Christian Humanism: comments on a report

A blog post by Stephen Law appeared in my news feed this morning: Humanists Should be Christians, argues new Theos report. He discusses a recent report from Theos, a religious thinktank: The Case for Christian Humanism: Why Christians should believe in humanism, and humanists in Christianity.

Stephen’s post addresses the three central arguments of the report:

  • Argument 1: Belief in Human Dignity Requires Christianity
  • Argument 2: objective morality requires theism
  • Argument 3: Reason Requires God

(By the way, a summary by the authors can be read here.)

I’m not going to rehash Stephen’s demolition of these arguments—you can read the short post yourself—but I was moved to read the complete report. It purports to be a scholarly work; there are lots of references to authorities of various kinds with appropriate citations (and quite a few big words that I had to look up). The report’s about 60 pages, if you ignore the citations and ancillary blurb; I highlighted parts as I read through.

On evolution:

The Christian claim is that only intentional explanation can adequately account for the existence and character of our universe. As we have stressed already, this is not a form of explanation that seeks to compete with evolutionary biology or the physical sciences. When Christian humanism explains why our faculties of reasoning are reliable, it takes the phenomena described by the sciences (namely, the initial conditions of the universe, the fundamental laws of physics, and the chemical and biological processes by which life, consciousness and the capacity for rational thought emerge) to be the means by which a loving God has chosen to achieve his purposes.

Intentional Explanation: IE. Only one letter changed. And…

In the area of our rational faculities, the Christian story is likewise intended to complement that offered by evolutionary biology. In neither area is there any suggestion that the scientific theories are wrong, but rather that, when taken in isolation, or ‘totalised’ as atheistic worldviews, they leave certain characteristics of the world unexplained (in one case, the fact our cognitive capacities track an objective truth, and in the other, the fact that the universe is so fine-tuned in its capacity to sustain life).

On reason:

Catholic teaching does not place faith in some kind of opposition to reason, but rather regards belief and trust in God as a “reasonable” response to the evidence – both the nature of the world around us, and God’s self-revelation in Christ, the Scriptures and the Church. Indeed, John Paul II specifically criticises fideism (the belief that faith is independent of reason) for “fail[ing] to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God.”

It seems to me that all this verbiage can be distilled into three words: God did it!

Or perhaps not, one final quote:

The wider credibility of the Christian story is outside the scope of this essay. What is clear is that if the Christian story is true, then there is a credible explanation of the reliability of our capacity for reasoning.

No, there isn’t.

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