Summary: Part 4 based on the book by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale: Secular humanism believes we can look to human advancement for justice, peace, and the end of suffering. In sharp contrast, Christianity teaches that the only way for us to truly live is to remove ourselves from the equation.
Humanism (also known as progressivism) is based on relativism and the idea that human advancement is the solution to injustice, war, and suffering. Like most worldly reasoning or false teachings in the church, there some truth in this reasoning. The Christian and Biblical world-view that God uses people to accomplish His will, including peace and justice. The Christian understands that man is made in the image of God, Imago Dei.
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Where Secular Humanism breaks from Biblical Christianity is an understanding of man’s need for and dependence on God. This is rooted in the framework of Relativism. And so this week we are considering Relativism and Humanism together. Relativism, especially when it pertains to morality, is devasting to society, and we are seeing this devastation in the west.
In cooking, you may say I prefer something spicy while another prefers something mild. That is a relative reference to food. When you apply this to truth and morality, it has devastating consequences. How does one determine what is good and what is evil? In the United States, we are taught to love our neighbor, in Cambodia, they eat their neighbor, which do you prefer? If you remove God as the moral foundation and moral law given, who determines which is good?
We must have a fixed point of reference to; otherwise, we are continually moving a moral goalpost based on preference. Relativism is disorienting. One of the most disorienting situations I can think of is when I’m sitting in my car at a stoplight, or parking space, and the car next to me begins to move. Immediately my foot smashes on the brake and then I begin to find a fixed object like a tree or building to reorient myself.
Moral Relativism makes movable what God intends to be fixed and immoveable. In fact, in Relativism, everything is moving. How does a person, much less a society fixate itself? It cannot. So what begins to happen is the elitists, kill the “imago dei” and place themselves as gods. And it is at these points in history when the very things that humanism claims to provide answers that they are at their worst. We’ve killed more people through war and violence in the 20th century than the previous 19 centuries put together
I. The Root of Relativism is found in the Garden
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17)
The first thing to say is that “knowing good and evil” does not refer to the possession of information like one would “know” the capital of Virginia or know the periodical table. It is an active phrase, and refers to discernment between good and evil, or more simply, making judgments.
There was no magic in the fruit that one could eat from and have informational knowledge. The temptation was not to achieve omniscience. The tree represented for Adam the choice between submitting to God’s law or pursuing moral autonomy: to fear the Lord (the beginning of wisdom), or making himself the judge. This is what the serpent used to tempt Eve: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). That is, you shall judge for yourselves.
Thus when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge, relativism was born. They made God irrelevant in their own hearts and placed themselves on the moral throne. The immovable law of God was now perceived as moveable by man. God was no longer the fixed point of reference for morality and discerning what was good and what was evil. Adam and Eve killed that part of the imago dei. Man is expelled from the garden, sin separates us from God, and we are born spiritually dead.
“The problem with the Christian faith is not that it has been tried and found wanting but that it has been found difficult and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton
There’s something else here as well. Their primary purpose in life was not to enjoy themselves in this garden but to love God. In eating of the fruit, man's life lost meaning. Now think about that for a moment. We’ve asked what it means to be made in the image of God, but what does it mean to be fully human? To be human involves not just expressing the things that derive from God’s image. It also involves obeying the designs of the one who made us. That is where relativism fails and where secular humanism becomes so destructive.