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 and answered in this book.
First, let's examine some popular
ideas of what humanism can represent. The term humanism by itself
is not automatically anti-God or pro-God, as many have tried so
often to maintain. Historically, during Renaissance times, the
word emphasized the importance of man, not to the exclusion of
God, but simply with little emphasis on God.
Sometimes humanism is defined as
the study of the worth and dignity of man as such worth is given
him by God. As Christians, we must be careful not to build a
false case about all use of the word humanism and then attempt to
refute that false case. In fact, this is what some secular
humanist writers do when they unfairly paint a caricature of
Christianity and then attempt to tear that down.
We will make a working definition
of secular humanism, adapting it from the ancient Greek
philosopher Protagoras, who said, "Man is the measure of all
things". Today this view holds that man is the ultimate
standard by which all life is measured and judged. Thus values,
law, justice, good, beauty, and right and wrong all are to be
judged by manmade rules with no credence to either God or the
Bible. We identify this as secular (non-theistic) humanism (in
distinction to the ambiguous and broad term humanism).
Secular humanism is a collection
of ideas which bind together into a coherent system. Because of
this, some humanistic ideas can affect and be adapted to many
different disciplines such as existentialism and communism. Thus,
while we can define humanism generally, we will be careful to
recognize that there is some measure of latitude in the system
and our definition can be modified as necessary.
Peter Angeles, in his Dictionary of Philosophy, defines
philosophical humanism as follows:
A philosophy that (a) regards the rational individual as the
highest value; (b) considers the individual to be the ultimate
source of value; and (c) is dedicated to fostering the
individual's creative and moral development in a meaningful and
rational way without reference to concepts of the supernatural
(Peter Angeles, Dictionary of Philosophy, NY. Harper & Row,
Publishers, 198 1, p. 116).
As rational theists and evangelical Christians, our argument with
secular humanism centers on its denial of the supernatural,
especially as that precludes any idea of God. In this chapter we
will examine, from secular humanistic literature itself, the main
tenets of secular humanism and give brief Christian responses to
its sweeping claims. By defining secular humanism, we as
Christians see the need for evaluating it. Rejection of God, the
Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to defend the
gospel through open discussion, evaluation, and refutation of
these tenets of secular humanism. Support of this creed denies
the heart of Christianity. (We refer the reader to the chapter on
atheism for a closer look at arguments against the existence of
One can trace the roots of modern secular humanism back to the
renewed emphasis on man during the Renaissance. This revival of
classical learning and emphasis on man did not exclude God as
man's Maker, but it focused attention away from Him, as man made
great strides on his own.
Later God was de-emphasized to
the point where He was no longer seen as an intimate worker in
creation and Father to mankind, and before long, deism became a
prominent view. Deism affirmed belief in God, but a God who was
not involved in the affairs of men. Deism soon gave way to
naturalism, a world view which dismissed God completely from the
One can trace secular humanism from the Renaissance to the
present. Humanism entered the nineteenth century through the
French philosopher, Comte, who was committed to the
secularization of science, and through British utilitarianism via
English deism. These serve as a backdrop for twentieth century
naturalism and pragmatism. Through such men as Schiller and
especially Dewey, the modern tenets of secular humanism began to
take their expressed form.
Today this self-centered system
of ideas exerts influence in all of our lives. Its assumptions
and dogmas continue to be adopted by more and more people, and as
a result, many secular humanist organizations are in existence
both in Europe and in America, some of which have been around for
a long time. Two prominent organizations, The American Humanist
Association and The British Humanist Association, are both
front-runners in the secular humanist cause. Another secular
humanist-oriented organization is The Aspen Institute for
Humanistic Studies (see The Aspen Idea by Sidney Hyman, Norman,
OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975). The Aspen Institute is a
motivator for thought and action on cultural issues affecting man
and society. Committed to and rooted in a secular humanistic
approach, it seeks solutions to local, national, and
international problems. Another organization is The Sex
Information and Education Council (see The Siecus Circle: A
Humanist Revolution, Claire Chambers, Belmont, MA: Western
Islands Publishing Company, 1977). The Sex Information and
Education Council is humanistic in its outlook and policy. The
periodical The Humanist, a bimonthly publication, is a leading
outlet in America for secular humanist doctrine.
The Humanist Manifesto I
Unlike some of the quasi-religious secular movements we discuss
in this book, secular humanism is a well-organized movement with
unified beliefs, goals, and presuppositions. More than most modem
movements, it represents an organized corporate unity.
In 1933 secular humanists, drawn together by like beliefs, ideas,
and dreams, drafted a manifesto which became the creed of secular
humanism. Drafter and philosopher Paul Kurtz explains the
background of the Humanist Manifesto I:
In the twentieth century, humanist awareness has developed at a
rapid pace; yet it has to overcome powerful anti-humanist forces
that seek to destroy it.
In 1933 a group of thirty-four
liberal humanists in the United States defined and enunciated the
philosophical and religious principles that seemed to them
fundamental. They drafted Humanist Manifesto I, which for its
time was a radical document. It was concerned with expressing a
general religious and philosophical outlook that rejected
orthodox and dogmatic positions and provided meaning and
direction, unity and purpose to human life. It was committed to
reason, science, and democracy (Paul Kurtz, ed., Humanist
Manifesto I and II, Buffalo, NY Prometheus Books, 1973, p. 3).
