So why does one who is a Christian choose to write about the humanities? Are the humanities related to humanism? Isn’t humanism secular and opposed to religion? The wordsmiths at Lexico dotcom provide the following definitions:
Humanism: “An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”1
Humanities: “Learning or literature concerned with human culture, especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy.”2
The potential for the confusion came from the Renaissance, when artists and thinkers revitalized culture by looking back to ancient Greek and Roman thought. Thus, it is helpful to note the definition of Renaissance Humanism.
“Renaissance Humanism was an intellectual movement typified by a revived interest in the classical world and studies which focused not on religion but on what it is to be human.”3
I would add one word to the above definition. It should read “studies which focused not solely on religion.”
Others may accuse me of making a gross simplification of this subject. Still, I believe Renaissance Humanism was a response to the authority held by the Catholic Church after the fall of the Roman Empire. Think of what we call this period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance: the Dark Ages. Who controlled education? What were the topics of education?
The fascinating thing is that many of the Renaissance men identified as Christians. Biblical topics often served as their muse as they created the art (e.g., Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper). So, they were not rejecting the Divine or supernatural. Instead, these men began to look back at a time of more extensive scholarship with topics that pertained to the entire human condition (e.g., literature, arts, civics, etc.), not just the spiritual. Hence, a man may not live by bread alone, but he still must eat bread to live.
Since this time, humanism has moved beyond the ideals of the Renaissance. It has become divorced from God. It says that a man is his moral compass. He is god. You may have heard this ideology called “secular humanism.” Since modern humanism rejects the concept of a fallen world, its practitioners have this quixotic notion that man can somehow create a utopia despite being broken and inclined to self-will.
So, a holistic approach to education will include spiritual and secular material. As C.S. Lewis said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”4 I will occasionally post spiritual content here and weekly at The Preacher Pollard blog. However, as a humanities and social sciences student, I will also reflect on its influence on my craft.
1 “Humanism English Definition and Meaning.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/en/definition/humanism.
2 “Humanity English Definition and Meaning.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/en/definition/humanity.
3 Cartwright, Mark. “Renaissance Humanism.” World History Encyclopedia, World History Encyclopedia, 8 Apr. 2022, www.worldhistory.org/Renaissance_Humanism/.
4 “A Quote by C.S. Lewis.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/52604-education-without-values-as-useful-as-it-is-seems-rather.