The Christian roots of Secular-Humanism

by Elias Blum

Back when I was in the process of becoming a Christian as an undergraduate, I had a number of doubts about how to square it with a basically secular-humanist ethical system which I considered to be largely derived from enlightenment principles. I thought there was something other-worldly, and to be honest something a bit self-indulgent and even uncivic, about christianity.

Later, as I studied more, I came to understand that secular-humanism is really a vestigial remnant of the much richer ideal of christian-humanism.

This christian-humanism, derived from the medieval fusion of classical and christian thought, is perhaps the greatest animating force of Western civilisation – the common thread of civilisational inheritance that holds the West together and apart from other cultures.

Sometimes I have wondered if it would be possible to have all the social and ethical principles of christian humanism without all the silly ‘magic sky fairy’ stuff. But I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t.

Without the idea of incarnation and resurrection at their core, christian-humanism doesn’t make any sense. We are left only with a humanism that has no answer to the reality of evil and no hope. It’s only through the resources of a christian worldview that the evil we see in reality can be conquered through the resurrection, and through the knowledge it brings that the world, for all its faults, has been, is being, and will be redeemed. It’s only the resurrection that gives us any indication that ‘the arc of history bends towards justice’.

In the process of coming to this conclusion, I learnt that the ultimate ‘point’ of christianity isn’t to escape the world, but to transform the world for good – not about ‘going to heaven when we die’, but about bringing the ways of heaven’s healing and restoration to a hurting, aching world. That’s what God’s love is actually doing. Occasionally I see light. It shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

You might think all this is very odd.