The Humanist Manifesto I reflected the general optimism of the
time immediately after World War I. Mankind was convinced that it
had ably weathered, in the war, the greatest evil imaginable, and
that the future perfecting of humanity was now possible. Mankind
had proved that it could triumph over evil.
In summary, the Humanist
Manifesto I dealt with 15 major themes, or convictions, of
secular humanism. It asserted that the universe was self-existing
and not created; that man is a result of a continuous natural
process; that mind is a projection of body and nothing more; that
man is molded mostly by his culture; that there is no
supernatural; that man has outgrown religion and any idea of God;
that mans goal is the development of his own personality,
which ceases to exist at death; that man will continue to develop
to the point where he will look within himself and to the natural
world for the solution to all of his problems; that all
institutions and/or religions that in some way impede this
"human development" must be changed; that socialism is
the ideal form of economics; and that all of mankind deserves to
share in the fruits from following the above tenets.
The conclusion to the Humanist
Manifesto I clearly reflects the antisupernatural and optimistic,
self-centered aims of its signers:
Though we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers
no longer adequate, the quest for the good life is still the
central task for mankind. Man is at last becoming aware that he
alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his
dreams, that he has within himself the power for its achievement.
He must set intelligence and will to the task (Kurtz, Manifesto,
The Humanist Manifesto Il
World War II and Adolph Hitler rudely contradicted the
unmitigated optimism of the secular humanists who signed the 1933
Manifesto. Not only had World War I failed to rout evil, but evil
had reared its ugly head much more powerfully through the Nazi
atrocities of World War II Having rejected the supernatural and a
higher judge in favor of the basic goodness and perfectibility of
man, the secular humanists turned toward modifying their previous
statements. Drafters Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson explained the
need for a new Manifesto:
It is forty years since Humanist Manifesto 1 (1933) appeared.
Events since then make that earlier statement seem far too
optimistic. Nazism has shown the depths of brutality of which
humanity is capable. Other totalitarian regimes have suppressed
human rights without ending poverty. Science has sometimes
brought evil as well as good. Recent decades have shown that
inhuman wars can be made in the name of peace. The beginnings of
police states, even in democratic societies, widespread
government espionage, and other abuses of power by military,
political, and industrial elites, and the continuance of
unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult social
outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority
groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.
As we approach the twenty-first
century however, an affirmative and hopeful vision is needed.
Faith, commensurate with advancing knowledge, is also necessary.
In the choice between despair and hope, humanists respond in this
Humanist Manifesto II with a positive declaration for times of
As in 1933, humanists still
believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the
prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear
and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something
about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism,
based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting
people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds
look to other means for survival.
Those who sign Humanist Manifesto
II disclaim that they are setting forth a binding credo; their
individual views would be stated in widely varying ways. The
statement is, however, reaching for vision in a time that needs
direction. It is social analysis in an effort at consensus.
New statements should be
developed to supersede this, but for today it is our conviction
that humanism offers an alternative that can serve present day
needs and guide humankind toward the future (ibid., p. 13).
The thrust of the new Manifesto, published in 1973, is much more
aggressive than that of the first. No longer content to let
basically good mankind evolve naturally toward his zenith, the
secular humanists now have a consuming drive to help accomplish
that transformation as quickly as possible, thwarting the evil of
the few evil men. The introduction to the resolutions in the
second creed declares:
Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures. We need
to extend the uses of scientific method, not renounce them, to
fuse reason with compassion in order to build constructive social
and moral values. Confronted by many possible futures, we must
decide which to pursue. The ultimate goal should be the
fulfillment of the potential for growth in each human personality
-not for the favored few, but for all of humankind. Only a shared
world and global measures will suffice.
A humanist outlook will tap the creativity of each human being
and provide the vision and courage for us to work together. This
outlook emphasizes the role human beings can play in their own
spheres of action. The decades ahead call for dedicated,
clear-minded men and women able to marshal the will,
intelligence, and cooperative skills for shaping a desirable
future. Humanism can provide the purpose and inspiration that so
many seek; it can give personal meaning and significance to human
life (ibid., pp. 14, 15).
Humanism is the new religion, the new God who gives meaning to
life as the old one never could. This is the interloper into
divinity which the Christian must challenge and answer.
The Secular Humanist Creed
The belief system of secular humanists is clearly spelled out in
the Humanist Manifesto II. It is very easy to see just what the
humanists have committed themselves to and just what they desire
for us as Christians to embrace instead of our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. In order to understand and deal with the claims of
humanism in such a small space, we have elected to reproduce each
resolution of Manifesto II and below it our comments from an
evangelical perspective. These resolutions may be found on pages
13-24 of the previously mentioned Humanist Manifesto I and II,
edited by Paul Kurtz. This is not meant to be an exhaustive
examination and refutation of secular humanism, but it will serve
to acquaint the reader with humanist thought and will give the
reader a Christian background to the subject. Since much of
Manifesto II deals with a denial of the existence of God and the
supernatural, the reader is referred to the chapter on atheism
and its bibliography of Christian books for further information.
The subject will not be dealt with extensively here.
A study of Manifesto II reveals
that its 17 propositions can be categorized into six groups and
we will present them within those groupings of Religion,
Philosophy, Mankind, Society, One-World Government, and Science.
