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Summer 2014: Humanism's Dead End
Publish date: Nov 17, 2014
Summary: Humanism's Dead End by Daniel Pel
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It took me a while to find the right title for this article. Yet, finally, “Humanism’s Dead End” reflects what has been running through my mind over the last weeks.
It began with a sermon. While I can’t and would not want to judge the motives of the presenter that morning, I came away a bit concerned. I thought to myself that something was missing, or to be more precise, Someone was missing. The sermon contained some good ideas and prescriptions to good and moral living, but there was no mention of the real Source of power to live that new life. Christ was simply left out. The cross was not mentioned. The Gospel was absent.
Humanism’s Influence on the Church
To give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe the presenter thought everyone knew where our strength comes from. However, what concerns me is that Christianity in the 21st century has been heavily influenced by humanism. Humanism thinks it has the solutions for a world spinning out of control. Interpersonal moralistic behavior, while denying the existence and power of God, is humanism’s attempt to solve what we all see has gone wrong. God is just not necessary in humanism’s equation. The basic idea is that we can solve our problems.
Just walk into a bookstore and you will find lots of books about how we can do better, earn more money, lose weight, have a happier marriage, be successful, influence people, and the list goes on. The common thread in these books is that the power to do and be better resides in us. Just unleash your potential! Discover the real you! Find the keys to the abundant life! However, the keys do not include the Gospel in these self-help books.
The church is often influenced by the culture in which it exists. At times the Gospel has been reduced to self-help motivational speeches. Though these types of books and sermons might contain good ideas, they fall short when trust is put in human effort. With all the ingredients for a better life at our fingertips, we still lack the power to change.
Two Opposing Messages
What fascinates me with the Bible is that it is extremely accurate in its diagnosis of humanity. While humanism says, “follow your heart”, the Bible says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Not a very flattering diagnosis, but an accurate one. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must admit the Bible’s description of the depravity of the human heart is correct. I guess the inspired words of the apostle Paul capture what we all go through at times:
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (Romans 7:15, 18-19).
We need to come to the point where we acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with us. There is a vital power source that is lacking. We try and try and try to change, but all attempts are in vain. Again the words of Paul echo in our minds:
“O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24)
As we gaze into the mirror of our lives, we realize that we cannot be the person we want to be. God’s ideal is, as it were, a million miles away. Yet the question Paul poses next contains the very key to set us free – free from sin, shame, condemnation, and humanism’s dead end. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
Want the Right Answer? Ask the Right Question.
You see, the question is not “What will deliver me?” or “Where do I find deliverance?” or “When will I find deliverance?” but rather “Who will deliver me?” Deliverance is not in some thing or some place or some time, but rather in some One! Paul does not leave us guessing who this is: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
Humanism has a dead end because the source of power cannot be found in us. We must look beyond ourselves. We need to tap into an external power that comes from the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Humanism has led us to ask the wrong question: “What will deliver me?” We try to find the answer in all places and through all programs, but in the end the self-help well runs dry.
This is not just a problem we face in the 21st century. Back in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God pinpointed the problem among His people. “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
It happened then, and it is happening again. This scenario has crystalized in recent history. It did not happen overnight. If we push the rewind button and go back to the mid-1800’s, we identify a worldview that became more and more prominent: Deism – the idea that God exists, but is somewhere far away. To make it simple: He lives upstairs and we are down here. Perhaps He now and then intervenes in human history, but that is it. You get the picture of an old man on a throne in the corner of the universe, now and then pulling the strings and influencing the events of our lives. But for the main part, He just does not seem to care.
Worldviews: The Domino Effect
At the point that Deism was at its height, it gave birth to another worldview: Darwinism. If God is so far away and not really involved with life down here, we might as well find an alternative explanation to the origin of life. The evolutionary theory, popularized by Darwin, spread across the globe. It gave birth to Atheism because now God, who was partially in the picture, can finally be removed all together. How convenient. But once the moral standard Giver is removed, who sets the standard? Yes, you guessed. Humanity does. And so, finally, a new worldview is born: Humanism. Since humans are the most developed species in the universe, all revolves around us. We have become the center of the universe, replacing God, our Creator.
There is no doubt in my mind that there is an enemy at work to bring about the domino effect of worldviews I just described. It has flooded our planet like a tsunami of destruction. It’s no doubt a masterpiece of deception, carefully designed to remove our confidence in our Savior Jesus Christ. And yet I am thrilled to say that it is a masterpiece of deception with a dead end! What can humanism give to the world? Good ideas? A plan of action? Ethical codes of behavior? Perhaps. But no power!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way out of this dead end road. Ravi Zacharias, the Christian apologist, put it very succinctly: “Unless I understand the Cross, I cannot understand why my commitment to what is right must be precedence over what I prefer.”
Humanism has no moral standard outside of us and therefore, ultimately deals with preferences. The cross reveals that our preferences will not do. The death of Jesus reveals the enormous consequences of rebellion and disobedience against God's holy, unchangeable law, which is the moral standard outside of us. The cross was not just a good idea or merely an expression of self-sacrifice. It was necessary! God’s perfect law had been broken. The only consequence is death and we all fall under this condemnation. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23 and 6:23). There is no strength in us to live up to this law. Jesus came, lived a perfect life of obedience, died and paid the price of sin for us. He rose victorious to impart power to all who believe and trust in Him. “Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Let these words sink in for a moment. He can save to the uttermost. He has the power to deliver us. If you find yourself in a dead end, there is a way out. Don’t believe the lie that there is another way. It saddens me to see Christians embrace the idea that all paths of spirituality lead to heaven. Before our very eyes we see a growing ecumenical movement bringing religions together. Unity is a word we hear over and over again. But unity without a platform of truth is another dead end. Ecumenism and humanism go hand in hand. There is an attempt to get along, but it involves a compromise of Biblical truth.
So what does it take to get out of the dead end of humanism? It does not take a worldview to repudiate a worldview. It takes men and women committed to God. The life of John the Baptist is such an example. It’s amazing how he suddenly appears on the scene with a Spirit-filled message, calling people to repentance. His call for revival and reformation challenged people to the core of their beings. And yet John had no recognized education, nor any political or religious authority. His authority was solely anchored in the divine call of God.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2).
Seven great political and religious rulers are listed. Yet none of them were used by God to bring revival and reformation! The word of God came to John. One man. One task. We are only one person away from making a difference in world history. God does not look at positions, political or religious, when choosing His servants. In a world where politics and religion had taken a wrong turn, John stood up, empowered by the One he announced as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
The Only Solution to Humanism’s Dead End: The True Power Source
Here we are in the end of time. Jesus is soon coming back a second time, as He promised. I truly believe that the world is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, but for a new demonstration of it! God is looking for a generation of men and women empowered like John the Baptist. This is how Christianity started and this is how it will end. The apostles of the first century were very clear about what they believed. Peter said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). No other name! Jesus is the only way.
If you are facing humanism’s dead end, it is high time to take a drastic turn into the only way of true power and lasting happiness. It’s the way of the Gospel.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the son of the living God (John 6:68-69).
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