Thursday, August 27, 2015

A short exploration and review of Christian humanism


Adams, R.J., 1989. So you think you’re not religious.

Freeman, A., 2001. God in us.

Windross, T., 2004. The thoughtful guide to faith.

Ritchie, A. & Spencer, W., 2014. The case for Christian Humanism

Quotes and reflection:

  1. The primary business of Christianity is making sense of the world, “not meaning that we can show that it makes sense, but with the more literal and radical meaning of making into sense what, till it is transformed, is largely non-sense” (William Temple, 1943 cited in Adams, p.8). I think it was Tertullian that said theology is faith seeking understanding. In other words, I use my faith framework to try and make meaning of the world as I experience it recognising that it may be my framework that needs changing.
  2. Simon Weil suggested that the great blasphemy is not in doubting that God exists but in making believe that the hunger is not real (Adams, p.11). I strongly identify with this quote. I struggled to accept the views of Freeman of non-deity as I cannot quench the hunger I have deep within that there is something/one beyond that which I completely understand. In some ways it echoes the title of a book, ‘he placed eternity in their hearts’ by Don Richardson.
  3. Latin word credo is translated ‘believe’ but literally means ‘to set the heart’ (p.17). Kardia (heart) is never about logic or analysis (p.20). Verb pisteuo usually translated ‘believe’ while noun pistis is translated as faithful, reliable, faith (p.23). The opposite of amen is not doubt but denial. To doubt is to ask questions, to weigh evidence (p.27). Can apply an age of reason upon what were oral traditions (p.45). They studied the Bible to find analogies (p.49). All of these explanations encourage a faith that grows and develops (changes) not holding to orthodoxy as rules or doctrine.  
  4. I believe God is real…a reality that is neither the subject nor the object of a theological discourse…I experience this God; I do not explain this God. I offer no prayers that are designed to manipulate this God so that this God becomes my servant. I do not spend my hours in worship praising this God as if my liturgical flattery will serve me well by winning me some divine favour. I do not find this God even inside the Trinitarian formulae of the creeds that I recite. These traditional words do not capture God, they only point me towards this God. I take seriously the warning of the Second Commandment that human beings are to build no graven images of this God that they will then confuse with God. It is now obvious to me that graven images can be constructed with human words. Such things as the Bible, the creeds, the doctrines and dogma’s are not divine revelations, they are graven images made with words. They are human constructions which we have frequently confused with the God to whom they can only point…to enter the human experience of God, which drives language to breaking point (forward by Spong in Freeman, p.xiii). Although Spong (as I do) share the contents shared by Freeman, we do not share the same conclusion (there is no God and no eternity, p.45). As Cupitt put it, “I am a verb, not a noun” (2010, p.4).
  5. Do you believe in God? Tell me what sort of God you have in mind and I will tell you whether I believe in him (p.11). Freeman uses the categories of liberal, conservative and radical. If you are a non-theist (theist where God is supernatural and non-theist where God is ‘the ground of our being’ or ‘sum of our values’ or the creative and healing power of love), then prayer will be more like an exploration into the mystery at the heart of human life (Windross, p.30). Windross is in favour of a post-theistic model rejecting the theistic idea of God – personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, creator and sustainer, a being with no cause, beginning and end (p.177). Instead being – symbol; transcendence – immanence; love experienced in community (p.179).
  6. Resurrection is not a matter of speculation, but an explosion of meaning (Windross, p.69).  
  7. Amsterdam declaration, Christian humanism is rational, affirms human dignity and is ethical (p11). Humanitas (Latin) means human nature, virtues of an educated and cultivated existence (p.15). Associated with Unitarianism and positivism (pp.17-18). Based on this document, I suspect I resonate more with radical Christianity/progressive Christianity than I do with Christian humanism which for me shares to many of the modernist characteristics.  


An explosion of meaning (6) is the hunger that drives me (2). I have a hunger to make sense, to be engaged in meaning making (1) and what consequences that has upon me and my actions as I share this planet with others. I can say ‘amen’ to Spong’s creed (4) affirming that my heart (3) resonates with what I read. I can no longer naively support a supernatural understanding of God with trappings of sin, atonement theories and exclusive truth claims. If these trapping define theism then I reject theism but rather than then simply embracing non-theism (with its trapping of no eternity or personal God) I will explore post-theism.  Christian humanism for me is a return to modernistic epistemology.   

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