According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Monday, July 27, 2020

Christian Humanism - An Introduction




Modified: Through God as Creator-Redeemer, and by His Son Jesus Christ whose atoning sacrifice brings redemption, and by the Holy Spirit empowering Christ's work towards healing and wholeness may man, creation, nature, and cosmos find generative wholeness, fellowship, peace, and love. Not by man alone but by God with man/creation doth redemption come in partnership together. "Thy Will Be Done." - re slater

The Ethics and Works of the Church

by R.E. Slater
July 27, 2020

(James 5.1-5) 1 Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. 2 Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, 3 your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. 4 Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Introduction to Christian Humanism

Lately I have been working steadily through the importance of social justice measured in love and fairness in relation to ecological injustice, resource injustice, the renewed movement of Black Lives Matter, purposeful racism, sexism, gender injustice, refugee, foreigner, and ethnic injustice. More abhorrent to myself and many others is how the conservative American church has moved aggressively into this area of injustice while justifying it's acts of betrayal to Jesus' commands to love one another. It is wholly unqualified and without comprehension that God's church has so blindly committed itself to the suicide of the very gospel they have done so much to share over the past century across many world cultures and domestic localities.

I attribute the Trumpian Era as final cause to the church's fall as it chose to elect corrupt and slanderous politicians to offices of representation whether in Congress, the Senate, the Executive Branch, or the many Federal Courts of the Land. This post-truth era of conspiracy, lies, deception, gas-lighting, and Christian committal to empire ethics is direct cause of the failure of the church of God. The larger truths are the many decades it took within the church to get itself to this fail point in the first place. I believe it began with the Evolutionary and Biblical Inerrancy debates of the late 1970-1980s, the 700 Club, the Moral Majority, extra-biblical cultures, socially isolating church schools, camps, and many similar theocratic movements within committed evangelical church congregations.

Christian Humanism = Social Justice

Because of these and many more Christian choices for withdrawal from the world-at-large, and condemnation upon those who thought or lived contrary to their way of ideological Christian thinking, we now have come to a crossroads of Christian paradox. To refuse one's former path is quite unlikely. And to chose the path of those rejecting some form of Christian dominionism or Empire Reconstruction seems equally unlikely. The crossroads then will be seen in radical protestations from both sides. It will split America and American democracy in some demented form of its once future promise.

The goal was never to religiously reform or reconstruct society according to some religious body's ideological convictions of morals and ethics but to love one another despite all our differences and disagreements. The progressive Christian says to share Christ in the communities of the world. The conservative Christian says to overcome the communities of the world by assimilating them into one conservative dogma or another. Like global Islam or Judaism, Christianity in America will have its many flavors. The question is whether some of those flavors can accept and love one another or not.

For myself and many others the key is whether Christians will love each other and work to bring social justice and equality as provided under the American Constitution or not. Given that the Trumpian Era has dispelt many of these qualities by its sordid forms of harsh oppressions and moral failures it seems doubtful that any form of Christian love of neighbor should survive under conservative religious sanctionings of white nationalism. Or that the dogmatic consents of Christian conservatism will fail so long as social injustice, white supremacy, and the various forms of white racist remains.


An Admonishment to My Brethren

I therefore must admonish my well meaning brethren to reconsider what they are doing. To turn away from the darkness which has blinded their eyes. To be convinced that in following this line of folly is to blaspheme the ministry and prayers of Christ for the world's salvation and healing. As simple example, by despising the protestor seeking redress to injustices, or the gay transgender doing the same, or slandering the one speaking peace and equality through public demonstrations by labelling them Marxists, unpatriotic Americans, Communist, or some other libelous slogans has shown a Christian heart and dogma full of weeds and poison.

What is known is that the American system of juris prudence must be for all and not only for some with the right skin color, or social connections, education, or insulating monetary status. That a democratic government must represent all its citizens and not just the wealthy, nor their corporations, each of which have stolen the vote of the citizen through their PACS, SUPERPACS, private alliances, and "old boy networks". That conservative news and social medias purposely fabricate truth through fake news and racist white sentiment.

And how did the church get so aligned with this type of evil? I submit it is because of its lust to control the world in a way it thinks is honoring to God not realizing that it is yet another religious oppression into the lives of people similarly despised by every other religiously-inflamed event which has occurred down through history. Apparently, today, it is the conservative American church's turn  to do the same in the year of our Lord 2020.

If one thinks of the Christian Crusades one thinks of the church harming all non-Europeans and Muslim cultures in its march to save Jerusalem. If one thinks of the Catholic Spanish Inquisitions one thinks of the cruelty suffered by all non-Catholics and Protestant Christians. If one thinks of today's Fundamental and Evangelical churches one will now think of the evil and oppressive Trumpian policies which have wrecked an evolving Constitutional democracy stopped cold in its dynamic growth towards poly-plurality ethics, social justice, freedom, and fairness by undoing what past racist American Christians had similarly done in ruining Native American Indigenous cultures and enslaving Black and Hispanic cultures near and far.

