Humanism, Christian

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"Christian humanism" means the view (and action based upon this view) that human culture and its tradition have value in the Christian life to the extent in which they are subordinated, in some way, to Christ's teaching, to what is preeminent in the tradition of the faith and consequently in the tradition of the Church. St. Justin seems to have been the first to offer a basic formulation of Christian humanism, for he held that Christ the Word had subordinated all culture to Himself (Apol. 1.46). Justin's position has been reflected in the Christian use of the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle, as well as in the Christian appraisal of such artifacts as the plays of Sophocles and ancient architectural masterpieces. According to Justin's formulation, Christian humanism avoids the errors of philistinism, which would leave the Christian in a vulgar condition during his earthly life, as well as the mistake of those who attach more importance to human culture than to the truths of the faith.

The need for a contemporary formulation of Christian humanism arose especially in the 1930s, when the Socialist Popular Front movement began to use the ideal of "Socialist humanism." Christian thinkers like Jacques Maritain, F. Charmot, A. Rademacher and others thought out the conditions for Christian humanism. (See Maritain, Humanisme intégral. )

The Judeo-Christian revelation contains a virtual humanism with its notion of man as the image of God. St. Thomas Aquinas lays the basis for Christian humanism with his teaching that philosophy is distinct from theology, and that human reason has its own value and consistency apart from grace and must build the under-structure for the life of grace. The great medieval adage, "Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it," can be deemed a basic tenet of Christian humanism. The perfection of grace requires at least some perfection and balance in the human subject, and, in turn, it acts through that subject, drawing out latent powers and developing them.

According to Maritain, Christian humanism integrates all that is best in the humanist effort of the centuries. He admits that classical Renaissance humanism discovered the values of human liberty, but accuses it of being anthropocentric; man is turned in upon himself, cut off from God. The great intuition of Marxist humanism is to recognize that proletarian man has been estranged from his true nature by being dispossessed of property and subordinated to material, economic forces. Christian humanism is ultimately theocentric; man fully realizes himself only in right relation to God and must develop himself according to the exigencies of the actual supernatural order as the "new creature" of revelation (2 Cor5.17; Gal 6.15).

Several recent writers, like Louis Bouyer, have observed that the cross must not be absent from Christian humanism. The Christian's true pathway of development is a dialectic from life through the death of the cross to higher life.

Bibliography: l. bouyer, Christian Humanism, tr. a. v. littledale (Westminster, Md. 1959). h. e. brunner, Christianity and Civilization, 2 v. (New York 194849). f. hermans, Histoire doctrinale de l'humanisme chrétien, 4 v. (Tournai 1948). w. jaeger, Humanisme et théologie, tr. h. d. saffrey (Paris 1956). l. lenhart, Das Problem des Humanismus in der neuzeitlichen katholischen Theologie (Mainz 1947). j. maritain, Du régime temporel et la liberté (Paris 1933); Freedom in the Modern World, tr. r. o'sullivan (London 1935); Humanisme intégral (Paris 1936); True Humanism, tr. m. r. adamson (6th ed. New York 1954). f. marty, La Perfection de l'homme selon s. Thomas d'Aquin (Analecta Gregoriana 123; Rome 1962). c. moeller, Humanisme et sainteté (Tournai 1946). a. rademacher, Religion und Leben (2d ed. Freiburg 1929); Religion and Life (Westminster, Md. 1962). j. sellmair, Humanitas Christiana: Geschichte des christlichen Humanismus (Munich 1950). p. tillich, Theology of Culture, ed. r.c. kimball (New York 1959).

[d. j. forbes]