In recent years, I have heard more and more about the cultural shift in the U.S. away from belief in a Higher Power to belief in Human Power. The human heart that has never known the goodness of God might instinctively cheer this at first: “Woo-hoo; we’re in charge! We can do what we want!” But just wait for that heart to be cheated and hurt by other humans doing what they want, and the cheers will fade to silence. For while we are capable of showing kindness and charity, humans are also vehicles for unspeakable evil. The evening news does not broadcast a story on the adoption of all the orphans in the world, then report on an end to animal cruelty. There is no interruption of an on-site report of peace in the Middle East with breaking news that poverty has been eradicated worldwide. Instead, updates on murder trials are followed with recaps of nasty political debates, summaries of economic decline, and accounts of the latest corporate scandals. These major stories, the times I have been let down, as well as my own personal faults and flaws make me wonder why anyone would want humans to be in control of this world.
But we’re not in control. God is. (cue Twila’s Paris’ hit from 1993). When Adam and Eve – the first two humans to inhabit Earth – were first created, they enjoyed intimacy with God and were free from trouble. To maintain this life in paradise, all they had to do was follow one command: not to eat fruit from one tree (the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; Genesis 2:16). The Bible does not disclose how long Adam and Eve enjoyed this existence, but by the third chapter of Genesis, Satan is on the scene, bent on destroying these perfect lives. He questions Eve on God’s sovereignty, and she decides to ignore God’s command. She eats the fruit. (Many front pew kids probably cry out loud, “Nooooo! Don’t eat it!!” whenever they read this story in the Bible.) Eve convinces Adam to share in her disobedience, and perfect humanity comes to an end (Genesis 3:1-7).
It is interesting to note that in Genesis 3:22, God says that man now knows “good and evil.” I will not delve too deeply into the philosophy of “If ‘evil’ does not exist, can ‘good’ exist since there is no way to contrast them?” (I will let someone with a Ph.D. handle that.) While Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, living in God’s presence, walking and talking with Him, that life was…just the way it was. There was no choice to worship God; to be was to love God and be one with Him. But once Adam and Eve were given the boot, the struggles and demands of their new realities got in the way of communion with God. Their choices, and the choices of their descendants, ranged from reverent to decent to okay to questionable to downright wicked. They turned away from God, then they turned to God, only to turn away from Him again. But God showed them He is always in control.
The Bible accounts myriad sins of mankind as well as the prescribed sacrifices and rituals to cleanse people from their sins until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, once salvation and forgiveness were offered through Jesus, sin did not disappear. In fact, that’s why people need Jesus’ grace and mercy today: we cannot live perfect lives because we are the children of Adam and Eve, fallen from grace. We can know and believe God is in control, but by instinct we like to take the reins away from Him. We want to charge when He says, “Slow down,” or halt when He says, “Go forward.” We cannot help it; we’re only human.
But for some people, the thought of obeying God – or another deity – is distasteful, and they prefer to follow the idea of humanism. According to the American Humanist Association, humanism – belief in the goodness of humanity rather than a Higher Power – may take on a “religious” or “secular” form, but both types have several points in common. Among them, that “Humanists recognize that intuitive feelings, hunches, speculation, flashes of inspiration, emotion, altered states of consciousness, and even religious experience, while not valid means to acquire knowledge, remain useful sources of ideas that can lead us to new ways of looking at the world” (Edwords, 2008). Herein lies the danger, since humans know both good and evil. What if one person has a “flash of inspiration” to buy a new car because, well, why not?, while another person sees the shiny new car and has a “flash of inspiration” to steal it because, well, why not? Without a Higher Power, without God, who holds us accountable for our actions, humans can justify living by their own desires. But if all people believed that God, who said, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) should be obeyed as our Creator and Judge, theft could not be justified.
The American Humanist Association summarizes humanism this way: “Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy for those in love with life” (Edwords, 2008). Well. Hands up, anyone who is in love with life every second of every day of every year. Hands up, anyone who never experiences the pain of a broken heart or a broken bone, anyone with limitless wealth who does not toil for it, anyone who lives in a sunshine-filled paradise, anyone who never mourns about modern-day slavery, anyone who is not trapped in slavery himself. The first sin spawned countless others that leave humanity in a conflicted world. Of course, we experience bright points as we move through life, but darkness can easily overshadow them.
Humanists do not believe in life after death, which makes me 1) pity them, and 2) wonder why they would want to live this way. Personally, the promise of a heavenly home keeps me strong through moments of weakness. While He was on Earth, Jesus comforted His disciples, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). To be with Jesus, the One who died for me, and to be in perfect union with God, the Creator of this world, for that I am willing to give up control.
Jesus told us to love others, but He did wants us to love God first. He wants us to look to Him both when we are distressed and when we are delighted. He wants us to remember He is in control, and when the world rails against us, we can take refuge in Him. This front pew kid hopes that the rush to humanism will slow to a trickle as people remember the goodness of God. But even if the rush instead turns to a tidal wave, I will remember God is in control, and He offers so much to those who love him. Man passages in the Psalms, especially Psalm 25:20-21, sum up this determination so well:
“Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.”
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Edwords, F. (2008). What is Humanism. Retrieved from http://americanhumanist.org/humanism/what_is_humanism
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