Sunday 13 May 2018

The Path to the Divine, at the heart of Reality, is through Christian Humanism.

Erasmus of Rotterdam (c1466 – 1536) explored it already when he wrote in his Enchiridion Militis Christiani (1503) that God is simply the life of the human soul. Much earlier, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo (354-430) could write to God in his Confessions “When I recognize myself, I recognize you!” For Augustine, God is the inner illumination of the mind, which propels the self beyond itself into the Divine. God is the light of the world reflected in the human soul.

Augustine of course was echoing the Apostle Paul: “The God who made the world and everything in it is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands….From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God —though indeed God is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-28)

Christian humanism affirms that at the core of authentic human existence there is some revelation and experience of the authentically Divine.

Here then, for reflection and discussion, are ten affirmations about Christian Humanism:

1. Human beings possess capacities to sense, understand, and respond to events of transcendence manifest in everyday existence.

2. The sense of the transcendent, or what one could call ‘an instinct for the Divine,’ responds to real disclosures within the natural, historical, and lived experiences of Reality.

3. “God” names what is actually present in the power, depth, scope, intensity, and claim of life.

4. These disclosures of divinity within the natural and historical lives of peoples need to be read and interpreted like one reads a text. Sometimes one needs to learn the necessary language….

5. Human beings can gain real intimations of the Divine via signs of sacredness in the world around them. Some people are vision impaired……

6. A Christian humanist freely decides to sense, attend to, and reflect on those intimations of Divine presence in human lived experence.

7. Critical thinking remains a necessary moment in the interpretation of Divine disclosures.

8. Christian humanism demands that we develop a conscience that is self-critical. And to become people of conscience we adopt spiritual and religious practices that actualize our capacities to be aware of and open to the fullness of life.

9. Christian humanism aims at inculcating a vigilant faith, a resolute hope, and an abundant love as modes of openness to the Divine.

10. Christian humanism fosters attitudes and feelings of heartfelt gratitude, steadfast humility, and demanding compassion.

Disciplined attention to Christian humanism discloses that in spite of sorrow, pain, and agony, human life is nevertheless saturated with worth and that responsible human action is to draw together that goodness into a complete vision of life with others and for oneself.

That my friends is our big challenge.


7 thoughts on “Christian Humanism

  1. It is a contention parallel to yours—and I think I might have mentioned this before–that it is my belief and conviction that Jesus was what you call a (Christian) humanist–someone who growing in wisdom and age and grace came to much the same principles you enumerate with a greater simplicity than our age (and our history) allow. Later followers elucidating his views, sayings, signs and wonders that impressed them, sketched their understanding into what was a seed for the Christian religion, but something that he was not particularly trying to form. The uneasy indoctrination through several centuries, the gradual emergence of a “hierarchy” (and the division of clergy and laity) , the delineation of sacraments and rituals, a developing moral/legal codification–all this came through humans trying to grasp one greater than them. (I had a friend once who maintained that the first one to put on a “Franciscan habit” was the first betrayer of St. Francis, even as they honored him by doing so.) I believe that Jesus wanted us to be as creative as his spirit was….and your direction seems to parallel mine in that regard, though you do it with a little more panache!

    1. You say it very well! Thank you. An archbishop I know loves to tell that Jesus ordained and then consecrated the apostles as bishops at the last supper. When I asked him if Jesus gave them miters and crosiers, he replied “but of course…and rings as well.”

      Religious fantasy time…..


  2. Thank you for a wonderful essay and another opportunity for my own reflection on how I can meet the “big challenge.”

  3. My first exposure to this philosophy. Given the falseness of human nature, how would the teachings of our Lord been preserved without the visible, hierarchical centralized authority structure of the Church? And when that failed from time to time, how would it have been protected and restored by the religious orders?

    I believe Jesus instituted what He knew would be needed once He ascended. He didn’t need anyone to tell Him what is in men’s hearts.

    Sounds like you are making the classical humanist mistake of “eminentizing the eschaton.”

  4. I appreciated your sentiments about our need to form a relationship with the Divine. Throughout the last couple of months, I have investigated more of the philosophical principles underpinning Christian Humanism through prayer, reflection, and writing. As we come upon Christian humanism, develop our understanding of it, and, most importantly, live it out, the crux of this process is a relationship with God. Without this relationship, we can never hope to participate fully in both our humanity and divinity as His children.

    When I read through your ten affirmations, it was helpful to see your insistence upon first our recognition of the Divine and then developing that relationship with Him in various ways. Number five especially gave that resonance. Our imagination, intellect, and will may never hope to participate as fully if we fail to cling to Him and His workings in our world.

    How have you found it best to cultivate this relationship with God? I have often been reminded that our first and foremost priority lies in our prayer life and our recognition of our limitations without His grace and our willingness to remain open to Him. Would you agree or what else would you add to this? Of course, there are subsequent ways to educate ourselves, grow, and develop, but many times I have to remind myself to go back to first principles and actions which tend to involve prayer and cultivating that friendship with God. Then, the imagination, intellect, will, and education will flow from this.

    Thanks for writing this piece! It has been a joy to think and reflect on it.

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