The Inhumanity of Humanism

Dear Friends,

Most of you will have heard news coverage of the proposal made by letter to the Scottish Parliament jointly from the Humanist Society Scotland and the Church of Scotland to (I quote):

“remove reference to ‘religious observance’ in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, and...send a clear message that no one particular belief system is valued over any other... The change to a more equal and inclusive ‘time for reflection’ would bring legislation into line with modern views...

Both the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland also believe that requiring external visitors to schools to agree with the equality and diversity policy...would ameliorate situations which have arisen in the past.” ...This suggestion reflects a desire of both the Church and the Humanist Society search for common ground on which they can journey together”. [emphasis mine]

‘Journey together’ not just to remove Christian observance in schools, but, more sinisterly, using the language of ‘inclusivity’ to exclude from schools altogether Christians who teach Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We may be shocked at the national church declaring so publicly its alliance with a body dedicated to creating a completely godless society. But sadly we should not be surprised; the growing ‘common ground’ of rank unbelief is increasingly undeniable, save to those wilfully blind.

Our concern here is not to discuss the Church of Scotland’s position. But what all thinking Christians today must be clear about, and not blinded to by the seductive language of ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’, is the ruthless (we might say ‘fundamentalist’) secular agenda to try to get rid of God in our society altogether. This agenda is not new, of course. I recently came across a piece by my father in the Holyrood Record from 1965, responding to a TV interview with the outspoken Humanist, Margaret Knight, which struck me as remarkably contemporary even 50 years on. I think it is worth re-reading today. After referring to the broadcast, the piece continued:

“The word Humanist suggests someone who is interested in human nature and human affairs; and this is true, but the real point of Humanism as a creed is that its concern is with human life without reference to God. One of its current catch-phrases (and this is what Mrs Knight is concerned to propagate) is “Morals without Religion”, that is to say, the claim is made that God is not necessary to human life or to the establishment of an adequate pattern of morality in society. God, and particularly “the Christian God” is dismissed categorically as an outmoded idea, with some such comment as “Modern scientific thought has no longer any need of that (the idea of God) hypothesis”.

"Now, the thesis that underlies this kind of confident assertion is that in olden days the idea of “God” was used as an explanation of the many mysteries that confronted men in life, but that with the advance and development of knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, “natural” and scientific explanations of hitherto inexplicable facts have generally and steadily edged God out as a significant reality, until now, in our present stage of scientific and technological advancement, there is no need to “invent” God as an explanation of matters hitherto thought “supernatural”. Science can now explain them in scientific terms.

"It was with such an attitude that Mrs Knight began her broadcast. This, to her mind, disposes of God. As an argument, however, this is not very scientific; it is plausible only until you begin to think about it; then its inadequacy begins to be seen. For one thing, it betrays a confusion of thought which fails to distinguish things which are different. If, in fact, this were how matters stand between Science and the Christian Faith, if – to use C.S. Lewis's words, “the picture so often painted of Christians huddling together on an ever narrowing strip of beach while the incoming tide of “Science” mounts higher and higher” were true, then of course Humanists would be right. But in fact this is a misunderstanding of the situation. The Christian Faith is not disturbed by the advance in scientific knowledge; nor can any number of advances, however spectacular and decisive, ever have the effect of “leaving no room for God” in the universe, for the very good reason that the two kinds of “evidence” are on entirely different planes, and cannot affect one another.

"It would be possible for Science to explain the universe even more completely than it has yet been able to do, explain it in such a way that everything became explainable in scientific terms, without in the slightest altering the Biblical contention expressed in the words “In the beginning God”. For, in fact, when Science says its last and best word about the universe, we are still able to say, as the Christian Faith has always done, that there is another explanation to the universe – not, indeed, an alternative one, as if to suggest that it set itself up against the scientific – but additional one, from a different standpoint, which is deeper and fuller, and which also happens to explain science as everything else.

"A simple illustration will help us here. It is possible to explain with the greatest scientific precision, let us say, the picture that we see on a television screen (or a masterpiece hanging in the National Gallery) in terms of electrical and radio impulses on a cathode ray tube (or, in the case of the masterpiece, in terms of colour pigments, and so on). But the most complete explanation in scientific terms does not even begin to discuss the reality that lies behind the picture, namely, the decision of the television producer to create the programme (or the artist the picture). Is it not absurd to imagine that, provided you could give a complete technical and scientific explanation of the phenomenon of television (some scientists could), you would thereby completely squeeze out the very thought of the man behind its very existence?

