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Problems with the Humanitarian Humanist Gospel

June 11, 2008

Humanism: the chief end of being is the happiness of man.

The Gospel: the chief end of being is the glory of God.

Christian Hedonism: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

By Humanitarian Gospel, I mean Gospel missions motivated and fueled by one end: to relieve physical suffering by fulfilling the physical needs of people. So what’s the problem with that?

I would argue that the Humanitarian Gospel has at least the following main problems:

  1. A strictly man-centered view of everything, specifically missions.
  2. An ignorance to a God-centered view of God, man, sin, suffering, redemption, and therefore missions.
  3. A lack of a global vision of all things, particularly the suffering of mankind.
  4. A misunderstanding of what evil and good truly are in the eyes of God.
  5. A misunderstanding of the true root causes of suffering and its purpose.
  6. An overemphasized focus on the importance of temporal, perishable things like food, water, clothes, medicine, and any other goods necessary for the sustainment of physical life.

I list these not in pride over knowing them or joy over revealing them, but with anguish and grief in my heart to the travesty of this empty and desolate Gospel. Indeed a Gospel that is devoid of anything that ultimately honors God.

Here me clearly: I am in no way advocating an end to humanitarian causes. By all means, I would be the first one out there feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting those in prison, healing and praying for the sick, etc. But I grow weary over years of seeing a theology and methodology of missions that builds the houses, cleans the towns, helps the victims, but when asked “why or what for” responds with “because the peoples’ suffering was great and they were in great need”. What about Jesus? “Oh yeah, well we told them about Him too. We asked if they’d like to get to know Him because He can give them food and water and clothes and drink and shelter and medicine and health and happiness”.

I fear we have a theology about the Gospel that says “go to the world and meet their needs because Jesus loves them”. And the sad thing is, this is true! But its missing the most vital part: give them what will make them the most joyful and fulfilled and in the end save their souls, Jesus Christ! He is the reason and end of missions. Missions exists because of Jesus Christ.

Like John Piper said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t”. Our chief end in missions is to give people what will make them eternally happy: Jesus Christ. To give them what will never perish and what is incorruptible: Jesus Christ. To give them what will redeem them of their sins, forgive their sins, take the wrath for their sins, kill death from their sins, resurrect them out of their sins, wash them from their sins, grant them righteousness that saves, and grant them everlasting life reconciling them back to God: Jesus Christ. For Christ is the bread of life and the living water that will keep men from ever being hungry or going thirsty. “For blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). And what/Who is this righteousness? None but God in Jesus Christ!

So to respond to my list of problems:

