Thinking like a Christian Part 3: A Call for Christian Humanism -- By: D. Bruce Lockerbie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 143:571 (Jul 1986)
Article: Thinking like a Christian Part 3: A Call for Christian Humanism
Author: D. Bruce Lockerbie


Thinking like a Christian
Part 3:
A Call for Christian Humanism

D. Bruce Lockerbie

[D. Bruce Lockerbie, Staley Scholar-in-Residence, The Stony Brook School, Stony Brook, New York]

[Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 5–8, 1985.]

The novel The Great Gatsby ends with Nick Carraway, the narrator, musing on what he calls “the last and greatest of all human dreams.”1 It is that, certainly: the last and greatest, as F. Scott Fitzgerald writes; but it is also the first and foremost, the primary dream. Anthropologists and students of myth recognize it as such; even casual readers of the Bible find this same dream tracing its way from Eden to Mount Ararat and beyond to a midnight conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and an itinerant Teacher from Nazareth. This “last and greatest of all human dreams,” this first and foremost aspiration, is the dream of starting all over again.

Other similar expressions are in use, such as “turning over a new leaf,” “making a fresh start,” “creating a new identity,” “achieving a new consciousness.” The hope contained in these terms is that, somehow—by an act of the will, by a physical uprooting from one location to another, by a deliberate change in behavior—new conditions can be formed that will lead to a happier life.

In specifically Christian terms, this experience is provided for by the new birth—being born again. The gospel offers this hope in spiritual rebirth by faith, regeneration, and renewal. Indeed Christians look back to their time of rebirth; but they can also look forward to a time when God the Creator will fulfill His promise to make everything new, the ἀποκατάστασις (“restoration”) of prophecy and apostolic preaching.

Defining Humanism

This is God’s plan, to be performed in God’s time. But to the God-denying secularist, for whom there is no supernatural dimension, no ultimate power outside this natural sphere, “God’s plan” and “God’s time” are nonsense. If anything new is to come about, says secular man, it will happen only because human beings themselves achieve it. This certainty, this self-assurance, stems from the belief, declared by Protagoras in the fifth century B.C., that “man is the measure of all things.”2 This is the philosophy of the egocentric self, the vanity that exalts the individual over any other au...

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