A New Society of Love

Let us then propose a new society. One not based on material assets or power but one based upon social justice. One neither State run nor privately run. One neither forcing a bonding ideology of material means (materialism) or of exclusionary power (authoritarianism). One that serves the needs of society while driving towards an open democracy focused on liberty and equality socially, economically, and morally (legally) for all.

A new society - preferably an ecological society - not led by neither left nor right dissuading clarity. But a society able to unite and protect the oppressed, the weak, the refugee, and foreigner.  And if this principle is not enacted now - do not expect it to be done later. These are the lies we tell ourselves.


As a matter of fact, protests result from a lack of freedom or equality - not from too much of it. It is also a fact that Police forces, including illegal federal forces, are used to defeat the freedom and right of the protestor to speak out. This was evident in MLK's Civil Rights protests of the 1960s, of America's protest against the inane Vietnam War, and today's BLM protests. Protests never occur to "enforce order" but to remove racist, intolerant order by every means possible.

Protests are neither Marxist, nor Communist, nor Facist. It is what becomes of protests when they are provoked by kings, tyrants, and state-sanctioned corporations. Sadly, this is also true of today's state-aligned conservative churches acting like vote-taking corporations when adopting Empire ethics in the place of Jesus ethics.

Let the Past Die But Do Not Die With It

In the past, churches of cruel crusades, of brutal inquisitions, or even now, of racist white supremacy, have all indoctrinated themselves by justifying evil and wickedness. Today's fundamental and evangelical Christians, for all their preaching of heaven and hell, are forming up to be like their past intolerant historical brethren. Claiming as sacrosanct deadly guns-in-the-street, the rebel Dixie flag, untruthful MAGA banners, preserving racist monuments (let's at least storage them somewhere), a white Jesus, and an unloving bible, all working as subliminal codes for unholy policing forces, deceitful sloganeering, secular idolatries, and narrow-minded biblicism (letter of the law over the spirit of the law)

Accusing fellow Christians of refusing their bastardized form of Christian faith is to stand in judgment of other Jesus-followers, the God of Love, His mercy and forgiveness, His Son and Spirit, and the World itself which God Himself is even now reclaiming by every means necessary. If today's injurious church might get its act together one would suppose God may even work through it by first lifting it out of the miry pits of deceiving world power and religious politics which destroy:

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. (Psalm 40.2 KJV)
Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. (Jeremiah 38.6 KJV)

When today's secular church tells us Trump can do no wrong, or their myopic church leaders have 20/20 vision, they lie to us, to God, and to themselves:

5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie [to others], and do not the truth: 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him [God] a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1.5-10 KJV)

To cast aspersions upon protesters mocks the very ideals and desperate struggles of a constitutional democracy. And to consider smug "Christianly" opinions as righteous is the greatest folly of all. Many Christians are simply blinded to their dogmas. Many cannot hear the other whom they oppress. And to them judgment will fall on their heads, and unfortunately upon their children and children's children for the decisions they make this day against an open, evolving, democracy. Woe be to that wicked generation however Christian they claim to be.

Matthew 24.4-14
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

And thus we come to the area of Christian Humanism, aka, Social Justice. The Church Fathers from the Apostles to today recognize the importance to do all things in the name of love - even in politics. When not, we end up with cultures of death. Let us then speak love and life and light into one another. Let this be the Jesus people see in us of all faiths, persuasions, and walks of life.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
July 27, 2020
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What Is Christian Humanism?
by R.E. Slater
"When speaking of social justice we speak of the ancient concerns of the church going all the way back to the Apostles and early Church Fathers. They knew it as "Christian Humanism" and worked mightily that the gospel witness spoke to cultural respect, equality, and fairness. If tongue and work did not match the God of Love whom they proclaimed their gospel of good news was fake and without worthiness. 
When we speak God's name, or His work of Love on the Cross, or of His Spirit working mightily in a world we call secular (but is not because God is in it) then we ourselves must speak in love and clarity. This clarity recognizes protests as protests against unfairness and inequality. 
We do not call protestors Marxist, or Communist, or Liberals, or other demeaning slanderous labels. We listen, we help, we make it right. When we do not, our gospel of Jesus becomes a code word for a church wishing ungodly power. The power of empire instead of the power of God. But like Joshua of old (24.15), "For me and my household" I chose God every time over churchly lies and religious power mongers."


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Christian Humanism

Christian humanism regards humanist principles like universal human dignity, individual freedom and the importance of happiness as essential and principal components of the teachings of Jesus. It emerged during the Renaissance with strong roots in the patristic period.

