Vol. 2 - No. 2

February, 1983

Book Review

by Byron G. Gage

SECULAR HUMANISM: THREAT AND CHALLENGE, by Robert Webber, The Zondervan Corporation, 1982, is, in the words of the author, "a book about the recovery of an authentic Christian humanism and its confrontation with secular humanism." The resounding theme of the book appears to be that although "Secular Humanism" is indeed a threat to the church, America, and the world, "humanism°" of an authentic Chris­tian nature is much to be desired. The book is broken into three parts including The Humanist Debate, The Clash of Systems, and The Church in a Secular Society.

The first section in the book attempts to define humanism and then secular humanism, declar­ing that the two are not the same and distin­guishing between the two. In essence, the author is saying that all humanists are not necessarily secular humanists, and that all humanists are not necessarily bad humanists. He advocates a "Chris­tian Humanism" as being authentic and Biblical. He is highly critical of the Moral Majority's leader, Jerry Falwell, and author Tim LaHaye for their sweeping generalities concerning the evils of humanism (see LaHaye's THE BATTLE FOR THE MIND, Fleming H. Revell, 1980). The author seems to redefine humanism or at least to interpret its implications differently than I would. He states, "The term humanism refers to man and expresses his importance. All humanists, whether religious or nonreligious, agree that man and his welfare on earth is a matter of central interest." It is at this very point that I began to have uneasy feelings about the course of the book. To attribute to God and the Scriptures this philosophy is, at the least, misleading. The importance of man, the dignity of man, and the welfare of man are indeed subjects dealt with in the Scriptures but to state that his welfare on earth is of central interest introduces a humanistic position which is foreign to the Scrip­tures. Our Lord spent a great deal of time deem­phasizing the physical aspect of our existence and condemns the attitude of consuming concern and even anxiety over the material. His emphasis was on the spiritual aspect of man. This, indeed, includes our view of man as a whole and men in particular with reference to each one's right to compassion, love, consideration, and fair treat­ment. But, to say that man's welfare on earth is of central interest is to shift to the temporal, to the here and now, and to the arena of social reform.

The author's criticism of religious organizations entering the political realm is well taken. It is agreed that the individual's role and the church's role differ considerably. It is no more appropriate for the church to collectively enter politics than for politics or government to enter into the af­fairs of the church. However, as individual Chris­tians and citizens of the greatest nation on earth we must do all we can to stem the tide of anthro­pocentric doctrines which will be the downfall of the nation and the world. Until mankind submits himself to God and His will, understanding Him to be Sovereign in all the universe, our existence here, no matter how utopian we might make it, will be nothing but futility. To state or imply that the church's role is social reform is to remove it from its proper sphere. Social reform will be an automatic result of a society converted to Christ. It is the duty of the church as well as that of each individual Christian to teach and exempli­fy the principles of proper conduct, clean living, and godliness in this present world and to actively seek out others who will fear God and keep His commandments.

In distinguishing between secular humanism and religious humanism, the author excels. The book furnishes much good information regarding both positions. I believe that we must take men one more step beyond the author's "authentic Christian humanism" to the point of Christocentricity or a Christ-centered life. Care for humanity, proper behavior towards all, and a genuine effort at treat­ing others as we want to be treated are all results of the influence of Jesus. Christian humanist? No, just a Christian.