Religion is the topic of the first two resolutions. We quote a
portion of the first resolution and the entire (shorter) second
First: ... We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or
authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or
creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the
human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of
scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of
traditional religions do not do so. Even at this late date in
human history, certain elementary facts based upon the critical
use of scientific reason have to be restated. We find
insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a
supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the
question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race. As
non-theists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.
Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new
discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the
But we can discover no divine
purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much
that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or
will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
Second: Promises of immortal
salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and
harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from
self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices. Modern
science discredits such historic concepts as the "ghost in
the machine" and the "separable soul." Rather,
science affirms that the human species is an emergence from
natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total
personality is a function of the biological organism transacting
in a social and cultural context. There is no credible evidence
that life survives the death of the body We continue to exist in
our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others
in our culture.
Traditional religions are surely
not the only obstacles to human progress. Other ideologies also
impede human advance. Some forms of political doctrine, for
instance, function religiously, reflecting the worst features of
orthodoxy and authoritarianism, especially when they sacrifice
individuals on the altar of Utopian promises. Purely economic and
political viewpoints, whether capitalist or communist, often
function as religious and ideological dogma. Although humans
undoubtedly need economic and political goals, they also need
creative values by which to live.
The world view of humanism, as expressed by these first two
tenets, is diametrically opposed to Christianity. While the
humanists start and end with man, the Bible starts and ends with
God. It was God who was in the beginning (Genesis 1:1, John
1:1-3), not impersonal, self-creating nature, from which man
gradually evolved. The Bible consistently teaches that it is upon
the infinite God that this finite world depends for its
existence. For primordial, non-intelligent mass to produce human
intelligence assumes, contrary to reason, that an effect is
greater than its cause. To account for that human intelligence by
a higher intelligence in whose image the human was made, and who
sustains the very life of the human and his world, is reasonable,
and biblical. When the apostle Paul argued with the Greek
philosophers of his day he testified about this sustaining God:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is both
Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with
hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed
anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all
things; ... for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some
of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring'
(Acts 17: 24-28, NASB).
For the humanists to blithely dismiss all religious philosophy
and all evidence in support of the existence of God in two simple
propositions does not settle the matter of God's existence. As
evangelical Christians we believe that our reasoning ability was
given to us by God, in whose image we were created, and that
responsible use of our reasoning ability to understand the world
around us can lead us to sound evidence for the existence of God.
Christian philosopher Richard Purtill expressed it this way:
... if we begin to ask fundamental questions about the universe,
and follow the argument where it leads us, then it will lead us
to belief in God; that if we examine the evidence of history and
of human experience, we will be compelled to acknowledge that the
only satisfactory explanation of the evidence leads us to
Christianity. Such Christians acknowledge that there is still a
gap between intellectual assent and commitment to a Christian way
of life, but they believe that reason is neither opposed to such
a commitment nor irrelevant to it- rather, it is the best
possible ground for it (Richard Purtill, C. S. Lewis's Case for
the Christian Faith, San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers,
1981, pp. 12, 13).
Our chapter on atheism deals with this subject more in depth, and
we also refer the reader to our other works, Evidence That
Demands a Verdict, The Resurrection Factor, and More Than a
Carpenter by Josh McDowell, and Answers and Reasons by Josh
McDowell and Don Stewart. We believe that God has given
sufficient evidence as to His existence and His purpose in this
world for man.
The French philosopher Pascal stated the matter plainly:
The evidence of God's existence and his gift is more than
compelling, but those who insist that they have no need of Him or
it will always find ways to discount the offer (Blaise Pascal,
Pense's No. 430, translated by H. F. Stewart, NY. Random House,
When Manifesto II says that it can find no design or purpose or
providence for the human species, it devaluates man to a level
below that on which God places him as His highest creation. The
humanists pretend to esteem the human being above all else. In
reality, as Manifesto II shows, the humanist takes away all worth
from mankind. Unless our worth is rooted and grounded in
something objective and outside ourselves, we are of value only
to ourselves, and can never rise above the impermanence of our
own short lives. The God of Christianity is outside our finite
and transitory universe and His love for us gives us a value
which transcends not only ourselves but our finite universe as
Humanist Manifesto II states that
we must save ourselves. While we believe this statement was made
somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since humanists do not believe man
needs saving from anything, we do still need to comment on the
statement. We believe it is not possible for an individual to
save himself in all circumstances. In fact, given the biblical
definition of salvation, it is an operation undertaken because
the individual cannot help himself. While we would grant that a
man could "save himself" from falling after a slip by
grabbing a railing, for example, it is not always possible.
Picture a man in the middle of a large lake. He has fallen from
his boat, which is now hopelessly out of reach. He has been in
the frigid water for two hours. He can no longer keep himself
afloat. His body temperature is falling rapidly. He is becoming
delirious. Would he find solace and genuine help in a bystander's
admonition to "save himself"? Of course not. Without
outside intervention, he will die. The spiritual (moral)
condition of man is such that he is past the point of It saving
himself." He needs outside intervention. Christians believe
that intervention is from God. He alone is able to save man.
If there really is a God, and if man really is in the state of
decay in which he finds himself because of his deliberate sin
(offense) against God, then he must turn to God for his
salvation. lb use another human illustration, if one man hits
another, he cannot rectify the situation by saying,
"So-and-So isn't angry with me anymore for my hitting him,
because I forgave myself". No, So-and-So is the one
offended, and he is the only one who can extend forgiveness to
his attacker. That is the biblical picture of sin and salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that
no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that
we should walk in them (NASB).