Historically, major forces shaping the development of Christian humanism was the Christian doctrine that God, in the person of Jesus, became human in order to redeem humanity, and the further injunction for the participating human collective (the church) to act out the life of Christ.

Many of these ideas had emerged among the patristics, and would develop into Christian humanism in the late 15th century, through which the ideals of "common humanity, universal reason, freedom, personhood, human rights, human emancipation and progress, and indeed the very notion of secularity (describing the present saeculum preserved by God until Christ’s return) are literally unthinkable without their Christian humanistic roots." Though there is a common association of humanism with agnosticism and atheism in popular culture, this association developed in the 20th century and non-humanistic forms of agnosticism and atheism have long existed.


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Secularity
by R.E. Slater

Secularity - As opposed to a world being separate from religion in an agnostic or atheistic sense I prefer to imagine a Christian secularity which sees all creation as the preserve and sanctum of God wherein His love and grace works in creation, in man, and within man's social and creational structures. It is in this creational sanctum in which nothing is separated from the fellowship and union with God however pagan or worldly. It is into this space God's church is to minister until both world, man, nature, cosmos and God come into particular reunion and fellowship through Christ Jesus' atoning work of redemption and creational resurrection both in this life and the next. As corollary, God can never be separated from His creation by anything. He is the Creator. All else is created.
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Patristics

Patristics or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers. The names derive from the combined forms of Latin pater and Greek patḗr (father). The period is generally considered to run from the end of New Testament times or end of the Apostolic Age (c.  AD 100) to either AD 451 (the date of the Council of Chalcedon) or to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

Key persons

Prominent early Church Fathers whose writings form the basis for patristics comprise

  • Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 108)
  • Pope Clement I (c. 1st century AD – c. 101)
  • Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69 – c. 155)
  • Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165)
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 120 – c. 202)
  • Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215)
  • Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225)
  • Origen (c. 185 – c. 254)
  • Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258)
  • Athanasius (c. 296 – c. 373)
  • Basil of Caesarea (c. 330 – 379)
  • Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – 389)
  • Gregory of Nyssa (c. 330 – c. 395)
  • Jerome (347 – 430)
  • Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
  • Vincent of Lérins (d. bef. 450)
  • Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444)
  • Maximus the Confessor (580 – 662)
  • Isaac of Nineveh (d. 700)
  • John of Damascus (d. 749)

Key theological developments

Major focuses for these theologians during the period are, in chronological order,
  • Christianity's relationship with Judaism;
  • the establishment of the New Testament canon;
  • apologetics (the 'defense' or 'explanation' of Christianity); and,
  • doctrinal discussions that sought to achieve consistency of faith, in particular within the Christianised Roman Empire
Following the scholar of Christianity Alister McGrath (1998), several major areas of theology can be seen to have developed during the Patristic Period:
  • the extent of the New Testament canon,
  • the role of tradition,
  • the fixing of the ecumenical creeds,
  • the two natures of Christ,
  • the doctrine of the Trinity,
  • the doctrine of the Church, and
  • the doctrine of divine grace.

Eras of the church fathers

The church fathers are generally divided into the Ante-Nicene Fathers, those who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea (325) and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, those who lived and wrote after 325. Also, the division of the fathers into Greek and Latin writers is also common. Some of the most prominent Greek Fathers are Justin Martyr, Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Maximus the Confessor. Among the Latin Fathers are Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, and Gregory the Great.

There were also church fathers who wrote in languages other than Greek or Latin, such as Coptic, Syriac, Ge'ez, and Armenian, among others. Historically, Chalcedonian Christians have had less interest in these authors since the associated churches ended up rejecting the councils of Chalcedon (becoming Oriental Orthodox), or Ephesus (becoming the Church of the East). Recently this has begun to change, with the cooling of tensions between these branches of Christianity and the Western and Byzantine ones. There are Eastern Catholics who follow Oriental rites while remaining in communion with Rome, and at least one organization argues that Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians now share the same faith.

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Pico1.jpg
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Portrait from the 
Uffizi Gallery, in Florence

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (US: /ˈpiːkoʊ ˌdɛlə mɪˈrændələ, -ˈrɑːn-/,[1][2] Italian: [dʒoˈvanni ˈpiːko della miˈrandola]; Latin: Johannes Picus de Mirandula; 24 February 1463 – 17 November 1494) was an Italian Renaissance nobleman and philosopher. He is famed for the events of 1486, when, at the age of 23, he proposed to defend 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy, and magic against all comers, for which he wrote the Oration on the Dignity of Man, which has been called the "Manifesto of the Renaissance", and a key text of Renaissance humanism and of what has been called the "Hermetic Reformation". He was the founder of the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, a key tenet of early modern Western esotericism. The 900 Theses was the first printed book to be universally banned by the Church.


