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We are all humanists

This blog was started a while ago. It’s slightly coincidental that it is published on Father’s Day:

My dad was never sure of what he believed in, or didn’t believe in. When at 14, I became a Christian, his response was “I went through a religious phase when I was your age too.” Time showed him that my experience was neither a phase nor religious: I hope he saw that it was simply real faith.

Though I learnt a lot from him. Once when he tried to explain his beliefs, he said “I think I’d say I’m a humanist.” His young son, of course, asked “what’s a humanist, Daddy?” His answer was quite good: “well, you know how the Bible says that God created man in his own image? Humanists believe that man created God in HIS own image.” Now I’m not expecting a retort about the historical development of humanism and how some were very religious, or how it is misunderstood or misinterpreted: I’m simply referring to the modern humanist view that religion may or may not be a good thing, or archaic, or irrelevant, but that it is a human invention (as opposed to current atheism that decries religion as evil, e.g. Richard Dawkins). I don’t know exactly where that quote originated, it may have been Muller or Shaw, or my Dad may have coined it in his own words.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand just why this view would come about: I find so many different ‘pictures’ or interpretations of God amongst fellow believers that I wonder if we all describe the same God when we talk about him to others. For many, he is an angry, vengeful being who can only be dissuaded from destroying us all by mighty saints like Abraham and Moses who pleaded with Him not to wipe some people out, or by Christ, who only just managed to get us all a pardon from His Father’s wrath. Others portray him as a judge, with a long list of ‘Thou Shalt Not’s on his desk that he checks meticulously while eyeing us suspiciously over half-moon glasses.

Again, I’ve been following a devotional by John Piper (whom I heartily recommend for refreshingly insightful and prophetic devotions on the best known scriptures) about how we are made for his glory, but have fallen short of the mark (Rom. 3:23). It is from Romans 1:23 that he points out how humans foolishly “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being…and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” (1:23, 25). Piper shows how we gazed into the mirror that reflected God’s glory in us, but soon fell in love with our own image and started to look out for our own desires. Those who peddle the picture of God as one who “wants you to prosper in all things” springs to my mind; if you desire material things, you’ll see God simply as a supplier of those things (“Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?”)

Yet we can all portray the image of a God that fits our world view: We ARE all humanists! We show to others a face or facet of God that may or may not be part of his nature or character, and THAT is an image that others WILL see in us, for we are his representatives on Earth. Others cannot see God, so how we portray him in what we say and what we do is vital! Pray that we present an image of him that he would want us to, not what we THINK he is!

 

BTW, for me all religion is just a human way of codifying or structuring how we approach and worship God, it is FAITH in Christ only that matters.

Grace be with you.

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