Did Catholic theology cause Secular Humanism?
Part 5 - Modern day Christianity

In many respects Francis Schaeffer's "Reform of the Reformation" is a return to a Catholic approach

  1. He wanted Evangelicals to take back politics (he called this Dominionism, which is what Catholicism did after Constantine)
  2. He wanted to reinstate moral absolutes (which he acknowledges to be articulated in Greek philosophy)
  3. Schaeffer wanted Evangelicals to take back art (which is what Catholicism did during the middle ages)
  4. He wanted Evangelicals to understand that the full use of the intellect is completely consistent with a life of faith and that both the intellect and faith will arrive at the same Truth, because Truth is Truth (this is the Catholic exegesis form of theological analysis)

So naturally we are in favour of these proposed reforms to the Reform. But where we differ from Mr. Schaeffer's writings is that we don't think the Catholic Church is to blame for the problem of Secular Humanism.

In his last days, Frances A. Schaeffer came closer and closer to converting to Catholicism. His last book was called "The Great Evangelical Disaster."

Listen to this recording of his son Frank talk about his father's change of heart towards the Catholic Church. Click here.

His son Frank converted to the Orthodox Church in the early 90's. That is about as close as you can get to Catholic.

This does not surprise us because Francis Schaeffer's call to Evangelicals was very Catholic in its approach, despite his anti-Catholicism.

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Humanism as found in Modern day Evangelical's return to "nature art"

In almost every Evangelical church I've been to, there are abundant framed photos of waterfalls, green fields, sunset skies, butterflies and birds. Evangelicals love God's creation. Francis Schaeffer is calling Evangelicals to return to art. He is saying that it should not be "religious art" because God is in everything. This leads to tons of pictures of nature which in some ways is humanistic, it is honouring God's creation as it can be perceived through the senses. Which doesn't bother us in the least. Consider this statement by Makoto Fujimora of the Truth Project.

The [Evangelical] Church may have left the arts, God did not. Biblically speaking the Church needs to be a source of creativity. Because we left culture to people who do not know christ, We left it empty and the vacuum [that is] there we are paying for right now. Christians need to be seen as a creative force that the world sees as "Hey, if I want to be an artist, I'll go to church because that's where creativity thrives." Makoto Fujimora, Focus on the Family, The Truth Project. (Visual artist.)

This is based on Schaeffer's position that Christianity should take whatever is good in art from the secular realm and use it for the Kingdom because that is where it came from in the first place. This is also what some of art did in the Catholic Church did during the Middle Ages. (Naturally imperfectly) It’s practicality and scientific approach stamped out much of the superstition that was found among the common people of the middle ages who could not explain this world any other way.

Modern Evangelicals embrace worships songs about nature,
and big beautiful photographs of nature. This is a kind of humanism which is fine.

Consider these popular Evangelical praise and worship songs:

God of Wonders
by Third Day
Lord of all Creation
of heaven, earth and sky
The world's your tabernacle
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
by Martin Smith
Over the mountains and the sea
Your Spirit runs with love for me
The River is Here
by Andy Parks
Down the mountain the river flows
and it brings refreshing wherever it goes
Through the valley's and over the fields
the river is rushing the river is here
Lord Reign in Me
Written by Brenton Brown
Over all the earth you reign on high
Every mountain stream every sunset sky
Can you feel the mountains tremble
Written by Martin Smith ©1995 Curious? Music UK
Can you feel the mountains tremble
Did you hear the oceans roar?
Creation Calls
by Brian Doerksen
Based on Psalm 96
I have felt the wind blow; whispering your name.
I have seen your tears fall; when I watch the rain.
How could I say there is no God? When all around creation calls!
A singing bird, a mighty tree, the vast expanse of open seas.
Gazing at a bird in flight; soaring through the air.
Lying down beneath the stars; I feel your presence there.
I love to stand at ocean shore and feel the thundering breakers roar.
To walk through golden fields of grain with endless bloom horizons fray.
Listening to a river run; watering the Earth.
Fragrance of a rose in bloom, a newborns cry at birth.
Here is our King From wherever spring arrives to heal the ground
...the ocean is growing the tide is coming in hear it is
Here is our King...
and what was said to the rose to make it unfold
was saidhere in my chest
How Great Thou Art
by Carl G. Boberg and R.J. Hughes

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed...

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

 

These are just a few of the great worship Evangelical songs that came off the top of my head, that I've played in Evangelical (and Catholic) Churches. A quick look at the top 100 worship songs will yield an abundance of songs about the mountains, streams, rivers, stars, flowers and other humanistic themes. Evangelicals love nature. This is the same kind of thing that the Catholic theologian Erasmus was doing when he fathered religious humanism and inspired Martin Luther. There is nothing whatever the matter with saying that we can discover some of the characteristics of God by looking at his creation. This is what humanism was about. It needs to be distinguished from secular humanism which mocks God.