  1. A strictly man-centered view of everything, specifically missions – Our view of missions must be centered on God. For missions is about Him, by Him, from Him, through Him, and for Him and His glory. While missions functions to save men and bring them to God, its all for God’s glory alone.
  2. An ignorance to a God-centered view of God, man, sin, suffering, redemption, and therefore missions – We must therefore have a God-centered view about…GOD: that He is the most God-centered being in the universe. This doesn’t make Him vain, but it makes Him supremely valuable and worthy of all praise and glory. He does everything He pleases, and what pleases Him most is receiving glory for Himself about Himself; MAN: man is utterly wicked and has been effected totally by the fall of Adam, he is totally depraved and incapable of pleasing God or doing anything good; SIN: sin is not primarily an issue about man, although man is the agent of sin, but sin is chiefly about God, in that sin is man offending the glory, holiness, righteousness, goodness, and power and wisdom of God, sin is transgressing and rebelling against God; SUFFERING: suffering exists because of sin, and sin causes death too; REDEMPTION: the transforming of a man from his sinful nature to his supernatural nature by God’s Holy Spirit for His own glory, where God takes a man from falling short of His glory to giving Him glory by granting Him everlasting life through Jesus Christ His son; MISSIONS: therefore missions is chiefly about God, from God, by God, through God, and for God and His glory. So missions is men who have been redeemed telling other men how they can be eternally satisfied and happy, namely by loving and treasuring Jesus Christ above all things, which then gives Glory to God.
  3. A lack of a global vision of all things, particularly the suffering of mankind – Missions must involve a global vision of sin and redemption. It must know that all things, whether perceived good or bad, including pain and suffering or health and prosperity, are included in the huge redemptive, eternal plan of God. God’s plan of redemption has millions of tiny parts that make up the big whole: God glorifying Himself through His Son and the salvation of the Bride of His Son, the Church, the redeemed. So missions must be big, massive, global, and huge in its vision and purpose. It cannot be small, tiny, and banal in its vision and purpose.
  4. A misunderstanding of what evil and good truly are in the eyes of God – A false understanding of what evil and good truly are will lead men to a missions that is devoid of any real purpose. Men don’t define evil and good, God does. The humanitarian Gospel says evil is suffering, disease, sickness, and poverty. And good is fighting to prevent or kill those things. Whereas the biblical Gospel takes it further by saying that suffering and the likes are results of what really is evil: sin against God. The most evil thing is not giving glory to God for all that He is and should be recognized as. Evil is the heart of man, which is in a constant state of rebellion, hatred, hostility, and competition against God and His glory. Good is then that which gives God the most glory, namely the worship, treasure, and love for Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.
  5. A misunderstanding of the true root causes of suffering and its purpose – True Gospel missions knows that suffering is caused by sin, and sin leads to death. The saved children of God still suffer, but with Christ as their treasure so that they rejoice in their suffering. Suffering then is just a necessary means for the redeemed to give God more glory. Suffering is not merely foreign policy, human rights, economical, moral, or physical issue but a spiritual issue. It is spiritual because it comes from sin. The Humanitarian Gospel sees no purpose in suffering, but only constant arbitrariness. The Biblical Gospel says suffering has an eternally glorious purpose in the redemption of mankind.
  6. An overemphasized focus on the importance of temporal, perishable things like food, water, clothes, medicine, and any other goods necessary for the sustainment of physical life – Therefore with a proper God-centered view of all things, including missions and suffering, we should focus then on things not on earth or below, but on things above; on heavenly things. For the products of what the Humanitarian Gospel offers are all perishable things that cannot but prolong one’s life of suffering. While the product of the True Gospel, Christ and all His redemption does, give eternal life in, out of, and eventually forever away from suffering in sin.

Let us seek a Gospel missions that is centered on and fueled by the glory of God. One in which we send truth, for God is truth and truth is of God. Yes, let’s meet the needs of the people. But let’s meet their greatest need: righteousness, that is in the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s give them what will make them eternally happy, Jesus Christ their all-satisfying treasure!

Please watch this clip about Humanist Missions:

From → Gospel, Humanism, Missions

  1. pete permalink

    This is a really sick misinterpretation of secular humanism. You automatically connect God directly – and only – with Jesus, ignoring all other religions. Yours, Christianity, is only ONE path to God (if that is the psychological direction you wish to take), and even the concept of Original sin is a Christian conceit that manifests itself today in baptism. It is outrageous that an innocent young child should be considered ‘sinful’ in the eyes of God because he hasn’t yet undergone a little ceremony in some local parish church involving water put on his forehead. At least the Baptists have the right idea in not requiring baptism until it can be done at an age when an educated, voluntary self-decision is possible.
    Your idea that Life if all about Redemption from original sin until you are ‘saved’ by Jesus is utter rubbish. I’m 62 and I’m willing to bet I’ve seen more of life around the world than the writer of this claptrap. I’m certainly not going to spend the rest of my days feeling Guilty that I’m a non-believer (oh, and I was ‘confirmed’ into the church as an 11-year-old under parental direction).
    I will spend the rest of my life trying to help people because its the right thing to do as a human being, not for any religious reasons. Man has an inherent sense of communal Right and Wrong that provides the basis of ALL humanism and can be applied without the divisiness of competing religions. I would certainly rather trust a secular humanist than the tub-thumping Christian evangelist who wrote the above.
    Have a good day.

  2. Pete,

    Well I don’t know where to start…so I guess I’ll say thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I’m not sure why you’ve decided to use name-calling with somebody you don’t even know, but I have pretty thick skin. I do understand where you’re coming from and what you are saying.