Contrary to humanist declarations, Christianity gives true worth
and dignity to man and secular humanism makes all human dignity
subjective and self-centered. Francis Schaeffer comments:
I am convinced that one of the great weaknesses in evangelical
preaching in the last few years is that we have lost sight of the
biblical fact that man is wonderful. We have seen the unbiblical
humanism which surrounds us, and, to resist this in our emphasis
on mans lostness, we have tended to reduce man to a zero.
Man is indeed lost, but that does not mean he is nothing. We must
resist humanism, but to make man a zero is neither the right way
nor the best way to resist it....
In short, therefore, man is not a cog in a machine; he is not a
piece of theater; he really can influence history. From the
biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great (Francis Schaeffer,
Death in the City, Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press, 1969,
pp. 80, 81).
Secular humanism rejects the idea of life after death,
dogmatically asserting that it is impossible to prove. On the
contrary, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a
fact of history, verifiable by standard historical tests. His
resurrection becomes the seal and the hope of every Christian. In
addition to the works previously cited in what we have written
before on this subject, we here quote Michael Green:
The evidence points unmistakably to the fact that on the third
day Jesus rose. This was the conclusion to which a former Chief
justice of England, Lord Darling, came. At a private dinner party
the talk turned to the truth of Christianity, and particularly to
a certain book dealing with the resurrection. Placing his
fingertips together, assuming a judicial attitude, and speaking
with a quiet emphasis that was extraordinarily impressive, he
said, 'We, as Christians, are asked to take a very great deal on
trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If
we had to take all on trust, 1, for one, should be skeptical. The
crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what He
proclaimed Himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or
otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not
merely asked to have faith. In its favour as living truth there
exists such an overwhelming evidence, positive and negative,
factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world
could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is
true' (Michael Green, Man Alive, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1968, pp. 53, 54).
The second major division in Manifesto II covers propositions
three and four and relates mostly to philosophy.
Third: We affirm that moral values derive their source from human
experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no
theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need
and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life.
Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures.
Happiness and the creative realization of human needs and
desires, individually and in shared enjoyment, are continuous
themes of humanism. We strive for the good life, here and now.
The goal is to pursue life's enrichment despite debasing forces
of vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization, and
Fourth: Reason and intelligence are the most effective
instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute:
neither faith nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use
of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and
social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further
in the solution of human problems. But reason must be tempered by
humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue. Nor
is there any guarantee that all problems can be answered. Yet
critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is the
best method that humanity has for resolving problems. Reason
should be balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole
person fulfilled. Thus, we are not advocating the use of
scientific intelligence independent of or in opposition to
emotion, for we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love.
As science pushes back the boundary of the known, one's sense of
wonder is continually renewed, and art, poetry, and music find
their places, along with religion and ethics.
These two tenets of secular humanism are concerned with
philosophy, or the way the world is viewed. They are specifically
concerned with ethics first and then with reason. Again,
developing from the secular humanistic presupposition of the
autonomy and self-sufficiency of man, these two humanistic
concerns are wholly exhausted within the framework of man.
The humanists are right to point
out that their ethics (morals) are situational. Since they are
based in and come forth from the individual, they are necessarily
self-centered and subjective. They have no objective basis or
root. On the surface, this appears to promote one's idea of the
importance and power of man.
However, upon closer examination, we find flaws with this view.
If moral values are determined from human experience, there is no
objective basis for calling anything right or wrong. There is no
such thing as intrinsic good or intrinsic evil. Whether something
is good or not depends on the context of the individual or the
group of like-minded individuals the society. On this basis,
could we condemn the society of Nazi Germany for judging the
moral value of Jewish life as worthless? Would we have the right
to call it bad? What if happiness in one society is eating one's
enemy instead of convincing him to surrender?
Because humanism does not offer any absolute value system,
mankind has no absolute system of right and wrong. In such an
instance, why should I believe and accept the value system of the
group (society) of men who drafted and signed Manifesto II? What
compelling reason can they give me for accepting their dogmatic
ethical assertion that "vulgarization, commercialization,
bureaucratization, and dehumanization" are
"debasing?" What if I happen to believe that it is good
to promote vulgarization, commercialization, bureaucratization,
Christianity asserts that there
is absolute good and absolute evil. Our moral values are
patterned after the nature and attributes of our creator, God. He
is the absolute standard by which everything else is judged.
Hitler's Germany was wrong because our God has declared that all
human life is sacred and of equal value, whether it is the human
life of a Jew, a German, and unborn child, or a senile old man,
crippled and bedridden.
The fourth article of Manifesto
II concerns the role of reason in determining mans future.
We believe that the main fault with this view of reason, that it
can direct all human development, is that the humanist has no
valid reason for accepting his own reason.
If mankind is actually a product
of long evolutionary development from simpler life forms, having
its ultimate origin in impersonal matter, how can a man know
today that he is reasonable? Is impersonal matter a sufficient
cause for personal mind (reason)? And even if this mindless
Nature did produce a self-cognizant (personal) being, how could
that self-cognizant being know that his thinking process is
rational, i.e., reasonable?
The Christian does not see reason
rising from within man, the biological machine. The Christian
believes that mans reason was created by God and patterned
after (in the image of) God. Mans reason can make sense of
the world in which he lives because someone who is outside this
world has equipped him with the critical apparatus necessary.
