I realized when I posted my last article on faith that I use the term “humanistic” a lot in describing the kind of Christianity we’re coming out from under, and that it would probably be a good idea to take some time to define what I mean.
First of all, I’m not talking about humanism, which is a philosophy that man can do quite well without God. It would be safe to say that all Christians know that they need God in some fashion or another.
By saying, “humanistic,” I’m talking about a Christianity that is human-centered. It’s believing in Jesus but eating from the wrong Tree (“Knowledge of Good and Evil”), it’s a theology that keeps us in our own heads instead of His, based on rational thinking rather than renewed kingdom thinking.
It’s actually hiding from God behind religious fig leaves we’ve inherited from Adam, driven by a deep-seated fear to “do something” in order to somehow change God’s mind about us and win His approval. It’s sad, really.
It’s man-made religion with a Christian veneer, but as Robert Capon once said, Christianity is not a religion but the announcement of the end of religion.
This imposter keeps its victims stuck on a fruitless performance treadmill that only produces frustration and shame, always promising a destination but never actually taking us anywhere.
Humanistic Christianity is all about what we must do rather than what God has done.
I think this is one reason why some struggle with the fresh move of grace currently sweeping over the body of Christ. Although we would never think of it this way, the pure grace message robs us of our need to fix ourselves (and others!)
It’s not lost on me that this brand of Christianity was developed during the height of the post-medieval Enlightenment, which is a form of humanism, but I will make two points about this influence:
First, as Dr. C. Baxter Kruger points out, the Enlightenment was just Augustine’s stepchild who, while being a brilliant theologian, mixed Greek philosophy and Divine revelation. This unholy mixture captured the imaginations of God’s people for over a thousand years before the Reformation and played a major role in forming our Western Christian paradigm.
Secondly, even though the Reformers sincerely sought to counteract the rising tide of humanism of their day, it’s very hard to escape your own “normal” and think totally independent of a deeply entrenched cultural mindset. The result was that some of these humanistic ideas shaped our current “exegetical glasses” considerably, which form underlying assumptions that color how we now view Scripture.
Okay, that said, here’s why I think our traditional version of Christianity tends to be humanistic. I added scriptural references where I thought appropriate.
Our view of Christianity is humanistic when…
…our message is about asking Jesus into our life when He has brought us into His life.
…we think we must do something to be forgiven and reconciled to God, rather than believe something—that we were forgiven and reconciled at the Cross (2 Cor.5:19; Col.2:13).
…we think we must do something for God to love us when He already loves us infinitely and unconditionally, even while we were sinners and made Him our enemy (Rom.5:8; Col.1:21).
…we attempt to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength without learning how to receive His love first (1 John 4:19). The former is an exercise in futility without the latter.
…we come to Christ to escape hell, the Great Tribulation, judgment, or to have Him fix our life, etc. In other words, it’s all about us, our self-preservation.
…it’s about following principles and rules instead of entering into the same dynamic fellowship in the triune Godhead that He’s had within Himself from eternity (John 17:3, 24; 1 John 1:3).
…we turn being “seated with Christ in heavenly places” (Eph.2:6) into a positional theory, making it have no practical effect in our lives
…we accept being saved by grace but then think following any part of the law will keep us there (Gal.3:1-5; Col.2:6)
…we’re still trying to crucify ourselves rather than believe we were crucified with Christ (Rom.6:6; Gal.2:20; Col.3:3)
…we think our bad behavior will cause us to lose our salvation, which only proves that we still think good behavior saved us in the first place (Eph.2:8-9)
…we strive to conjure up enough faith instead of resting in His faith (Gal.2:20)
…we follow the Ten Commandments instead of Christ (Gal.3:24-25)
…we think godly behavior comes from trying harder rather than it being a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23)
…it’s more about following religious ritual than the reality of the new creation (Gal.6:15)
…we focus on moral restraint rather than walking in the Spirit (Gal.5:16)
…we try to attain to righteousness rather than obtain Christ’s righteousness as a free gift (Rom.5:17; 2 Cor.5:21)
…grace is seen as unmerited favor rather than the power to live Christ’s life (Titus 2:12)
…we think we can “make Jesus Lord.” We can do no such thing! God made Jesus Lord of all; we can only accept this reality (Phil.2:9-11).
…we think answering an altar call and saying a “sinner’s prayer” saved us. Jesus saved us! The only question is, do we believe it already happened at the Cross?
…we think repentance is about being sorry for our sins when it’s about changing our mind from what we think to agreeing with what God thinks (Rom.12:2; 1 Cor.2:12-16).
…we think we still lack something rather than learning how to believe that we already have everything in Christ (Col.2:10)
These are just a few of the symptoms of our popular humanistic Christianity. They’re all focused on us rather than God, trying to do something that’s already finished, only making us sin-conscious rather than God-conscious.
You may or may not agree with all of them. That’s quite okay, they’re just some of my thoughts on the subject. It’s not about what I believe anyway; it’s about what God believes.