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Holbein-erasmus.jpg
Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1523)
by Hans Holbein the Younger

Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (/ˌdɛzɪˈdɪəriəs ɪˈræzməs/, English: Erasmus of Rotterdam;[note 1] 28 October 1466[3][4] – 12 July 1536) was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar who is widely considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance. As a Catholic priest, Erasmus was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, In Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.

Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation. While he was critical of the abuses within the Catholic Church and called for reform, he nonetheless kept his distance from Luther, Henry VIII, and John Calvin and continued to recognise the authority of the pope, emphasizing a middle way with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and rejecting Luther's emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus remained a member of the Catholic Church all his life, remaining committed to reforming the Church and its clerics' abuses from within. He also held to the doctrine of synergism, which some Reformers (Calvinists) rejected in favor of the doctrine of monergism. His middle road ("via media") approach disappointed, and even angered, scholars in both camps.

Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant and was buried in Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city. A bronze statue of Erasmus was erected in 1622 in his city of birth, replacing an earlier work in stone.


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*Monergism - Is the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regenerationregardless of the individual's cooperation. It is most often associated with the Reformed tradition (such as Presbyterianism, low church Anglicanism and the Dutch Reformed Church) and its doctrine of irresistible grace, and particularly with historical doctrinal differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.

This position contrasts with Arminian synergism, the belief that God and individuals cooperate to bring individuals salvation.


*Synergism - In Christian theology, synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human freedom. It stands opposed to monergism, a doctrine most commonly associated with the Lutheran, as well as Reformed Protestant traditions (including the Anglican, Continental Reformed and Presbyterian faiths), whose soteriologies have been strongly influenced by the North African bishop and Latin Church Father Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Lutheranism, however, confesses a monergist salvation and synergist damnation (see section below).

Synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, and by the Methodist Churches. It is an integral part of Arminian theology.

[Though] synergism and semipelagianism each teach some collaboration in salvation between God and man, semipelagian thought teaches that the beginning half of faith is an act of human will. The Council of Orange (529), Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577), and other local councils each condemned semipelagianism as heresy.


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Hans Holbein, the Younger - Sir Thomas More - Google Art Project.jpg
Sir Thomas More (1527) by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas More

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He also served Henry VIII as Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary island state.

More opposed the Protestant Reformation, directing polemics against the theology of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and William Tyndale. More also opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and executed. On his execution, he was reported to have said: "I die the King's good servant, and God's first".

Pope Pius XI canonised More in 1935 as a martyr. Pope John Paul II in 2000 declared him the patron saint of statesmen and politicians. The Soviet Union in the early twentieth century honoured him for the purportedly communist attitude toward property rights in Utopia.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism
by Jens Zimmermann

  • Offers comprehensive analysis of Bonhoeffer's texts, sermons, and letters to show that his theology represents a Christian (Christological) humanism
  • Allows readers to view Bonhoeffer's whole theology in light of the greater Christian tradition, from the church fathers onwards
  • Maintains that Bonhoeffer's Christian humanism, with its Christ-centered anthropology, ecclesiology, and hermeneutic, offers an important, orthodox Christian framework for discussing contemporary social issues

Author Information

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Professor for Interpretation, Religion, and Culture, Trinity Western University. Jens was born and raised in Germany. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He currently occupies the position of Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, and is Professor of English at Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. His publications include Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture (2012).

Description

Jens Zimmermann locates Bonhoeffer within the Christian humanist tradition extending back to patristic theology. He begins by explaining Bonhoeffer's own use of the term humanism (and Christian humanism), and considering how his criticism of liberal Protestant theology prevents him from articulating his own theology rhetorically as a Christian humanism. He then provides an in-depth portrayal of Bonhoeffer's theological anthropology and establishes that Bonhoeffer's Christology and attendant anthropology closely resemble patristic teaching. The volume also considers Bonhoeffer's mature anthropology, focusing in particular on the Christian self. It introduces the hermeneutic quality of Bonhoeffer's theology as a further important feature of his Christian humanism. In contrast to secular and religious fundamentalisms, Bonhoeffer offers a hermeneutic understanding of truth as participation in the Christ event that makes interpretation central to human knowing. Having established the hermeneutical structure of his theology, and his personalist configuration of reality, Zimmermann outlines Bonhoeffer's ethics as 'Christformation'. Building on the hermeneutic theology and participatory ethics of the previous chapters, he then shows how a major part of Bonhoeffer's life and theology, namely his dedication to the Bible as God's word, is also consistent with his Christian humanism.