Although science and technology,
manipulated by man's reason, have made amazing strides in solving
problems, they have not answered the ultimate questions of life.
They may be able, some day, to answer the "how" of
life. They can never answer the "why" of life. Os
If "evolution is good," then evolution must be allowed
to proceed and the very process of change becomes absolutized.
Such a view can be seen in Julian Hux-ley's Evolutionary Ethics
or in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. But in ever more
areas, science is reaching the point of "destructive
returns"; and the at-tempt to use evolution as a basis for
morals and ethics is a failure. If evolu-tionary progress is
taken as an axiom, then the trend toward convergence (social and
evolutionary "unanimization") becomes a value, as
suggested by Teilhard de Chardin. But this militates against the
value of individuality and can be used to support
totalitarianism. Bertrand Russell was typical of a growing
majority who admit that science can be no more than neutral and
does not speak directly into the area of moral choice (Os
Guiness, The Dust of Death, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1973, pp. 15, 16).
Assumptions five and six of Manifesto II concern the nature of
man, mankind. This is one of the most popular features of secular
humanism, which is itself a form of the word human and so
stresses continually the place of mankind in its philosophy.
Fifth: The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a
central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to
realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all
religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the
individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize
personality. We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant
with social responsibility. Although science can account for the
causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of
choice exist in human life and should be increased.
Sixth: In the area of sexuality,
we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by
orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress
sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce
should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive,
denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to
prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between
consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration
should not in themselves be considered "evil." Without
countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a
civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming
others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be
permitted to express the sexual proclivities and pursue their
life-styles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development
of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are
not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy,
sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are
encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an
important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity.
The secular humanist position on relative moral values is almost
the watershed for critiquing humanistic tenets. With no absolute
ethic, why should we accept the humanists' moral value that the
individual person is precious and deserves dignity in his own
right? The Marxist, for example, argues that the individual only
has worth as a member of society. It is permissible, indeed
necessary, to expend the individual for the society. Why isn't
the Marxist right? How can the humanist infringe on the Marxist's
individual preciousness and dignity by telling him his view of
mankind is wrong?
The term "social
responsibility" is an empty one since each society differs
in what it considers responsible behavior. The rule of the
society can change at any moment.
Furthermore, is there objective
evidence for this unmitigated optimism concerning mans
ability to direct his own development and fulfillment? Os Guiness
points out that many dont think so:
A persistent erosion of man's view of himself is occurring. The
fact that man has made so many significant scientific discoveries
points strongly to the significance of man, yet the content of
these same scientific discoveries underscores his insignificance.
Man finds himself dwarfed bodily by the vast stretches of space
and belittled temporally by the long reaches of time. Humanists
are caught in a strange dilemma. If they affirm the greatness of
man, it is only at the expense of ignoring his aberrations. If
they regard human aberrations seriously, they have to escape the
dilemma raised, either by blaming the situation on God (and how
often those most strongly affirming the nonexistence of God have
a perverse propensity to question his goodness!) or by reducing
man to the point of insignificance where his aberrations are no
longer a problem. During World War II, Einstein, plagued by the
mounting monstrosity of man against man, was heard to mutter to
himself, "After all, this is a small star." He escaped
the dilemmas of mans crime and evil but only at a price of
undermining man's significance. A supreme characteristic of men
today is the high degree of dissatisfaction with their own views
of themselves. The opposition to determinism is growing not
because determinism explains nothing but because it explains too
much. It is a clutching constriction on that which man feels
himself to be. Arthur Koestler attacks it as
"ratomorphic," Vicktor Frankl as "modern
nihilism" and Norman Chomsky as "the flat earth view of
Mortimer Adler's The Difference
of Man and the Difference It Makes is one book which probes
deeply in this area and is scrupulously objective in its
extensive analysis. He warns that if man continues to recognize
no fundamental difference in kind between himself and the world
of animals and machines, then his view of himself in terms of his
moral dilemma or his metaphysical being must alter irretrievably.
Anything left of contemporary concepts of morality and identity
will be reduced to the level of the illusory, and the
implications for individuals and for civilization are
far-reaching (ibid., pp. 16, 17).
Humanist Manifesto II has a contradictory statement about human
sexuality. While championing the autonomy of individual sexual
rights, the statement also contradictorily makes bold universal
moral assertions about some kinds of sex. What right do the
humanist signers of this Manifesto have to say they do not
approve of "exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual
expression" or "mindless permissiveness or unbridled
promiscuity"? What if an individual likes such sexual
activity? If the humanists were to reply that such activity
denies the rights of other parties, we must ask, what right have
the humanists to say that those others' rights should come before
the particular individual's rights?
In short, without an absolute
standard of ethics by which one's sexual attitudes are
determined, one cannot successfully argue for the universal
adoption of his own subjective ethics. The secular humanists may
have decided among themselves that certain forms of sexual
behavior are "wrong," but they have no right to enforce
their ideas on anyone who disagrees.
As Christians we believe that God is the source of our ethical
system. Because He commands us to have respect and love for
others, it is therefore wrong to engage in exploitive and
denigrating forms of sexual expression. A Christians sexual
ethics should follow from God's character, expressed to man.
