God may not be dead, but his visible Church is in the doldrums. This few people would care to deny. The cause and cure of the malady is another matter. Many factors contribute to the sickness of the Church, some of them obvious, others beyond our notice. It seems clear, however, that humanism is a key to understanding the problem. Whether humanism in the Church is a major cause of its present distress or is a result of the inroads of unbelief, it demands the attention of those who are concerned with spiritual renewal and the cure of the Church.
At the heart of humanism is the notion that anthropology (the study of man) must replace theology (the study of God). God has been removed from the center of life; he is no longer truly worshipped; and man has assumed his place. Webster’s International Dictionary defines humanism as “a contemporary cult or belief calling itself religious but substituting faith in man for faith in God.” It quotes C. F. Potter, who said: “Humanism is faith in the supreme value and self-perfectibility of human personality.” And it also quotes Walter Lippmann: “To replace the conception of man as the subject of a heavenly king … humanism takes as its dominant pattern the progress of the individual from helpless infancy to self-governing maturity.”
That humanism has invaded the Church and plays a dominant role in determining its mission can easily be seen. The recently elected moderator of the New York Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church, the Reverend James D. Watson, was reported by the New York Times as saying that he calls himself “a Christian-humanist” with “more concern about man than about God.” “I see the ministry ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more