    However, you knew that was coming didn’t you you skeptic (don’t worry I’m a skeptic too), I disagree that its a “really sick misinterpretation of secular humanism”. First of all I agree that many humanists do many good things like feed the poor, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, help widows and orphans, and serve their fellow man. But because of my belief in the Bible as the Word of God, I believe #1 that no amount of good works (like serving mankind) will earn us merit on Judgment Day. That is of course if you believe in Judgment Day, which I’m assuming you don’t. And #2 that even our “righteous deeds are as filthy rags” in the presence of a righteous and Holy God. Pete, I take that to mean that even the things we do that we think are good and pure and perfectly “normal” are, in God’s sight, absolutely filthy rags. They don’t amount to anything but disgust in the face of God.

    Why? Because God is totally perfect and holy and good and beautiful in all that He is and all that He does. Even atheists (who are really just agnostics because they can’t declare an absolute in the negative by saying “there is NO God”; its logically impossible, philosophically empty, and morally bankrupt to do so), should admit that the idea of “God” can be defined as a supreme being, one who has preeminence over all other beings. Well if that “God” is the God of the Bible, then He is holy and perfect and righteous and requires that we be the same. That’s why He sent His Son in to die for the sins (evil things, and good things that were done not for His glory) of those who would repent (hate and turn from their sins) and believe (trust fully in Jesus Christ’s person and work on the cross and resurrection from the dead on our behalf taking away our sins and giving us His own perfect righteousness) and treasure (see God as who He truly is in His Son Jesus Christ: the only all-satisfying treasure in the universe who alone is worthy of all praise, glory, and honor) Jesus Christ. So this “God” who is good and perfect in all that He does, gives us what He demands from us through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That does away with our righteous deeds (filthy rags) and our evil deeds and makes us like His Son, who alone is pleasing to this supreme and preeminent God.

    That being said Pete, any form of good deeds like secular humanism that is devoid of a goal or motive to please and honor this God is a complete waste of time. Like I said before, sure it helps man with his physical needs which is good. But to God, this is filthy rags because its not done out of a heart that loves Him above all things, even above this person we’re trying to help. God is to be #1 because He is #1, its just a matter of who He is #1 to.

    I once heard a preacher say: Many think that the opposite of Christianity (or theism) is Atheism. But in reality, the opposite of Christianity is Idolatry. Idolatry is serving or loving anything other than the One True God. So secular humanism may seem well and good and normal at the surface but deep in its roots it is idolatrous in nature. It does not seek to love and glorify God above all things. And the best/only way to love and glorify God is to love and glorify and have faith and treasure His Son Jesus Christ, who is God!

    You are right I do there is only one path to God, and that One path is through His Son Jesus Christ! Don’t get mad at me because that’s not my idea, I didn’t come up with it. God did. God said that people could get to Him and worship Him through one way that pleases Him: His Son Jesus Christ! God has had it planned that way from the beginning.

    And you’re right also about baptism: I, like Baptists, believe that children don’t get dipped in to water just to go through some experience. But I also agree that all men, all men, all men, are sinful by nature and have a corrupt heart that naturally hates God and is in rebellion towards Him. Like you said Pete, all people have a conscience that shows them right from wrong. That conscience is put there by God. And God says all men know of God’s character and person through creation, but they push away this truth into depths of darkness through their unrighteousness (Romans 1).

    I would love to start a dialogue with you. And I am ready to listen too. I won’t do all the talking. Thanks for stopping by again, feel free to keep this going.


    Jonathan C.

  3. Hey great word on humanism and so true. Praise Jesus.

  4. Mmm – good post Jonathan – thanks – found it on google. Trying to decide whether to study water management which should lead to working with an NGO (Christian hopefully) to manage water / sanitation projects in disaster / development contexts or join a mission agency that focuses on evangelism / church planting / discipleship to unreached peoples, while using my skills (IT) in a secondary capacity to the main aims of the mission.
    I am naturally drawn to the water side of things – as it is a practical outcome – helping people – and comes from the heart of wanting to serve Christ – loving our neighbour, giving water to the thirsty etc. But this is MY natural interest – and is not a decision made from the benchmark of scripture. And I can see I might get bogged down in water projects and forget the main thing – proclaiming Christ.

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