Humanism: The Replacement of God with Man

Your 71-year-old father is in the hospital with a stroke and there is little hope for a good recovery. When your father does improve dramatically, to the doctors’ surprise, you tell your neighbor how your confidence in God was strengthened as a result. “Confidence in God?” your neighbor replies. “Why give God the glory? The doctors did what they are trained to do, your dad worked hard – why give away the credit?”

Why give glory to God? Why not just acknowledge man’s greatness? Why does faith in God need to come into play? This is the spirit of humanism. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God” (1John 4:1).

Is it possible that believers are impacted by humanistic thinking? Has your spiritual mindset been tainted by humanism?

The Deception

Humanism teaches that people should be responsible, resourceful, and diligent in solving problems that afflict our world. They affirm every individual’s dignity and aim for their full development. So far, so good, right? Scripture also teaches that men and women possess dignity – a dignity unique among God’s creation. Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). God has objectives for humanity that are higher than His plan to reconcile other aspects of creation (1Tim 2:4; Rom 8:29). Mankind does have tremendous capability and ingenuity. The problem is that several aspects of the humanist’s philosophy begin as slight skews of truth, but quickly morph into outright denials of God. Satan seized on the potential for such a mindset early in human history: “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5 ESV).

Its Definition

Humanism is man-centered philosophy. Man himself, not God’s glory, is the primary concern and our world’s problems can be solved by the intelligent effort of man. They gladly point to the United Nations to exemplify humanistic accomplishment. Any concept of faith is generally eschewed and supernatural revelation is rejected. They seek no higher source for moral values and do not normally believe in an afterlife. Colossians 1:12-29 clearly condemns their thinking.

The Demonic Result

Such wisdom is “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15 NAS). To borrow D. A. Carson’s phrase, humanism is another vain “attempt to de-god God.” God’s glory, power, and transcendence, as well as His involvement in our lives are all denied. The idolizing of man, even self, again comes to the fore. One author has poignantly described a humanistic culture: “We no longer feel … obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of preexisting cosmic rules. It is our creation now … we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever” (Jeremy Rifkin,Algeny).

Denunciation from Scripture

While man and woman were created very good, the entrance of sin in Genesis 3 changed everything. We cannot reach our potential without supernatural power. Our Lord taught, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). More than that, our objective must not be centered in ourselves or humanity, but “whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor 10:31). Much to the chagrin of the humanist, we need God’s help to do what we are supposed to do and are at “our best” when we are dependent upon Him (2Cor 12:10). The word to Zerubbabel is the sword of the Spirit against humanism: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech 4:6).

Young Christians may be pressured by humanism, particularly if studying sciences or arts at university. Humanists argue that their philosophy is obviously that of any thinking person. “Just look at the damage caused by brainwashed fundamentalists of all religions,” they claim. The believer may feel too humiliated to witness. Take courage! Humanists may make great discoveries, but all truth is God’s truth. While there are aspects of God and His works that exceed the capacity of our minds, the Christianity that God has given us in Scripture is an intelligent faith.

The Apostle Paul encountered unbelief in the supernatural. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:32). Interestingly, that was in Athens, and many humanists trace the origin of their philosophy to ancient Greek thinkers such as Socrates and Democritus. But Paul knew what his partner, Luke, knew about the progress of the gospel – we share God’s truth, but we need the Lord to open people’s hearts (see Lydia in Acts 16).

Danger to Churches of God

Rejecting arbitrary faith, humanism unashamedly admits it is a philosophy for today. But 2 Corinthians 4:18 counters, “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” But do we live by faith, and not by sight? Do we question God’s ability to work miraculously in our lives? Faith does not absolve us of our responsibility to act, but is captured by William Carey, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

The independence of humanism may afflict our prayer meetings as well. That is not to say that when a believer misses a prayer meeting he/she is a humanist! But does a lack of concern for corporate prayer reflect the influence of humanism? “Prayer isn’t going to help.” Truly, spiritual service requires spiritual power. Beloved, come together to lay hold of God and His power!

Humanism infects us by a persistent attack against the authority and relevance of Scripture. Is your confidence in the power of Scripture waning? We need believers who treat the Bible as it is – the living revelation from God – and give their minds to it in study, and apply its truth to the issues of life.

Lastly, leaders need to know and manifest spiritual guidance in their decisions in the assembly. It cannot be left merely to the dictates of natural thinking. Godly, Spirit-filled men, in contrast to the humanist, acknowledge that there is a “wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17), and with that needed help from God they will lead the assembly in a positive direction for God’s glory.