Table of Contents
1. Bonhoeffer and the Idea of Christian Humanism
2. Bonhoeffer's Theological Anthropology and the Greater Tradition I
3. Bonhoeffer's Theological Anthropology and the Greater Tradition II
4. In God's Image: From Sicut Dei to Imago Dei
5. Bonhoeffer's Hermeneutic Theology
6. Living Freely Before God: Christian Humanist Ethics
7. The Vulnerability of the Word: Bonhoeffer's Biblical Hermeneutics
8. Recovering the Natural: Humanizing Politics
9. Conclusion: The Continuing Relevance of Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism
Bibliography
Reviews and Awards

"The author exhaustively explores Bonhoeffer's writings, from his earliest student papers to his ruminations from prison, to make a strong case for seeing him as one who understands the goal of authentic humanization as what salvation in Jesus Christ betokens...Even for those well-versed in Bonhoeffer's oeuvre, Zimmermann offers a refreshing immersion in Bonhoeffer's development as a theologian, with the benefit of expert commentary on those who influenced him, both among his contemporaries and from the great tradition of the church." 
- John Rollefson, Author of the trilogy, Postils for Preaching: Commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary, Years A, B & C., Currents in Theology and Mission
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"At last, a full and sympathetic locating of Bonhoeffer in the context of the broadest possible theological tradition. His unique contribution to Protestant thought, and to the Christian resistance to totalitarianism and atrocity, is grounded in a much wider set of influences than most readers have realised, and this excellent book fills many gaps in understanding -- as well as stressing by implication how much this broader tradition has to say in our own global political crises."
- Rowan Williams, Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge


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Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism
Edited by Jens Zimmermann

  • Recovers a Christian humanist ethos for our time
  • Provides a chronological overview (from patristic humanism to the Reformation and beyond) and individual examples (Jewell, Calvin) of past Christian humanisms
  • Features contributions from internationally renowned Christian authors from a variety of disciplines
  • Chapters are connected through the theme of Christian paideia as the foundation for liberal arts education

Author Information

Jens Zimmermann was born and raised in Germany. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He currently occupies the position of Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, and is Professor of English at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. His publications include Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2015) and Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture (OUP, 2012).

Contributors:
  • Jens Zimmermann
  • John Behr
  • Irene Backus
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff
  • Torrance Kirby
  • Darren Provost
  • David Lyle Jeffrey
  • Brett Foster
  • Martin Schlag
  • Thomas Albert Howard
  • Russell Hittinger

Description

Since the early 1980s, there has been renewed scholarly interest in the concept of Christian Humanism. A number of official Catholic documents have stressed the importance of "Christian humanism," as a vehicle of Christian social teaching and, indeed, as a Christian philosophy of culture. Fundamentally, humanism aims to explore what it means to be human and what the grounds are for human flourishing. Featuring contributions from internationally renowned Christian authors from a variety of disciplines in the humanities, Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism recovers a Christian humanist ethos for our time. The volume offers a chronological overview (from patristic humanism to the Reformation and beyond) and individual examples (Jewell, Calvin) of past Christian humanisms. The chapters are connected through the theme of Christian paideia as the foundation for liberal arts education.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

PART I. CHRISTIAN HUMANISM: THEOLOGICAL ROOTS AND THEIR ENDURING SIGNIFICANCE

1. Patristic Humanism: The Beginning of Christian Paideia - John Behr
2. The Church Fathers and the Humanities in the Renaissance and the Reformation - Irena Backus
3. Marsilio Ficino and Christian Humanism - James Hankins

PART II. CHRISTIAN HUMANISM IN THE RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION

4. The Christian Humanism of John Calvin - Nicholas Wolterstorff
5. Erasmian Humanism and the Elizabethan Hermeneutics of the Eucharist - Torrance Kirby
6. Erasmus, Christian Humanism, and Spiritual Warfare - Darren M. Provost

PART III. CHRISTIAN HUMANISM, EDUCATION, AND THE ARTS

7. The Cultural Context for Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism - Jens Zimmermann
8. Scripture in the Studium and the Rise of the Humanities - David Lyle Jeffrey
9. Fiery Tongues and Minds Afire: Christian Humanism's Legacy in Renaissance Poetry - Brett Foster

PART IV. CHRISTIAN HUMANISM AND MODERNITY

10. The Formation of a Catholic Concept of Christian Humanism and of Inclusive Secularity - Martin Schlag
11. Ignaz von Döllinger and the University: Examining a German Christian Humanist of the Nineteenth Century - Thomas Albert Howard
12. From Institutions to Anthropology: The Christian Humanism of John Paul II and the Crisis of Modern Times - F. Russell Hittinger
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

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The Foundation of Christian Humanism

by Scott Postma
June 13, 2018

If you’ve been following this series, you realize by now we are knee-deep in a discussion on Christian humanism.

If you haven’t been following the series, you can catch up on the conversation by starting here.

"Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles."

In this post, I want to investigate the roots of the kind of Christian humanism I believe we need to recover in the West if we are ever going to see its cultural fractures mended.

"The Incarnation of Christ, being a complete union of his divine and human natures, informs the very essence of the vision of Christian humanism—divinity came down to humanity and united with it to the end that fallen humans could be redeemed to live out their best lives to the glory of God."

To explain this truth to the church, the Apostle John borrowed language from Greek philosophy, and wrote in his gospel, “Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο (And the Word became flesh).

The Greek word λόγος has a broad spectrum of meaning, but essentially means “a communication whereby the mind finds expression.”

In Platonic thought, the divine or perfect λόγος exists “above the line” in the heavens, often referred to as the realm of the Forms. All truth, reason, or argument on earth is an imperfect imitation (μίμησης) of that which exists eternally above the line.


John’s proclamation is that the Word was God, the Creator of the universe, and was embodied in the person of Jesus from Nazareth, who was called the Christ. The fact that perfect λόγος, or Word, became embodied on earth, and in human flesh, nonetheless, was an astounding concept to the Hellenistic mind—to both Jew and Greek.

This embodiment of divinity not only sets in proper tension the perennial human paradoxes of life, like reconciling justice and mercy, faith and reason, physical and metaphysical, John’s pronouncement of it employs the concept of using the “splintered light” of pagan ideas and literature to serve the Christian message.

Second, not only does the Incarnation inform the very essence of the vision of Christian humanism, its telos is rooted in the teachings of Christ as well.

The essence of these teachings can be summed up in Jesus’s answer to the lawyer who sought to test him by asking him what were the greatest commandments:

"And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Matthew’s record reveals the primary focus of Jesus’s teaching to be twofold: man’s relationship with the Creator and man’s relationship with others. In both relationships, the preeminent motivation is love.

The Greek word Jesus uses is more specific than the generic receptor most often used in English translation. In English, love has a variety of nuances and can be directed at objects differing greatly in value.

Americans, for example, tend to love pizza, love their job, and love their family. Family and pizza, of course, are without comparison in value, yet both are objects that appear to be acted on equally by the same verb, loved. 

The word Jesus used is ἀγαπάω, and means to have a warm regard for, or interest in, another: to cherish, have affection for, love. It would be unreasonable for a person to have a cherished interest in, or affection for, pizza, but quite expected in regard to one’s family. This is because the ἀγαπάω kind of love is not rooted in emotion, but in covenant. It is a covenant love one has for God and man that anticipates the benevolent fulfillment of a duty owed to each—worship owed to God (Romans 12:1-2) and care owed to fellow man (Romans 13:8).

Jesus’s story of the good Samaritan is generally seen as the quintessential example of this idea of love, which essentially informs Christian humanism.

Additionally, Jesus taught that ἀγαπάω love extends beyond showing benevolence only to those neighbors who are friendly to us, or those neighbors who are in need, but he extends it to included those who are enemies.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught,

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The one aspect that both a neighbor and an enemy has in common is his humanity. And it is on the basis of their being human that Jesus taught his followers to love both neighbor and enemy in the same manner the Father loves the evil and the good alike.

God freely gives sun and rain—the elements necessary for growing food and symbolic for human flourishing—to both. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed his teaching about love by his works: by feeding the hungry, caring for the needy, and even performing miracles to heal the sick and diseased.

He ordered his entire life by this message. The ultimate affirmation of his love message, however, was a personal demonstration that led him to be crucified on a cross by his enemies for the ultimate good of humanity, eternal redemption.

To clarify, this does not suggest in any way, like those previously mentioned who have deceptively taken the name Christian humanist, that Christ is merely a good teacher and an example to humanity of how to live in this world.

There is no denying he is an example in this way—and arguably the greatest example of what it means to be human—but the kind of Christian humanism this paper seeks to recover recognizes Christ is, first and foremost, Savior and Lord of all creation. He is an example of what it is like to be human, second. Recognizing the importance of this order in Christian Humanism, theologian and humanist, J. Gresham Machen, wrote,

"The trouble with the paganism of ancient Greece, as with the paganism of modern times, was not in the superstructure, which was glorious, but in the foundation, which was rotten. There was always something to be covered up; the enthusiasm of the architect was maintained only by ignoring the disturbing fact of sin. In Christianity, on the other hand, nothing needs to be covered up. The fact of sin is faced squarely once for all, and is dealt with by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him. Such is the higher Christian humanism—a humanism founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace."

That said, these two aspects are not as distinct as the analysis of their priority tends to make them sound, either. It is not an either/or concept, but a both/and concept. They operate in tandem for the accomplishment of a single goal. They are two sides of the same coin, so to speak.

