Author Topic: Humanism vs. Christianity?  (Read 1753 times)

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Humanism vs. Christianity?
« on: December 01, 2020, 07:03:09 AM »
I enjoyed reading Granquist's article, "Georg Sverdrup and the Purpose of Theological Education" (Lutheran Forum, spring 2020, pp. 41--45). Some statements from Sverdrup about humanism were especially interesting to me:

Man is essentially good.
What is needed for true culture is simply that this nature be clothed in Greek and Latin forms.

Granquist summarizes, "Education [should] not destroy the faith of theological candidates and sever them from connections to the local congregations they were called to serve."

Granquist sees remnants of these problems (humanism, destroying, severing) in mainline Protestant seminaries (p. 44). I wonder whether others here are seeing the same and how such problems manifest themselves.
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peterm

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2020, 10:34:47 AM »
Some of it I think depends on how you define "destroying faith."  I attended Augsburg, and Luther Seminary.  In both places my faith was stretched, pulled, challenged and molded in ways that were not always comfortable but were ultimately beneficial.  I have classmates who would define that as destroyed because their understandings and interpretations were challenged in ways they couldn't handle.
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Randy Bosch

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 11:38:38 AM »
Rod Dreher's post "Reconciling With the Real Reality" (Nov. 28) addresses aspect of changes in American Christianity that resonated with me: https://roddreher.substack.com/p/reconciling-with-the-really-real

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 12:23:06 PM »
Some of it I think depends on how you define "destroying faith."  I attended Augsburg, and Luther Seminary.  In both places my faith was stretched, pulled, challenged and molded in ways that were not always comfortable but were ultimately beneficial.  I have classmates who would define that as destroyed because their understandings and interpretations were challenged in ways they couldn't handle.


An analogy I've heard is that seminary seeks to polish the faith, which means sanding off the rough edges which may not always be pleasant.


Another I've used is that they knocked down all the (false) pillars my faith was resting on until there was nothing left except trusting Jesus. In a sense they attacked the old faith so that it might die so that a new and better faith was raised up. It's like Paul's movement from faith to faith. For him, it was a strong conviction about the Jewish faith that was destroyed in order to achieve a strong conviction about Jesus the saving Messiah. For me it was a movement from trusting my goodness, including many religious works, to trusting in God's grace alone through Jesus Christ alone.


An observation I made back in seminary is that those who couldn't separate the saving faith, a gift from God which even infants can have; from theological studies (and discussions and disagreements,) an academic exercise that gets quite detailed at the seminary level, had difficulties in seminary. While we can do nothing to improve on or increasing the faith God has given us; we spend our lives improving and better understanding the ways we talk about God and God's relationship with us. ("God-talk" is essentially the meaning of "theology.")
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Randy Bosch

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2020, 12:37:47 PM »
Some of it I think depends on how you define "destroying faith."  I attended Augsburg, and Luther Seminary.  In both places my faith was stretched, pulled, challenged and molded in ways that were not always comfortable but were ultimately beneficial.  I have classmates who would define that as destroyed because their understandings and interpretations were challenged in ways they couldn't handle.


An analogy I've heard is that seminary seeks to polish the faith, which means sanding off the rough edges which may not always be pleasant.


Another I've used is that they knocked down all the (false) pillars my faith was resting on until there was nothing left except trusting Jesus. In a sense they attacked the old faith so that it might die so that a new and better faith was raised up. It's like Paul's movement from faith to faith. For him, it was a strong conviction about the Jewish faith that was destroyed in order to achieve a strong conviction about Jesus the saving Messiah. For me it was a movement from trusting my goodness, including many religious works, to trusting in God's grace alone through Jesus Christ alone.


An observation I made back in seminary is that those who couldn't separate the saving faith, a gift from God which even infants can have; from theological studies (and discussions and disagreements,) an academic exercise that gets quite detailed at the seminary level, had difficulties in seminary. While we can do nothing to improve on or increasing the faith God has given us; we spend our lives improving and better understanding the ways we talk about God and God's relationship with us. ("God-talk" is essentially the meaning of "theology.") 

