facing death, can likewise know that conscious friendship with God and other persons is forever. These are not empty religious sentiments but the natural language of those who know even if partially, of their creation and redemption by a loving God.
In contrast to secular humanism, therefore, Christian humanism does not hesitate to speak of absolute truth, goodness, beauty, love, morality, the sanctity of life, duty, fidelity, hope and immortality. These are not empty religious sentiments but the natural language of those who know even if partially, of their creation and redemption by a loving God.
"God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end" Ecclesiastes 3.11.