The Bible also strongly disagrees with any taking of human life,
even if such murder is disguised with the empty word
"abortion." Doesn't abortion exploit and denigrate the
unborn child who is its victim?
Articles seven through eleven of Humanist Manifesto II deal with
the secular humanist view of and hope for society. These articles
touch on politics, sociology, and economics.
Seventh: To enhance freedom and dignity the individual must
experience a full range of civil liberties in all societies. This
includes freedom of speech and the press, political democracy~
the legal right of opposition to governmental policies, fair
judicial process, religious liberty, freedom of association, and
artistic, scientific, and cultural freedom. It also includes a
recognition of an individual's right to die with dignity,
euthanasia, and the right to suicide. We oppose the increasing
invasion of privacy, by whatever means, in both totalitarian and
democratic societies. We would safeguard, extend, and implement
the principles of human freedom evolved from the Magna Charta to
the Bill of Rights, the Rights of Man, and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
Eighth: We are committed to an
open and democratic society. We must extend participatory
democracy in its true sense to the economy, the school, the
family, the workplace, and voluntary associations.
Decision-making must be decentralized to include widespread
involvement of people at all levels social, political, and
economic. All persons should have a voice in developing the
values and goals that determine their lives. Institutions should
be responsive to expressed desires and needs. The conditions of
work, education, devotion, and play should be humanized.
Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and
bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are
more important than decalogues, rules, proscriptions, or
Ninth: The separation of church
and state and the separation of ideology and state are
imperatives. The state should encourage maximum freedom for
different moral, political, religious, and social values in
society. It should not favor any particular religious bodies
through the use of public monies, nor espouse a single ideology
and function thereby as an instrument of propaganda or
oppression, particularly against dissenters.
Tenth: Human societies should
evaluate economic systems not by rhetoric or ideology, but by
whether or not they increase economic well-being for all
individuals and groups, minimize poverty and hardship, increase
the sum of human satisfaction, and enhance the quality of life.
Hence the door is open to alternative economic systems. We need
to democratize the economy and judge it by its responsiveness to
human needs, testing results in terms of the common good.
Eleventh: The principle of moral
equality must be furthered through elimination of all
discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national
origin. This means equality of opportunity and recognition of
talent and merit. Individuals should be encouraged to contribute
to their own betterment. If unable, then society should provide
means to satisfy their basic economic, health, and cultural
needs, including, wherever resources make possible, a minimum
guaranteed annual income. We are concerned for the welfare of the
aged, the infirm, the disadvantaged, and also for the
outcasts-the mentally retarded, abandoned or abused children, the
handicapped, prisoners, and addicts-for all who are neglected or
ignored by society Practicing humanists should make it their
vocation to humanize personal relations....
We deplore racial, religious,
ethnic, or class antagonisms. Although we believe in cultural
diversity and encourage racial and ethnic pride, we reject
separations which promote alienation and set people and groups
against each other; we envision an integrated community where
people have a maximum opportunity for free and voluntary
We are critical of sexism or
sexual chauvinism -male or female. We believe in equal rights for
both women and men to fulfill their unique careers and
potentialities as they see fit, free of invidious discrimination.
Rather than picking these articles apart piece by piece, we will
offer some general observations in criticism. Our two major
criticisms go back to two of the most basic presuppositions of
secular humanism: relative morals and the basic goodness of
Because the secular humanists
state that all ethics/morals/values are subjective and
situational, they cannot support their system consistently and
yet retain absolute values. However, many statements in these
five articles do assume absolute values. We are told (article
seven) that the individual "must experience a full range of
civil liberties" to "enhance freedom and dignity!'
What's so great about freedom and dignity? Why should we accept
the humanists' dogmatic assertion that human freedom and dignity
are values all men should strive for? We are told that the
individual has the "right to die with dignity, euthanasia,
and the right to suicide". How can relativistic secular
humanists make such a value judgment? Why have the secular
humanists decided that it is universally wrong to kill someone
else (murder), but it is morally right to choose to kill yourself
As Christians we are not asked,
nor do we ask others, to support an arbitrary, finite system of
absolute values just on the basis of our having proposed it. We
believe that there are absolute values and morals because God,
the framer and sustainer of this world, has designed the world to
work in accordance with His intrinsic attributes of goodness,
love, etc., and to malfunction (as in the fall) when its members
do not harmonize with God's will.
As Christians we are dedicated to
the freedom of man as an individual because God demonstrated the
importance of that freedom in the freedom he gave man, a freedom
that includes rejecting man's very Maker and his provision of
peace and eternal joy. As Christians we believe that life is
sacred because it is a gift from God, its origin and sustainer.
It is not for man to decide the time of death, for another person
or for himself. Christianity has an absolute standard of values
based on the Creator of all things.
Secular humanism and Christianity
are diametrically opposed on the moral bent of mankind. Secular
humanism assumes that everyone is basically good (with a few
exceptions) and that evil comes from outside people and
societies, rather than from within. This is somewhat like the
naive view of Marxism, which taught that if the evils of society
were only eradicated, evil men would cease to exist.
While Christians should applaud secular humanism's commitment to
racial, social, and sexual integration, we should not lose sight
of the fact that removing the trappings of bigotry does not
remove the evil seeds of that bigotry from within the individual.
