Posted by: gcarkner | February 25, 2013

Great Works on Humanism

Christian humanism emphasizes the incarnational humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, his social teachings and his propensity to synthesize human spirituality and physical/social existence–body-soul integration. It regards humanist principles like universal human dignity and individual freedom and the primacy of human opportunity for flourishing as essential and principal components of, or at least compatible with, the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christian humanism can be perceived as a philosophical union of Judeo-Christian ethics and humanist principles. This lies at the roots of human rights discourse today (Glenn Tinder, The Political Meaning of Christianity)

Christian humanism has its roots in the traditional teaching that humans are made in the image of God, or in Latin the Imago Dei, which enhances individual worth and personal dignity. It is also rooted in the agape love discourse. Humans are shaped, valued and loved by God. This strong biblical expression in the Judeo-Christian attention to righteousness and social justice, including the prophetic tradition in Old & New Testaments. Its linkage to more secular philosophical humanism can be traced to the 2nd century, writings of Justin Martyr, an early theologian-apologist of the early Christian Church. While far from radical, Justin suggested a value in the achievements of classical culture in his Apology. Influential letters by Cappadocian Fathers, namely Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, confirmed the commitment to using preexisting secular knowledge, particularly as it touched the material world.

Cultural philosopher David Bentley Hart contends that these Fathers of the church preserved much of the classical Greek and Roman writing. Jens Zimmermann (Humanism & Religion: a call for renewal of Western culture), a current scholar on humanism at Trinity Western University, believes in the strong roots of humanism in the early Christian church (Eastern & Western Church Fathers), through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. He finds that Jacques Maritain  and Dietriche Bonheoffer have carried on the ancient tradition in the twentieth century. He holds that there is a rich tradition to recover for the world and society in our time.

UBC Lecture on Christian Humanism

Hear David Lyle Jeffrey on the topic in the GFCF Series:

Some Prominent Christian Humanists:

  • Blaise Pascal
  • Desiderius Erasmus
  • Irenaeus
  • Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Jacques Maritain
  • Henri de Lubac
  • John Henry Newman
  • Jim Wallis
  • Søren Kierkegaard
  • Thomas Merton
  • Thomas More
  • John Milton
  • Tony Campolo
  • T. S. Eliot
  • George Herbert
  • Oliver O’Donovan
  • St. Augustine
  • Ambrose
  • Bonaventure
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • David Martin
  • David Lyon
  • Jean Bethke Elshtain
  • Alan Jacobs
  • David Lyle Jeffrey
  • Roger Lundin
  • Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Fyodor Dosteoevsky
  • Miraslov Volf
  • Lamin Sanneh
  • James Skillen
  • Martin Luther
  • John Calvin
  • Thomas Acquinas
  • Charles Taylor
  • Alasdair MacIntyre
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff
  • Apostle Paul
  • Basil of Caesaria
  • John Chrysostom
  • Athanasius
  • Maximus the Confessor
  • John Damascene
  • Petrus Johannes Olivi (medieval theolgian)
  • Petrarch
  • Stephen Leacock
  • George Grant
    “The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the  living”   ~T.S. Eliot Little Gidding

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