Christian Humanism: Part 1, Christ and Human Nature

There's a theological perspective described as "Christian humanism." For my part, I would describe myself as a Christian humanist.

Regarding the "humanist" aspect, this flows out of my perspective as a psychologist. I'm very much concerned with how theological beliefs, church structures, and readings of Scripture promote or harm human flourishing. The human being and the human condition has a huge "say" in how I think theologically. In the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, experience plays a large role in my discernments. 

And yet, I'm a Christian humanist. And while there are divergent views that sail under that flag, let me share with you my particular take. 

Specifically, while I'm deeply concerned with human nature, I don't think human nature is a steady or reliably virtuous thing. Due to the radical plasticity, malleability, and receptivity of human nature, human persons can become deformed and twisted. Due to our cognitive biases and limitations we're prone to becoming lost and confused. We're also prone to environmental influences of all sorts that can capture and distort our attention and choices. Just ponder how social media is radically capturing and reshaping human nature and society. There was human nature before social media, and there is human nature after social media, affecting our mental, physical, social, and political health.

Consequently, I reject what might be called a "naive humanism," the view that human nature as it stands is steady and reliably tuned to health and virtue. Human nature is, rather, a bit of a sponge and a choose your own adventure. Human nature can become almost anything. That's its nature, its open-endedness, a potentiality that is both blessing and curse, promise and peril.  

And so, human nature needs a target, a vision of what "being human" should mean. Human nature requires a teacher and an education. That's where the Christian humanism shows up. For a Christian humanist, Christ is the vision of what "being human" should look like. Christ is the teacher, the syllabus, the curriculum, the classroom, and the exam. 

Pascal summed it up nicely: "Outside Jesus Christ we do not know what is our life, our death, God or ourselves." 

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