Society will never be transformed by tampering with the mechanics
of social intercourse. Neither will it be reshaped into Utopia by
temporarily forcing evil men to act like good men. The only way
to change society is to transform the individuals within that
Christianity teaches that all of
mankind made its choice for evil in the person of Adam at the
fall. The Bible says that man is not basically good, but
basically bad (see Romans 3:10, 23, 30; 6:23). Only through the
freewill appropriation of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the
cross can a man be turned from evil to good. The Christian works
to transform the individuals who compose society. This alone will
bring about true change in the society.
Many people in Western society are turning toward the idea of a
one-world government as the solution to the problems of mankind.
This idea does not belong to the secular humanists alone. A great
number of those who are oriented toward Eastern philosophy and
religion believe that world unity will be accomplished only in
this way. In fact, the Bible itself teaches that God eventually
will establish a one-world government. However, under discussion
here is the secular humanist view of a one-world system, as
described in Manifesto II, articles twelve, thirteen, fourteen
Twelfth: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic
grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where
the best option is to transcend the limits of national
sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community
in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we
look to the development of a system of world law and a world
order based upon transnational federal government. This would
appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude
pride in national origins and accomplishments nor the handling of
regional problems on a regional basis. Human progress, however,
can no longer be achieved by focusing on one section of the
world, Western or Eastern, developed or underdeveloped. For the
first time in human history, no part of humankind can be isolated
from any other. Each person's future is in some way linked to
all. We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world
community, at the same time recognizing that this commits us to
some hard choices.
Thirteenth: This world community
must renounce the resort to violence and force as a method of
solving international disputes. We believe in the peaceful
adjudication of differences by international courts and by the
development of the arts of negotiation and compromise. War is
obsolete. So is the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical
weapons. It is a planetary imperative to reduce the level of
military expenditures and turn these savings to peaceful and
Fourteenth: The world community
must engage in cooperative planning concerning the use of rapidly
depleting resources. The planet earth must be considered a single
ecosystem. Ecological damage, resource depletion, and excessive
population growth must be checked by international concord. The
cultivation and conservation of nature is a moral value, we
should perceive ourselves as integral to the sources of our being
in nature. We must free our world from needless pollution and
waste, responsibly guarding and creating wealth, both natural and
human. Exploitation of natural resources, uncurbed by social
conscience, must end.
Fifteenth: The problems of
economic growth and development can no longer be resolved by one
nation alone; they are worldwide in scope. It is the moral
obligation of the developed nations to provide-through an
international authority that safeguards human rights-massive
technical, agricultural, medical, and economic assistance,
including birth control techniques, to the developing portions of
the globe. World poverty must cease. Hence extreme disproportions
in wealth, income, and economic growth should be reduced on a
We believe that men live by absolute ethics even if they claim to
believe only in relative ethics. One may say that all ethics and
moral values are relative to one's society or to the individual
conviction, but one rarely lives by such a maxim. This we find
with the secular humanists who drafted Humanist Manifesto II.
The beginning of Manifesto II declares that morals and values are
relative and largely governed by society. Yet in these four
articles we find such absolute moral values as "the best
option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty,"
belief in "peaceful adjudication of differences by
international courts and by the development of the arts of
negotia-tion and compromise," "the cultivation and
conservation of nature is a moral value" and "it is the
moral obligation of the developed nations to provide...
massive... assistance,. . . to the developing portions of the
Christians would not necessarily
disagree with the above moral values. But Christians have an
absolute ground for their ethics. Christian morality does not
depend on the shifting subjective standards of any particular
society or vocal group of people. Biblical Christianity depends
on the Sovereign of the universe for its moral values.
In the twelfth article the
humanists say that adopting a one-world government would commit
us to "some hard choices." Unfortunately for the
layman, those choices are not identified. We would worry that, in
their zeal to establish Utopia, secular humanists might consider
it a hard but necessary choice to sacrifice certain dissident
individuals for the better choice of promoting the one-world
Utopian government. Isn't this just the sort of
"choice" we Westerners decry as human rights violations
in many Marxist countries today? (See the chapter on Marxism for
a discussion of the role -or lack of role - of the individual in
the struggle for the classless society.) The Christian cannot
endorse article twelve without knowing just what "hard
choices" face the one-world government advocate.
According to God's Word, just before the second coming of Jesus
Christ to establish His kingdom, the forces of Satan will attempt
to set up a one-world system, implementing worship and submission
to Satans representative, the Anti-Christ. (See Matthew 24,
1 and 2 Thessalonians and the book of Revelation.) The secular
humanists, at least in that day, will get their wish of a
one-world government. But it will not usher in Utopia, rather it
will bring on Armageddon.
As we discussed previously, the
secular humanists diverge sharply from the Christian perspective
by assuming that mankind is basically good. Many of the goals of
a one-world government are lofty and not in opposition to
Christianity. However, the feasibility of implementing such
changes is almost non-existent given the biblical presupposition
that an is basically bad instead of good.
It sounds good to say that the "world community must
renounce the resort to violence and force" and that
"war is obsolete." However, a proclamation by itself
never altered reality. just how do the secular humanists propose
to guarantee that everyone in a position of power will give up
the use of force? And if even one person with power chooses to
use it to force his own views, what will the humanist recourse
be? Will he sweet-talk the offender? Or use force to teach him
not to use force?
Christianity does not advocate
the use of force to spread one's values and beliefs. However,
Christianity recognizes that self-centered men will use force.