Jesus preached: repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand! He commands repentance from the old nature in order to receive the kingdom of Heaven on earth. As Machen so aptly noted, it is in the context of redemptive grace that humanity is able to flourish.

Finally, not only does the Incarnation inform the vision of Christian humanism and root its telos in the teachings of Christ, its import in history gives renewed merit to pagan Classicism.

By beginning the historical inquiry at the Incarnation of Christ rather than some earlier point of development in the Greco-Roman civilization, the assumption is being made that the Incarnation/Resurrection of Jesus is the central pivot point in the development of Western Civilization.

This means, ultimately, there could be no such thing as Christian humanism without the historical person of Jesus Christ.

While paganism had some virtues, enough that many Christians have wondered at the possibility of some virtuous pagans obtaining redemption in a way foreign to repentance in the Christian understanding, it repeatedly demonstrated its inability to transcend the boundaries of human reason.

Therefore, any form of art and culture prior to Christ would necessarily be incomplete, continually reaching for something man could not achieve by himself, and always falling short. What virtuous pagans did do for human flourishing, however, was offer the world optimistic anticipation, meaning it often knew the right questions to ask, though it could seldom provide satisfactory answers.

Prior to the Incarnation of Christ, the Greco-Roman world was feeling its way toward truth, goodness, and beauty, but it could not attain it. And though they could not attain it, they prepared the way to it by raising questions that only something so profound as the Incarnation could answer.

That said, it does not mean “humanistic” pursuits prior to or outside of Christ are meaningless. By no means. Rather, it means literature, art, philosophy, etc. were finally provided a place to find their value—in the redemptive work of Christ.

Essentially, because Christ came to humanity, many pagan works have renewed and transcendent merit. And though they still may not always provide solutions to the perennial human questions, they do delight the mind, stimulate the imagination, and function for the rest of the world analogous to the way the Mosaic Law functioned for the Jews—they teach people to anticipate Christ.

Because Christ came to humanity, humanism now has real imaginative power.


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A Brief History of Christian Humanism

by Scott Postma
[amendments made by R.E.Slater]
June 13, 2018

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles.

In the last post, I attempted to establish the kind of Christian humanism we want to recover is rooted in the Incarnation of Christ. In this post, I want to recount a brief (and very truncated) history of Christian humanism from Christ to the European Renaissance.

In other words, I want to show how Christian humanism of this kind continued on after Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father, first in the life of the Apostles and, ultimately, throughout the entirety of church history.

(If you haven’t been following the series, you can catch up on the conversation by starting here.)

For starters, consider the author of James (either the Son of Alphaeus or the brother of the Lord) quotes from Plato’s Phaedo in his letter to the church when he asks “whence come wars and fightings among you?”

Also, in Luke’s famous record of Paul’s conversion, when Jesus confronts Paul on the road to Damascus, he uses a Greek idiom famously used in Aeschylus’s play, Agamemnon. Jesus says to Paul, “It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

Speaking of the Apostle Paul, he was a classically-educated man of letters—he was educated classically in Tarsus and theologically at the feet of Gamaliel—who often employed his knowledge of pagan literature in his sermons and writings.

For example, when he preached to the Athenians on Mars Hill, he quoted both Epimenides and Aratus, Greek poets, to make his arguments.

Again, in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul even uses arguments and rhetorical language clearly lifted from Plato’s Apology—most certainly familiar to his audience—to discuss how he was driven to the task of trying to teach the arrogant Corinthians what real wisdom looks like.

Later Christians, like Athanasius and Justin Martyr, of the second century, were educated in philosophy and pagan literature, and after coming to faith in Christ, frequently used their knowledge of the liberal arts to defend the Christian faith.

Born in Alexandria about 297, made a deacon about 318, and attending the Council of Nicaea in 325 as a secretary, Athanasius would famously affirm what the Apostle John wrote in his gospel, that in the person of Jesus existed the hypostatic union of two natures—one divine and one human.


To do this, however, Athanasius would have to borrow language from a pagan concept (homoousios) and explain that Christ was of the same substance as the Father, rather than of similar substance (homoiousios) as the Arians contended. These Christian thinkers rightly understood the consequences of emphasizing one nature over the other.

(1) To emphasize the divine nature of Christ over his humanity would be to fall into an error something akin to Docetism or Apollinarianism which deny the real humanity of Jesus. (2) And to emphasize the human over the divine would be to fall into an error something akin to Arianism which denies the deity of Jesus. In other words, many of the early Christians, being at least aware of classical ideas if not actually being classically educated, sought to explain the truths of Christianity—particularly the tensions in and related to the Incarnation of Christ—in terms of the pagan language of the culture.

