Christian Humanism: Part 2, The Training to Become a Human Being

Before pushing on to a second pillar of my Christian humanism, a post to pause and note an implication of the last post.

Specifically, in describing human nature as pliable and adaptable, I stated that human nature requires direction and education. Christ, in Christian humanism, is both that direction and education. We see this in Christ's preferred self-description as the Son of Man. As students of Hebrew know, "Son of Man" simply means human, or human being. Taking that cue, the CEB translation translates the traditional "Son of Man" as "the Human One." Jesus comes to us as the Human Being. We become human was we emulate the Human One.

The implication here is that it takes training to become a human being.

I've told this story before, how a man once shared with me the journey of his father. When this man was younger, his father was, well, not very pleasant or kind. But as the father aged he grew into a different person. In his final years a beautiful and gracious person had come to replace the meanness of his youthful self. Reflecting on the change the years wrought in his father, the son shared with me, "It takes a lifetime to become a human being."

Yes it does. That is what I mean by training and education. Of course we're born human, but that humanity is immature and very much a work in progress. Let's all reflect back on the person we were when we were younger. The humanity latent in each of us takes time to grow and mature. Like that father, we become more and more human.

This is how Christian humanism differs from what I described as "naive humanism." In naive humanism we take human nature, all of it, as "human." And from a biological perspective, that is certainly true. Anything humans do is human. The serial killers, the sex traffickers, the child abusers. The meanness, the bullying, the indifference. All this is human. By contrast, Christian humanism spotlights the moral and spiritual aspects of human nature, the proverbial "better angels" of our nature. That which is humane within our humanity. Our capacities for the true, the beautiful and the good. Our moral courage. Our ability to love sacrificially. These are the virtues that make us human. 

Of course, most humanists would agree with this sentiment. But why? What justifies setting the Judeo-Christian vision of the human above other possible humanities? More, if you agree with the Judeo-Christian vision of "the human being," what does your humanism provide by way of training and virtue formation? Where are your teachers, syllabi, schools, and curricula? Or are you expecting true, beautiful and good human beings to just spontaneously emerge as we wander from screen to screen in this digital age, everyone clicking their way into wisdom, humility, generosity and love? 

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