Religious Humanism

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 8, 2015 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

In the last two weeks, I addressed two competing answers to one of the questions many of us ask: What is the purpose of life? The two major competing answers are “for the glory of God” and “for the happiness of man.” These are two diabolically opposing positions because both have two competing objects/persons of worship. Yet, there are many people out there that ask: “Why not both?” Why can’t we serve both God and our desires? From an intellectual standpoint, this does not make sense because God clearly states in the first three of the Ten Commandments that he will not share the stage with anyone or anything. Yet, in practice, if you really think about it, we’ve all tried to serve both God and man simultaneously. This is a compromise I am calling “Religious Humanism.”

“Religious Humanism” really is an oxymoron because logically, it really does not make any sense. How can you give glory to God while serving your desires at the same time? In reality you cannot, but countless people try. Jesus said plainly, “You cannot serve two masters.” He did not say that because he was trying to be legalistic. He said that because he knew what actually happens when one tries. No person has been able to serve both God and money. No person has been able to serve both God and family. No person has been able to serve both God and their job. No person has been able to serve both God and science. And no person has been able to serve both God and self. What do I mean by “serve”? I am not talking about each of these things as being bad. Jesus never called money bad. But he did call the “love of money” a root of all kind of evil. It is the worship of money, the worship of all these things I listed, via putting them in the place of highest authority; a place that only God should have.

Religious Humanism splits a person’s worship between God and self, and Jesus makes it very clear that you are going to serve one or the other. Two weeks ago, I asked if God is the end of the means or if he is a means to an end. Is God the purpose and the reason for doing what you do, or are you using him as a means to achieve a personal goal? Paul gives us a lot of warnings about those who are false teachers and whose God is their belly. Here are two of them: Romans 16:17-18 and Philippians 3:17-19. What is he talking about? He is addressing people who claim to be Christians, who are claiming to be preachers of the truth, but their whole purpose for doing so is feeding themselves.

When I hear of this or think of this, the Prosperity Gospel comes to mind. The whole idea of it is “Give your money to God, follow God, and worship him, so he will bless you financially and give you the desires of the heart.” Now there are some Scriptures that do promise success for obedience, but nowhere does Scripture identify these blessings as the reason we should do anything. Deuteronomy has three chapters of the blessings and curses for obeying or disobeying God’s laws. Sowing and reaping are Godly principles, but what I am trying to address is why we do stuff. What is our motive? Sowing and reaping is a good business practice. Jesus did not condemn that. He did warn about those who have large barns, and then decide to build bigger barns to show off their wealth. We have to recognize we are stewards of the resources given us, not the owners.

The Prosperity Gospel is just one of the fruits of this Religious Humanism. These people only believe the Bible or the Gospel for what they can get out of it. And these people are not willing to count the cost for doing so. Yes, we talk about a “free” gift and we’ll be addressing that in more detail in two weeks when we discuss Romans 6:23. But this is only free in that we cannot earn it. There is NOTHING free in this world. It always costs someone something. Our salvation cost the perfect, sinless, only begotten Son of God his life. And in today’s American Christianity, we’ve watered down that fact to where the “Gospel” is nothing more than agreeing to a few doctrinal statements, saying a prayer, and that is what we call “being saved.” Have we counted the cost? Jesus said to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves. That means laying down everything about us and nail that to the cross. We talk about Resurrection life in Christ, but we aren’t willing to the most important step required for resurrection power to take place: dying.

One of the big movements going on today is the Emergent Church movement. That name is not so popular anymore but the concept is very alive and active. It’s the idea of ‘make the church compatible to the culture so people might believe it.’ Let me translate that for you: “We want numbers in the church because we need money through the offering, so to keep people in the church, we are going to present a message that will tickle ears but not require life-changing decisions.” And Paul warns about such teachers in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. There would be people who serve themselves proclaiming a form of godliness, but denying the power.

Do we believe the Gospel? What makes it all work? The Resurrection. What makes the Resurrection able to take place? Death. Death to sin. Death to self. Death to selfish desires. Death to the love and worship of serving myself and serving my desires. But in that death, if we believe in Jesus Christ and what he did, we too will be resurrected as he was. And because this death is the death of self, that eliminates Religious Humanism from the equation.

Is God the center of our focus? Do we follow him and worship him because of what he did and who he is? Or are we believing him just so we can get the benefits that come from following him? Let me remind you of my post about “Christians in Name Only.” Those who only believe the Gospel so they could get out of hell with no charge to themselves. Such people truly believe they are Christians, but are going to be shocked when Jesus tells them “I never knew you.” God does want us to be happy. He does want us to be with him in heaven. But that is a by-product of his work on the Cross. The prime reason we should follow him is because the Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive the reward of his suffering. Yes, we should sow seed and expect returns. Should not God have the same expectations? He sowed the seed with his death and resurrection. Should he not expect us to be the fruit of the harvest? And if we are to be the fruit, should we not strive to be fruit of the same tree? Let us not deny him what he deserves. Let us not put ourselves in the spot he rightfully owns. Let us serve and worship him because he is God and he is worthy of all praise and glory.

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ashleyhr said...

Just wondering whether you meant 'diametrically' rather than 'diabolically'.

Charlie said...

Could be. Point there is that the two positions are at total odds against each other and compatibility is oxymoronic.