"Yet, this is what the Humanist argument seeks and claims to do. It is too easy a way of getting rid of God! And this, in fact, is about all that such reasoning amounts to. It does not start with scientific evidence; it starts with an objection to God, and by a process of rationalisation transfers the antipathy towards God to so-called scientific arguments against his existence. This is what I meant earlier by saying that as an argument this is not very scientific, any more than another noted scientist, Professor D.M.S Watson, is, when he says: “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur, or....can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible”. Well, well! So this is science. This is keeping God out with a vengeance! It scarcely commends “the scientific attitude” however, to thinking people, and it gives us leave to question whether the “assured results” of modern science are always as assured as they might be.

"This brings me to another point. It has become almost a “stock-in-trade” argument with Humanists that Christian “experience” – God's providential care for us, his guidance in perplexity, his answers to our prayers, and so on – can he “explained” in purely naturalistic terms or as psychological phenomena which need have no reference to a supernatural Being at all. But this brings us back to our earlier illustration of the television picture. Even if it were possible to explain, say, an instance of Divine providence in a Christian's experience in terms of a purely natural chain of circumstances and coincidences (I suppose it could be done), science has not really said anything from the higher, or deeper, standpoint. Does God not use natural circumstances? Who created them, but He?

"This is a tiresome habit that many psychologists have got into. One becomes a little wearied at having one's experience of God explained away as concealed wish-fulfilment. It does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the psychologists, the sceptics and the agnostics and atheists might themselves need to be psychoanalysed, to have their scepticism and agnosticism “explained” to them, and shown to be, not a scientific attitude, but a specious rationalisation of a heart-rebellion against the God they do not like to retain in their knowledge. Why should their views be any less likely to be the result of psychological complexes, when they exclaim so vociferously that ours are?

"That is a point worthy of far more serious consideration than has ever been given it. But there is something even more thought-provoking and it is this: the position held by scientific Humanism, when taken to its ultimate issue and conclusion, is a logical absurdity. For, to be consistent, someone who denies the existence of God must make human reason his absolute (this is what the Humanist does). But that same consistency must make him hold (according to his theory of life) that reason is simply the chance, unforeseen and unintended product of mindless matter, with human minds (as we know them) dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio- chemistry on some “fortuitous concourse of atoms”. But if this is so, then the thoughts that such minds think about the existence of God are just as likely. All that Mrs Knight is entitled on these grounds to say – and this scarcely qualifies her to be an authority on matters of belief – is that she cannot be sure about anything.

"Which is what Paul found out about the first Humanists, the Greeks, long ago, when he said “the world by wisdom knew not God” and found in Athens, for whose ancient civilisation and culture Humanists have such admiration, an altar with the inscription “To the Unknown God”. This was Greek Humanism's confession of failure and need, a humility which its modern counterpart can scarcely be said to share. Indeed, it is modern Humanism's refusal to acknowledge a need for God that makes it so fundamentally anti-Christian, in spite of its many humanitarian qualities. For it is of the essence of the Humanist that he refuses to yield himself into the hands of any God, but on the contrary maintains his own independence. And the desire and determination to become independent of God is the heart and tragedy of sin, and, paradoxically, sin robs the Humanist (and us all) of humanity.

"It is not possible to be human (or humanist, rightly understood) without being saved into humanity by the God Who gave Himself for us in Jesus Christ. The Cross that is foolishness to the Greek (ancient or modern) and a stumbling block to the Jew is still a power beyond Mrs Knight's scientific calculations and understanding, and one that has been put to the test scientifically by countless men and women who have passed quite beyond the realm of hypothesis to that of verifiable practical experience. Those who taste and see that God is good prove that they are truly blest that trust in Him.”

Indeed. Humanism is just one name for what the bible calls sin, “not a scientific attitude, but a specious rationalisation of heart-rebellion against God.” And therefore it is the most dehumanising force of all, not just anti-Christian but inhuman.

Let us be clear, then, about the true inhumanity of Humanism. Far from ‘journeying together’ with it, let us devote ourselves to the propagation of true humanitarianism, the biblical gospel which alone restores to true humanity in Jesus Christ.

Yours, William J U Philip