The "Measure of all Things"
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
The image below is of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous sketch “Homo Mensura” which means, “Man, the measure of all things.”
In mathematics it is possible to work through an entire complex equation without a single mistake in the process and still come up with a wrong answer. This is possible because the accuracy of the outcome depends on the accuracy of the variables used in the equation. If you begin with a single, incorrect variable everything you do from that point on is skewed. Your outcome will be wrong because you began your work from the wrong starting point.
The same holds true when dealing with philosophies and worldviews. Ideas build upon one another. It is possible to consider the world in a completely logical fashion and still come up with an erroneous view because of an incorrect premise. With each passing day I become more convinced the Church has fallen prey to this kind of error. We have tried to logically and consistently apply a biblical worldview but because we have unwittingly built upon a faulty premise we find ourselves at an erroneous conclusion.
There are two primary starting points for formulating one’s opinions about the world. One is man. The Greek philosopher Protagoras (pictured at right) is one of the earliest people to assert that man is the appropriate starting point for building one’s worldview when he made his famous claim, “Man is the measure of all things.”
When this variable is used as the starting point for forming a worldview the inevitable, logical conclusion is humanism. In an essay which answers the question, “What is Humanism,” Frederick Edwords, the executive director of the American Humanist Association defines “philosophical humanism” as any outlook or way of life centered on human need and interest. He mentions a sub-category of this philosophy that he calls “Christian Humanism.”
Edwords defines Christian humanism as a philosophy advocating the self-fulfillment of man within the framework of Christian principles. This is a remarkable statement because humanism and Christian principles are diametrically opposed. Humanism and Christianity are built on completely different premises. But, I am afraid this philosophy describes too many modern churches.
In his essay Edwords said, “I was once asked by a reporter if this functional definition of religion didn't amount to taking away the substance and leaving only the superficial trappings. My answer was that the true substance of religion is the role it plays in the lives of individuals and the life of the community. Doctrines may differ from denomination to denomination, and new doctrines may replace old ones, but the purpose religion serves for PEOPLE remains the same. If we define the substance of a thing as that which is most lasting and universal, then the function of religion is the core of it. Religious Humanists, in realizing this, make sure that doctrine is never allowed to subvert the higher purpose of meeting human needs in the here and now.”
When this “Christian humanist” philosophy extends to it’s logical conclusion it produces … well … consider the text of the following internet ad:
“What if there were a religion that does not presume to declare universal religious truths? The meaning of your existence would be yours to determine.
What if there were a religion able to generate respect among all of humanity by embracing our equality in the most important questions we face?
What if there were a religion that unites freethought with spirituality?
What if there were a religion that demands no blind faith in prophets or their writings?
What if there were a religion that asserts no moral authority, religious or secular?
Universalism! The church of the 21st Century!”
The second primary starting point for formulating one’s opinion of the world is God. This is the biblical worldview. There is no way an honest reading of Scripture will leave a person with the notion that man is the measure of all things. God is the measure of all things. God is the Creator. Everything in creation is for and about him NOT us. But we have forgotten the biblical admonitions to be “in” this world not “of” it. The humanist philosophies of the world have infiltrated the Church in highly destructive ways but we’ve become so ignorant of the Word of God that we don’t even recognize it.
It’s not a recent thing, either. Dr. R.C. Sproul addresses one of the age-old debates that springs from this very distortion of a “Christian Humanist” worldview. We have too many humanists in the pews and pulpits of our churches. In his essay Edwords attributes a quote to Jerry Falwell (I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but the sentiment is rampant in churches today). According to Edwords, Falwell said, “When we seek a solution to the AIDS crisis we thwart God’s punishment of homosexuals.”
The very idea that we even have the ability to “thwart” the will of God demonstrates how humanistic our worldviews have become. I’ve heard too many Christians, when debating about the nature of God, use the phrase, “Well, my God isn’t like that.” As if we have the ability to define for ourselves who God is. We've tried for too long to build a biblical worldview on the faulty premise of humanism.
It is long past time for God’s people to return to God’s Word and recognize the fact that our very existence is by God’s grace and for God’s glory. The only accurate starting point is God.