I (Hugh) was brought to tears in the little town of Cerbère, in the south of France when I witnessed a gorgeous sunrise.

Sunset

It was the beauty of God's creation. I took this photo and was in tears at the beauty of God that I witnessed. The world is God's artwork and it is beautiful. And he made it beautiful for exactly that reason, as a gift to us.

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Science is not evil although sometimes evil people try to claim it

Science is not a bad thing. The middle ages provided a basis for scientific inquiry that was not considered earlier, where there was much superstition among the peasants. Most certainly some of the humanists went too far, and Catholicism produced its fair share of humanists. But it is easy to find these same excesses among Protestant countries after the Reformation. I was baptized Presbyterian, but I did not know God until I had a personal encounter with him at 28 years old. So I don’t think it would be fair to blame the Presbyterian denomination for my sins before I knew Christ. The same is true for some bad Catholics during the Renaissance.

If we take the position that is proposed by Catholic and many Evangelicals we get a purifying context to Science.

fullness of time idagram

From Jerusalem we understand that man is created to have dominion over all the earth, to know and understand the created order. In Greece we find the beginning of science and the organization of philosophy into various disciplines. From Rome we find the application of that knowledge in public works for public law, with limits codified in law. With all of these in combination, faith and reason find there complimenting balance and we become fit citizens of the new Jerusalem.

Pope John Paul II said " Science can purify religion, and religion can purify science."

The Church was very hard on humanistic teachings that they believed went against the Bible. Hence, they rejected Galileo because the Psalms said the Earth was “immovable”. At that time they could not reconcile Galileo’s assertion that the world was moving with Scripture saying that the Earth was immovable. At the very least This shows that the Church was not jumping on the humanistic bandwagon. The Church always considered Scripture to be superior to human scientific inquiry. Obviously in this case they had to eat humble pie, and science did purify religion. But the important thing was that they gave prominence to Scripture (the Word of God) over humanistic science (the assertions of man’s observations). More about Galileo here. It should be noted that Martin Luther and all the other reformers also rejected Copernicus.

The progressive development of Theology

Francis Schaeffer criticized the development of theology, the "evolution" of theology. He thinks there should have been no intellectual systematic approach to Christianity. If there was no development of theology, Christianity would be almost non-existent. Let us consider two simple facts.

  • The concept of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) was not fully defined until the 4th century
  • The books of the New Testament were not decided upon until 397AD.

These are just two of hundreds of aspects of our faith which are reliant on the Holy spirit working through God's people. Those who think that there should be no development of Christianity in a systematic, theological framework, might as well throw out their Bibles, because that is how the Bible came to us. A history of the Bible is here.

The Bible didn't drop out of the sky spiral bound with an NIV sticker on it.

It was a not a product of the Holy Spirit working alone in a vacuum. The decisions as to what books to include were the product of the Holy Spirit working through the brightest and most faithful Catholic theologians of the time. The Bible that we have today is the product of those theological decisions.

Praise and worship music with drums and guitar is part of the development of Christianity. They never had that kind of music in the first centuries. Amplifiers, Bible studies, English Bibles, youth rallies, Christian rock concerts, the use of media and a gazillion other great things are all part of the development of Christianity. The Reformation itself, which is a recurring theme in Mr. Schaeffer's works, is part of the evolution of theology. It introduced concepts such as sola Scriptura, that were never before con sided by Christianity. The Church Fathers of the first centuries didn't even have the Bible as we know it.

To say that there should be no development of Christianity would mean we would have to throw out the Bible, the trinity, praise and worship music, and a bunch of other stuff that has been of service to Jesus.

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Conclusion

In summary, we say to Evangelicals, by all means listen to Schaeffer's call to action, and join us in our assertion that morals are absolute values that are defined by God and articulated in the Holy Bible. Join us and let’s get involved in politics together. Evangelicals and faithful Catholics alike voted against John Kerry who wanted to gut marriage and legalize human cloning experimentation. Join us in our fight against abortion and euthanasia.

Let’s fight together against secular humanism and stop pointing fingers at each other as to its roots.  I say "join us in taking back art into the Christian realm". And we also say let us embrace together the roots of Christian theology which are found in the apostle John's writings in the book of Revelation, which was embraced by the earliest Christians and which was embraced by the Protestant and reformers and Catholics alike, who unanimously revered Augustine and Aquinas as the greatest pillars in Christian thought. If anything has laid a foundation for the current rise of Human Secularism, it is the lack of unity and resolve found among Christians of all denominations to work together in the name of Christ. So let's come together and fight this thing.

The rest of this series of articles

Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.
Amen