WE OFTEN hear comments like ‘You don’t have to be religious to be good’. Undoubtedly there are many non-believers who seem to be more kind, selfless and empathetic than many professing Christians. This is particularly true of Humanists. Humanism is one of the dominant philosophies in the modern world. This is a summary of Humanist belief:
The Golden Rule
At face value, Humanism and Christianity share important values. In common with many other belief systems, they embrace the moral principle known as the ‘Golden Rule’ which states that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves. The term ‘Golden Rule’ is not in the Bible, but the principle most certainly is. Centuries before Christianity or Humanism it was in the Law of Moses:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18).
It was later endorsed by Jesus (for example in Matthew 19:19), who enlarged on what it means to his followers, including doing good to our enemies (Matthew 5:44). James in his letter called it the ‘royal law’ (James 2:8).
Humanists argue that the Golden Rule is ‘largely humanist’ and derived from human feelings and experience. But Leviticus 19:18 states that it is a commandment of God.
One of the main axioms of Humanism is that we can deduce moral principles using empathy and human reasoning. Humanists argue that they use science and reasoning rather than religious thought or holy books to guide them in their lives. They emphasise the importance of experiment to establish truth, and consequently deny both the existence of God and any afterlife. They believe that there is no purpose to the universe and that happiness is to be gained in the pleasures of this life since that is all there is.
Humanism and Christianity are therefore diametrically opposed. This is exemplified in the table below.
Humanists state that they prefer critical thinking and evidence to doctrine or faith. They emphasise the fact that human beings have the ability to ask questions and also believe that we can answer many of those questions ourselves.
Quite clearly we cannot do an experiment to test the hypothesis that there is a God. Nor, however, can we prove that there is no God. The Bible is quite clear that
the afterlife it describes is only for those who love and try to obey God—so non-believers are correct: for them there is no afterlife.
Humanists imply that religious belief is effectively ‘blind’, that is without evidence or logical reasoning. However, true Bible students do not blindly follow doctrines, but are encouraged to understand revealed Bible truth using reasoning (John 10:37–38; Acts 17:11; I Thessalonians 5:20–21). They examine the evidence for the truth of the Bible. For example:
• the history of the Jews
• fulfilled prophecy
• historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
We can examine the statements made in the Bible and establish whether or not they are consistent with each other and also test the Bible’s predictions against what we can observe. This is exactly the method used by scientists to test theories that are not amenable to formal experiment.
Moreover, the Bible says that God requires faith in things that cannot be proved in order to be acceptable to Him:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Hebrews chapter 11 is all about faith—what it is, why it’s vital, and the difference it makes to life.
Different Starting Points
We interpret evidence in the context of our fundamental belief system. So nowadays atheists will look at nature and see apparent evidence of evolution, whereas a Bible believer will see evidence of God:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? (Psalm 8:3–4).
So it is critically important to make sure that our fundamental belief system is correct. This is where Humanists and Christians differ.
On closer examination, even the Golden Rule is not the same in Humanism and Christianity. According to Jesus it is actually a secondary rule—the primary commandment is to love God.
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35–40).
In I Corinthians 13 Paul makes a startling statement about the motivations for our actions. The chapter is well worth reading, but the following verse is hard-hitting:
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing
(I Corinthians 13:3).
The motivation has to be godly, not humanistic. Following the Golden Rule is not in itself enough. A love for God has to be at the centre of all aspects of a Christian’s life.
It Does Matter
So despite seeming similar, Humanists and Christians are as ‘different as chalk and cheese’. Humanists see themselves as the ultimate authority and their focus is primarily on fellow humans in this life. Christians trust in God’s revealed Word, with limited interest in things of this life, seeking a better life (Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 11:13–16) when they can share the divine nature of the God they worship (2 Peter 1:4). Some things are invisible and cannot be inferred from observation (2 Corinthians 4:18). So Christians revere Bible teaching as superior to human deduction.
If the Bible is correct (as we believe) then Humanism is lethal. Conclusions from human reasoning are not necessarily wrong, but when they contradict the Bible they should be rejected. Humanists imply that Bible-believers are not interested in evidence. This is untrue. But we each need to decide: no decision, or agnosticism, is in fact a decision to reject the offer of eternal life. So we beg you, as a matter of urgency, to investigate the claims of the Bible.