The Christian Origins of Humanism


We have come to think of humanism as something to oppose. Secular humanism represents what most Christians view as the advance of the secular state: policy proposals and decisions which are based upon the centrality and priority of human reason or rationality without reference to God at all, never mind any basis in the revelation given in Holy Scripture.

Perhaps advocates of the secular agenda and modern-day humanism might be surprised to learn that the origins of humanism are deeply Christian and that the ideas profoundly influenced many of the Reformers. We can see in the history of humanism enormous strengths which we can recover for the benefit of the Christian faith in the public square, whilst also recognising some characteristics which later developed into what we might indeed call secular, rationalistic, human-centred humanism. Originally, humanism was an expression of human flourishing under God, not apart from him. The ideas of humanism were foundational for the translation, accuracy and availability of the Scriptures in languages we could understand. We should not surrender the idea of human flourishing to the secular humanists; our belief is that such flourishing derives from our relationship with God.

Image attributions

Also see

Related Publications