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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 22 Mar 2002

Christian Humanism QUESTION from Greg Robson November 30, 1999 Hi. I'm a Catholic teacher in Alberta. I teach all my courses on-line. I'm teaching 3 Religion programs, this year.
I need some help.
I'm trying to find a clear, concise definition of Christian Humanism. There are many references to Christian Humanism ... from Paul IV to Vatican II to John Paul II. However, I haven't come across any definition that I would be able to present to Senior High students.
Can you help?
Thanks for your time. Peace.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 1, 1999 Dear Mr. Robson:
Humanism as an historical movement was promoted by the nobility in the 14th and 15th centuries as a justification of the Renaissance -- a basing of all art and learning on the culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It sought a neutral approach and was opposed to Scholasticism.
This neutral approach came to dominate the worldview of the 15th century culture. Even several popes such as Nicholas V, Pius II, and Leo X championed it.
Erasmas tried to develop a Christian philosophy by going back to the Scholastics.
There were several forms of humanism, but the common denominator, I think, was that Humanism was not tempered by control. It produced the likes of Carlo Aretino and Machiavelli and well as Dean Colet and St. Thomas More. And humanism helped to pave the way to the Revolution (Reformation).
From the Sunday Visitor Catholic Encyclopedia we have the following as a definition of a Christian Humanism as opposed to a non-Christian humanism (the key phrases in bold):
Christian humanism asserts that true human existence involves the eschatological transformation of humanity by God. It does not see Christianity itself as an alien force imposed on humanity, and it regards its own development as the authentic development of humanity. Many Christian humanists have sought to reconcile Christian salvation history with evolution and Christian eschatology and Marxism. Christianity confronts atheistic humanism with the claim that humanity has never been able to achieve its destiny becasue it has denied the historical and interpersonal character of our human striving and because it has denied the role of religion in human development. Recognizing this historical and interpersonal character of humanity, Christian humanism regards Jesus Christ as essential for full human flourishing because of His historical and interpersonal character. In essence, Christian humanism sees that human potential can only be achieved, and man's destiny realized, only through Jesus Christ who is both historical and interpersonal. It is only through Christ have we truly come to know what it is to be human. Chirst is our epistomology. Christ is our ontology through which we discover our true being as a creature of the Creator and our place in God's universe and salvation plan.
Non-Christian humanism tries to assert a totally inward potential, inherent within man himself, without God, and existent in a spiritual sense only in the classical Greek sense at best. Man is autonomous.
As children of the One True God, we know better. We know that humanity cannot be defined, cannot evolve, cannot realize its potential except through Christ.
Hope this helps you at least a little.
God Bless.
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