A logical and common understanding. 
Although, "...spend our lives improving and better understanding..." doesn't always work out as improving and better understanding due to effects of environment, nurture, and sin that continue to have major impacts on our lives, but I know what you think you meant.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2020, 08:23:10 AM »
Some of it I think depends on how you define "destroying faith."  I attended Augsburg, and Luther Seminary.  In both places my faith was stretched, pulled, challenged and molded in ways that were not always comfortable but were ultimately beneficial.  I have classmates who would define that as destroyed because their understandings and interpretations were challenged in ways they couldn't handle.

Peterm, I wonder whether you have an example of this stretching.

I had read through the Bible as a teen and read quite a bit of theology in my college years so I probably didn't get stretched as much as some during the seminary experience.
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peterm

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2020, 09:47:04 AM »
Sure!  an example of that stretching for me would be learning about things that I didn't encounter before, like JEPD understanding of the Old Testament and the nuances involved in the original languages, particularly Hebrew.  I would also include the expansion of the understanding of Genesis 1 beyond days as I understood them.  Much of this began at Augsburg which has always had a tradition of engaging scripture in a more flexible way than other strands of the Norwegian church.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2020, 09:49:47 AM by peterm »
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Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2020, 11:08:33 AM »
For me it would be things like learning about Luther's mistakes with respect to the Jews and the peasants. I don't think I had heard clearly about those things until seminary. Also, the theological changes Melanchthon went through, though I might have encountered those in college. Learning about Marxist liberation theology was also an eye opener, though it was not supported in anyway by the seminary. Knowing that people confessing the faith thought and acted that differently surprised me.
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George Rahn

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2020, 11:50:12 AM »
At the time of the Lutheran Reformation the church in general was responding to all sorts of inroads made by the humanistic endeavor.  The Greek classics, Aristotle, et. al., were finding a new appreciation throughout academia.  Melanchthon, a Greek scholar, noticed that the study of the human being through the reasonable processes made for much fruit.  The growing interest in creating places within culture for the humanistic ideal were challenging the old churchly authoritarian role.  One place of challenge was in the arena of making judgments on things and other people.  How this would change the political arena was telling in that the Holy Roman Empire was becoming less unified and more attention was being placed on a growing sense of ideology over the sense that the Roman church had previously.  The break-up of empire was imminent.  People, over time, became more "public" in the sense that they discovered their own power to unify through ideology and political persuasion resulting in the Enlightenment and its sense of the Deus ex machina.  The consequences were a lessening importance on ecclesiastical absolutism centered in the Papacy.  The shift would take centuries.  But over time humanism took an upper hand in its dominant role as a public ideology.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2020, 11:51:53 AM by George Rahn »

Dave Benke

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2020, 03:37:03 PM »
I'm here to promote your subscription to the Forum Package, which is now available to regular folks for only $28 per year, with discounts for retired workers.  No home interested in evangelical and catholic theology and practice should be without these resources from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.

At the same time, I recommend on this thread an article by Mickey Mattox in the most recent Pro Ecclesia, a Journal of (guess what?) Evangelical and Catholic Theology entitled "Imago diaboli?  Luther's theological holism".   The article makes repeated and substantial references to Luther's humanism and anthropological approach through the lens of Greek thinkers and Aquinas, both in agreement and in distinction.  Worth a read on the topic at hand.

In the end, the author leads to the conclusion that in terms of original sin, Luther held a line between Aquinas and Flacius that evidenced his more nuanced and really theologically superior process - albeit a process not organized in the way of or to the extent of Aquinas.

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Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2020, 08:17:34 AM »
Here is a link to the Mattox article.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1063851220952319

Over against the idea of essential goodness, the thorough corruption of mankind needs to be maintained (Genesis 6:12; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:22).
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2020, 01:48:54 PM »
Here is a link to the Mattox article.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1063851220952319

Over against the idea of essential goodness, the thorough corruption of mankind needs to be maintained (Genesis 6:12; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:22).


