Christian Humanism

In a fascinating discussion with some Baylor University faculty the other night, the term Christian Humanism came up. I hadn’t heard the term used in years. For me, it evoked the example of Desiderius Erasmus from the fifteenth-sixteenth century, so it was interesting to hear some faculty describe themselves as contemporary Christian Humanists.
Then this morning I received an email from my friend Sivin Kit, recommending this post on … Christian humanism. Stephen Martin summarizes a lecture by South African theologian John de Gruchy. Several fascinating concepts are noted- all with special interest to me for their connection to A New Kind of Christianity. For example …
The idea of “Transforming Traditions” –

Tradition, de Gruchy began, is both outside us and given to us. Tradition shapes our Christian identity. But tradition is also dynamic, and constantly rediscovering itself. The new always grows out of the old; tradition constantly quests after new wineskins. This is an outworking of the Johannine idea that the Spirit is guide into truth. Tradition—and traditions—grow organically in continuity with the past. But they are also contested in the present, and especially contested within the church. De Gruchy signalled toward Alisdair MacIntyre’s idea of traditions as “continuities of conflict.” Christians are participants in historic debates.

Tradition isn’t, in this sense, opposed to innovation, but rather sees engagement with today’s world – including people of other religions, both inside and outside the academy – as an aspect of faithfulness:

But we also negotiate the boundaries of tradition by engaging those outside the broad Christian tradition as conversation partners. These might include academic critics of Christianity (Nietzsche comes especially to mind). But theology is not simply a dialogue within the academy, nor is it a conversation about written texts alone. The locus for theological reflection and Christian conversation is—as it has always been—the contemporary world.

Martin concludes with a list of characteristics of Christian humanism:

1. Christian humanism is inclusive. “Being human” names our primary identity.
2. Christian humanism affirms dignity and responsibility.
3. Christian humanism is open to insight into our common human condition wherever it is to be found.
4. Christian humanism claims that the love of God is inseparable from the love of others.
5. Christian humanism heralds a justice that transcends material and sectional well-being.
6. Christian humanism insists that goodness, truth, and beauty are inseparable.

I imagine that many others will see this articulation of contemporary Christian humanism as hospitable space for our quest for a new kind of Christian faith.