A biblical assessment of the Humanist Manifesto, Part 1
[1 Corinthians 2:14]

By T.C. Howitt

Nov 21, 2016

In response to an article from The American Humanist Association: Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933

The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and traces its history back to 1927, when professors at the University of Chicago began publishing a magazine declaring their philosophy. Their worldview is summarized most succinctly in their tagline: “good without a god.” Known variously as secular humanism, naturalism and scientific materialism, their intellectual tradition traces back to 17th- and 18th-century ideas about the supremacy of scientific rationalism over spiritualism and religion. They prefer an agnostic position over an atheistic one, eschewing a definitive answer on the subject, describing their belief as “nontheistic.”

Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study determined that only 3.1 percent of Americans identify as atheist, but the number of people who would identify with humanist principles is much, much larger, even straying into Christian camps in the form of “works righteousness” denominations and the ever-popular and widely televised “prosperity gospel.”

The emphasis here is not so much theological, questioning God’s attributes or existence, as it is soteriological, concerned with who and what can save us and what it means to be saved – is it God and faith that saves and rewards with eternal deliverance in heaven to be with our Lord, or ourselves and our good works that saves us in this world for the time being? In their own words, humanists believe “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” Today, they put a heavy emphasis on their ability to live ethical and praiseworthy lives strictly in terms of altruistic goodwill toward fellow human beings, charitable works and a respect for the natural world.

While their emphasis may not be atheistic, humanists nonetheless deny the whole truth of the Bible that teaches God’s saving grace through belief in Jesus Christ as savior, and the result according to the gospel is the same as outright unbelief: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

In the Bible, Paul the apostle warns, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

In that spirit, this series of posts seeks to shed light on this benighted movement by comparing it to biblical teachings. Humanism is darkness disguised as enlightenment, just as Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Hearing the word preached, some will come to faith and see the light, but many more will remain in the dark. The apostle John, describing Jesus as the true Light says, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5). Those who God has not drawn to Him simply won’t get it, but for those who believe, preaching is the power of God to save.

In this first part, I’m going to annotate only the opening sentence of the Humanist Manifesto. By going through this false doctrine line by line and connecting it to the Bible, this is like expository preaching turned inside-out. I hope it sheds some light.

The Humanist Manifesto begins (with my annotations noted in brackets),

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life [1] that, without supernaturalism [2], affirms our ability and responsibility to lead [3] ethical lives [4] of personal fulfillment [5] that aspire [6] to the greater good of humanity [7].

  1. Philosophy, like science, is perpetually progressive, always a work-in-progress, endlessly leading somewhere and yet never arriving. The word “progressive” is a euphemism meaning inconclusive, imperfect, varying, relative, limited and, consequently, false. In contrast, God has delivered His revelation complete for all to see, His work accomplished in Jesus Christ. The one true living God of the Bible is definitive, perfect, invariant, objective, eternal and true. Unbelief in the existence of God notwithstanding, these are the undisputed attributes of God described in the Bible, and they stand in profound contradiction to humanist “progressive philosophy.”

  2. It is noteworthy that at the outset the manifesto denies the existence of the supernatural, which is a dogmatic assertion rather than a point of reason. The creation of the universe cannot be rationally understood without presupposing a supernatural cause – that is, something working outside and above nature to create nature. Since the existence of nature necessitates the existence of the supernatural to bring it about in the first place, denying the supernatural cause of creation is to deny nature whose evidence can be seen everywhere. Thus the Bible reads, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20a).

  3. The alternative to asserting our own ability and responsibility to lead would be to affirm God’s ability and responsibility to lead us instead. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

  4. What is ethical for humanists beyond satisfying their own desires? If considered from the perspective of human will alone, as humanism dictates because the existence of a higher order is explicitly denied, then altruism, charity, love and meaning of life all reduce to mere selfishness, whim, self-righteousness, self-glorification and utilitarian propagation of the species. Selfishness is indeed the true heart of humanism.

  5. Here is the whole agenda of humanism summarized in two words: personal fulfillment. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves” (2 Timothy 3:1-2a).

  6. Humanists aspire to be their own gods, either directly or indirectly by supplanting Him through their own puffed up knowledge, or science so-called (1 Timothy 6:20). God’s wisdom is seen by those who lack the Holy Spirit as foolishness, while their own wisdom will be brought to foolishness by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1).

  7. Humanists may honestly think they’re working for the greater good separate from God, but the Bible condemns these speculations. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Lord willing, I’ll deconstruct the rest of the Humanist Manifesto in future articles.