The Jewish interpretation is not "thorough corruption of mankind," but that "while humans tended to corruption (Gen 6:5; 8:21). they were not basically corrupt creatures. Though they were constantly exposed to the evil impulse (יֵצֶר הָרָע yetzer ha-ra), by carrying out God's commandments they could overcome or at least control it and thereby could develop their impulse for good (יֵצֶר הַטוֹב yetzer ha-tov). The more closely they attended to mitzvot, the greater would be their protection from sin." (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, revised edition, pp. 37-38)


The OT passages are interpreted as referring to particular times in history, i.e., before the flood, before the destruction of the temple, and David's adultery and murder; rather than the dire state of humankind for all times.


Our Lutheran Confessions hint at our ability to do some good - in the civil righteousness realm.


"Concerning free will they teach that the human will has some freedom for producing civil righteousness and for choosing things subject to reason." (AC XVIII, 1 Latin Text, p. 51 K&W)


"Concerning free will it is taught that a human being has some measure of free will, so as to live an externally honorable life and to choose among the things reason comprehends." (AC XVIII, 1 German Text, p. 50 K&W)


"Therefore, it is helpful to distinguish between civil righteousness, which is ascribed to the free will, and spiritual righteousness, which is ascribed to the operation of the Holy Spirit [alone added by Jonas's translation] in the regenerate. In this way outward discipline is preserved, because all people alike ought to know that God requires civil righteousness and that to some extent we are able to achieve it." (Ap XVIII, 9, p. 234, K&W)


I think that we often short change our ability to achieve some measure of civil righteousness - and to work at improving our civil righteousness. To put it in more biblical terms, we can increase and improve our actions of love towards neighbors (even those we don't like). We are called to seek to obey the civil use of the Law, which I believe, goes beyond just civil ordinances, but also one's personal moral code, which for Christians includes the command to love.


"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Randy Bosch

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2020, 02:56:38 PM »
We are called to seek to obey the civil use of the Law, which I believe, goes beyond just civil ordinances, but also one's personal moral code, which for Christians includes the command to love.

The challenge from the Humanism heavy side of civil life can be found, for example in Montaigne, of whom is said that the only moral authority he recognized was his own.  True of many New Humanist philosophers and leaders, and of compound danger when they find common cause that is not the Christian command to love.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2020, 03:12:22 PM »
We are called to seek to obey the civil use of the Law, which I believe, goes beyond just civil ordinances, but also one's personal moral code, which for Christians includes the command to love.

The challenge from the Humanism heavy side of civil life can be found, for example in Montaigne, of whom is said that the only moral authority he recognized was his own.  True of many New Humanist philosophers and leaders, and of compound danger when they find common cause that is not the Christian command to love.


Doesn't all moral authority boil down to what one believes or accepts as moral? When one uses the Ten Commandments or Jesus' Great Commandment as moral authority, it's because one has decided to accept those as authoritative for one's life. Judaism also has the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Many religions have their own version of the Golden Rule. We can say that the command from Jesus in John: "Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other." Jesus as the model of love is uniquely Christian.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

pearson

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Re: Humanism vs. Christianity?
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2020, 04:30:33 PM »

Doesn't all moral authority boil down to what one believes or accepts as moral? When one uses the Ten Commandments or Jesus' Great Commandment as moral authority, it's because one has decided to accept those as authoritative for one's life. Judaism also has the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Many religions have their own version of the Golden Rule. We can say that the command from Jesus in John: "Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other." Jesus as the model of love is uniquely Christian.


Well, that's the modern view.  If the modern view on moral truth is authoritative, doesn't that boil down to what one believes or accepts as the proper historical perspective?  And if historical perspective is authoritative when it comes to moral truth, doesn't that boil down to what one believes or accepts as the proper perspective on moral truth?  And if the proper perspective of moral truth is authoritative, doesn't that boil down to what one believes or accepts as the proper philosophical perspective for determining what counts as truth?  And if. . .

Of the making of perspectival positions, there is no end.

Tom Pearson