Christianity sees the ultimate "weapon!' against force as
being an individual whose life has been transformed by the power
of the Holy Spirit and whose will has been surrendered to the
Lord Jesus Christ. Only when men are changed will violence cease.
The Bible tells us the time will come when there will be no more
violence. Such a world will not come about by proclamation of
secular humanism, but by the divine command, judgment and
forgiveness of the Lord (Revelation 20, 21).
In the meantime, the Bible
specifically places responsibility for self-defense on the
individual. We have a God-given obligation to protect those who
depend on us. We must ensure the safety of our families.
Christians may disagree about what sort of resistance is meant in
the Bible. Whether or not a Christian allows for the use of force
to safeguard those for whom he is responsible, he understands the
serious charge God has given him and recognizes through it the
measure of the va
The use of abortion appears to be
allowed by both articles fourteen and fifteen of Manifesto H.
Article fourteen states that "excessive population growth
must be checked" and article fifteen calls birth control
techniques a "human right." Taken with the previous
Manifesto II statement in arti-cle six regarding abortion as a
human right, we can see that it is very likely that the secular
humanists, if given the chance, would solve popula-tion booms
with, among other things, abortions. We repeat what we said
earlier: does it contribute to the dignity and value of the
individual human life to murder it if it is inconvenient, if it
doesn't fit into the world plan for conservation of resources and
if it just happens not to have been born yet? Christians cannot
agree to taking innocent human life in the name of any world
Article fifteen presents a socialistic world economy as the only
society of value. How is this new society to be obtained? It is
easy to say "disproportions in wealth, income, and economic
growth should be reduced on a worldwide basis." But how is
this to be accomplished? Do the secular humanists actually think
it likely that the wealthy of this world will, en masse and
without exception, give up their wealth and distribute it to the
poor? If so, why hasn!t it already happened? If mankind is
basically good, society should need no impetus such as a Humanist
Manifesto II for the wealthy to share with the poor.
Perhaps the secular humanists are not so naive as that. What
then, is their solution? Should they use force to relieve the
rich of their "economic burdens" and then bless the
poor with the wealth taken from the rich? It seems the humanists
will break either article thirteen banning violence or article
fifteen banning private wealth. Marxism and socialism have
similar economic goals. A look at the "freedom" of
contemporary Marxist and Socialist societies show us that these
goals are not realistic.
The last two propositions by the secular humanists offer the
tools for implementing the grand scheme: science and its
workhorse, technology. Somewhere in science, they say, lies the
solution to the problems of mankind.
Sixteenth: Technology is a vital key to human progress and
development. We deplore any neo-romantic efforts to condemn
indiscriminately all technology and science or to counsel retreat
from its further extension and use for the good of humankind. We
would resist any moves to censor basic scientific research on
moral, political, or social grounds. Technology must, however, be
carefully judged by the consequences of its use; harmful and
destructive changes should be avoided. We are particularly
disturbed when technology and bureaucracy control, manipulate, or
modify human beings without their consent. Technological
feasibility does not imply social or cultural desirability.
Seventeenth: We must expand communication and transportation
across frontiers. Travel restrictions must cease. The world must
be open to diverse political, ideological, and moral viewpoints
and evolve a worldwide system of television and radio for
information and education. We thus call for full international
cooperation in culture, science, the arts and technology, across
ideological borders. We must learn to live openly together or we
shall perish together.
When all else is said, it appears that the humanists rely on
science and its evolution to provide the magic formulas needed to
materialize the new world order envisioned by the humanists.
Christianity is not intrinsically antagonistic to science. In
fact, it is the Christian God who created the world around us and
who determined its laws and functions, which have been
categorized by what we call science. Colossians 1:16-17 reminds
us that it is to the Lord Jesus Christ that we owe our existence:
For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on
earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him
and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things
hold together (NASB).
Science does not create laws of nature, it discovers them. When
science does discover one of those laws, it is no surprise to
God. However, science is no substitute for God. All science can
do is discover and describe, it cannot create reality ex nihilo,
(out of nothing).
While we would not dismiss out of
hand any particular advance of science, we would question the
humanists' assertion that all science will be used "for the
good of humankind" and that "carefully judged by the
consequences of its use; harmful and destructive changes should
be avoided!' We return to the same but still valid critique: who
is to determine what the "good of humankind" is, and
who is to enforce the judgments of whomever has been chosen to
determine that good? The spectre of George Orwell's 1984 looms
threateningly as we think of the abuses, intentional or not, to
which such judgment and enforcement could be put.
Finally, we agree with the last sentence of proposition
seventeen: "We must learn to live openly together or we
shall perish together." This is exactly what the Bible has
to say. However, the Bible states that because man is basically
self-centered and sinful, he will forever be unable to live
peaceably with his fellow man on his own initiative. It takes the
supernatural intervention of God to transform individuals into
selfless, caring, loving people who really will sacrifice their
own desires for the sake of their fellow men. Universal peace
will come only with the intervention of Almighty God. We see
expressed in 2 Peter 3:3-14 the biblical vision of the future, a
future cleansed of evil by judgment and restored in love by the
Lord Jesus Christ:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come
with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying,
'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers
fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of
creation! For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice
that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the
earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the
world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But
the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for
fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly
men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some
count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to
perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord
will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with
a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and
the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things
are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to
be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the
coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be
destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense
heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens
and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore,
beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found
by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (NASB).
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