Next, take for example Christians like Clement of Alexandria, in the third century, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, and St. Augustine of Hippo, in the fourth and fifth centuries. These men of letters were educated in the classical tradition and frequently “plundered the Egyptians,” gleaning the splintered light of the pagan ideas for a fuller understanding of the Scriptures and a means by which to communicate more difficult concepts.

Nevertheless, it was Charles the Great, a.k.a. Charlemagne, in the late eighth and early ninth centuries, who most notably inspired the first Renaissance of the medieval period. There would be three such “rebirths” of culture that would ultimately lead to the fifteenth and sixteenth century understanding and expression of Christian humanism, but Charlemagne’s revival of classical education and the integration of its best literature and virtues into the culture, alongside the Christian faith, was the first.

Einhard says of Charlemagne, “He believed that his children should be brought up so that both sons and daughters were first educated in the liberal art, which he himself had studied.”

Notker recounts an exchange between Charlemagne and Alcuin that demonstrates the fervor the king had for reviving and cultivating Christian humanism:

In this way the most famous Charles, seeing the study of letters flourishing throughout all his kingdom, but lamenting that it did not reach the ripeness of the earlier fathers, though he was striving more than was human, burst out in disgust: ‘Oh, if only I could have twelve clerics as learned as Jerome and Augustine were.’ To which the most learned Alcuin, rightly thinking himself most unlearned in comparison to those two, full of great anger but scarcely showing it, dared to do what no other mortal would do in the sight of dread Charles, replied: ‘The creator of heaven and earth did not have many like those men, and you want to have twelve?’

This is but one example of the blooming passion the medieval learned had for the study of letters. And given the body of literature that was written and studied in the medieval world, it is a shame the Renaissance academics of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries thought of this period as “the Dark Age.”

Perhaps an argument could be made for a Dark Age between the sacking of Rome in 476 and the coronation of Charlemagne in 800, but that would be the extent of any period but with works like Augustine’s City of God and Confessions written in the fifth century, and Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy being written in the sixth, that might be a stretch.

The second major Renaissance happened in the twelfth century, largely because of the recovery of Aristotle from the [goodwill and academic] Islamic humanists. These writings had been lost to the West and their recovery became the seedbed for the Renaissance, known also as Scholasticism.

Previously, Platonic thought had been dominantly influential, largely due to the writings of Augustine. But now, scholars and churchmen like Albert Magnus, Bonaventure, Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, and Thomas Aquinas would lead the church to proverbially baptize the writings of Aristotle by incorporating his thinking to work out their theological propositions.

Despite not being part of the Scholastic movement, other notable Christian thinkers and writers influential in this rebirth of letters were Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Francis of Assisi. More arid and pedantic, and arguably less imaginative than the humanists of the High Renaissance, the Scholastics were educated in the classical tradition of the artes liberales and painstakingly explicated the doctrines of the church using pagan literature, reason, and logic.

Having now come full circle to the third “rebirth,” the Italian Renaissance in the fourteenth century, it is helpful to note Renaissance humanism was not organized by a manifesto or a particular creed; it was never considered a philosophy, like Platonism or Stoicism. However, there were some essential philosophic nuances unique to the projects and passions of the Renaissance humanists of the particular regions: Italy in the south and Europe in the north.

Margaret King’s summary of the general nature of the Italian Renaissance is quite insightful and her description is helpful in demonstrating this nuance:

[The Italian Renaissance] entailed no common set of principles (other than those that were the common assumptions of the age) about the natural, social, or political world. It was more like a way of life. It involved a commitment to the world of ideas guided by the classics, which were to be read in the original Latin (more rarely, Greek), mastered, imitated, and to some extent enacted, in communities that gathered in schools and homes and shared public spaces. The process was consistent: humanists read and interacted with the classical tradition. The content, however, varied: over time, from setting to setting, according to circumstances, and among actors of different social classes and occupations.

In the Italian Renaissance, there seems to be less of a focus on any one particular aspect of  Classicism. Its virtue was in its variety and aristocratic way of life.

Those of the north, on the other hand, while sharing much of the heterogeneous nature of Italian Classicism, appeared to be more philosophical in their humanism, due mainly to the prominence of their Christian worldview. As previously stated, the Christian humanism of the North was essentially focused on the primacy of rhetoric, a return to the sources, and the development of a historical sensibility.

In any case, what has hopefully come through is that some of the important principles of Renaissance humanism—a passion for the liberal arts and human flourishingcan be found in varying degrees throughout Western Civilization’s history. What also has hopefully come through is the tradition revived by the Renaissance humanists in northern Europe was a recovery of basically the same tenets but in a more elevated and Christian context.

This is not to suggest in any way Christian humanism claims an unbroken line of apostolic or patristic succession–or anything like that. Rather, what I hope to affirm is what many scholars and historians have often pointed out, that “wherever the gospel is planted, the academy follows.”