Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Francis Schaeffer on Humanism

In "Conflicting Worldviews: Humanism versus Christianity", Francis Schaeffer combined two themes into one speech. He contrasted two conflicting worldviews and presented his understanding of biblical position on military preparedness. The reason why I am including this post in this blog is due to the relevance of Schaeffer's speech to Statism, which is the most powerful tool of humanism. This in return is a serious threat to personal and economic liberty. 

Necessary Distinctions

Before presenting the contrast between Christianity and humanism, Schaeffer clarified first what he meant by humanism. He distinguished it from both humanitarianism and humanities. Since the meaning of humanitarianism is obvious, I think only the meaning of humanities deserves a concise description. To him, it is related to the study of human creativity connected to classical learning. He argued that Christians should show interest in these two fields and not to confuse them with humanism.

The Contrast Between Two Worldviews

The contrast between Christianity and humanism has something to do with ultimate reality. For Christianity, the ultimate "reality is the infinite-personal God who truly is there objectively whether we think He is there or not" (p.15). To the God of Christianity, "not everything is the same, and, therefore, there are absolutes, right and wrong, in the world" (ibid.).

On the side of humanism, impersonal matter or energy is the ultimate reality, which is totally neutral when it comes to value system. In the end, this would mean that man has the final say in everything. 

The Shift into Humanism and Its Consequences

Schaeffer delivered this speech in 1982. He said that "about eighty years ago" (that's around 1902), US already shifted from Judeo-Christian consensus into a humanist consensus. As a result of this shift, numerous problems have occured. 

Revelation has no place in humanism. Certainty of knowledge is also out of the question. There is no final value system where anyone can appeal to and there is no basis for human individuality and importance. This leaves us nothing, but "with only personal, arbitrary, relative values" and "arbitrary law" (p.16). And such law comes from "the decision of a small group of people, and what they decide at a given moment" (ibid.) for common good. This group of people could be the Supreme Court or anyone else. For Schaeffer, this explains why acts that were considered abominations before are now accepted. 

Abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and absence of free expression of religion are all natural outcomes of humanistic worldview. The frightening thing is that both the civil government and the courts have been increasingly used as instruments to propagate humanism. The government "has done it by its laws and court rulings" (p.18). 

Marxism is the most popular form of humanism. It also subscribes to the idea that only matter or energy is the ultimate reality. The conclusion of this kind of ideology is destructive to human individuality and only exalts the good of the State. The elite plays a significant role in setting up arbitrary laws for the State. 

After mentioning the power of the State, Schaeffer further identified two major results of humanistic worldview that are destructive to human individuality. These are "domestic oppression" and "international expansion and oppression" (p.20). Concerning domestic oppression, Lenin's statement was shocking. According to Shaeffer, for Lenin, the reason for the failure of "early attempts at revolution in France...was that their revolutionaries had not killed enough people" (ibid.). 

On Pacifism and Resistance

The first theme is done. Schaeffer proceeded to the second theme. He asked the question, what should be the Christian's biblical response in view of humanistic oppression both domestically and internationally? For him, pacifism is inconsistent to biblical realism and previous lessons in history. This would certainly lead into disaster. 

Schaeffer was calling for Christian resistance against any form of tyranny. In this, he agreed with Jacques Ellul's analysis of colonialism and Nazism. Citing Ellul, Schaffer agreed that Christians should not have waited until 1956 to respond, but should have exposed the evil of colonialism in 1930. Likewise, Christians should also have warned the world in 1934 or 1935 against the danger of Nazism. But instead of resistance, Christians during those years were all in unison advocating pacifism. And we are all familiar with the disastrous outcome of such unrealistic response. 

Personal Response

Reading Francis Schaeffer's speech made me realize the connection between humanism and all forms of tyranny. The existence of absolute standard rooted in Judeo-Christian worldview has no place in a society dominated by humanism. Unfortunately, society cannot survive without a basis for its actions. So the alternative is to come up with arbitrary laws, which are oppressive and destructive of human life and individuality. 

I think Schaeffer's description of the US is also true in the case of most countries today. I just could not comprehend how humanism has advanced since then. I think it's far more advance now than we could ever think of. I suspect, humanism has even reached within the Christianity's camp. 

Schaeffer mentioned about the use of both the civil government and the courts to spread humanism. This is the essence of Statism and since it is the most powerful humanistic tool, Christians ought to study its existing machineries and expose them for their true color. I see this as the only way for us to avoid the mistakes committed in the past that led to destructive results. 

Source: Schaeffer, F. A. 1982. "The Secular Humanistic Worldview versus The Christian Worldview and the Biblical Perspectives on Military Preparedness."

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