Seeds are unimpressive, small, and bland. Most will die without ever realizing their latent potential. But within each batch of seeds, a few will grow. A shoot thrusting out of the ground, followed by a fledgling sapling, later giving way to the plant. The seed grows up into its unique blueprint, eventually transforming its environment.
So it is with ideas. Most never mature, doomed forever to remain a half-finished thought. But some take root. At first the idea remains a novelty while fitting into the surrounding culture. The fledgling concept advances in obscurity as it gradually builds strength, only much later able to reach its full potential. Measuring the growth of ideas is only possible when counting across generations. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when an idea reaches full maturity, but when it does, the influence becomes undeniable and transforms the foundation of culture. The very nature of its growth blinds us to its influence, that is until it’s fully realized.
This was the spread of humanism. Ideas debated in the halls of academia germinated slowly, spreading its shoots into each fabric of society. What appears to many to be a sudden shift was in reality generations in the making. The nature of its expansion continues to blind us to its true influence. Believers today recognize the shift but struggle to define, or even understand, what has occurred. As the humanist philosophy continues to overwhelm Christian morality, we’re beginning to see the true scope of humanism’s advance.
Sexual ethics is currently the most visible place of divergence. Humanists believe there is nothing wrong with any form of sexual expression, so long as all participants are able to give full consent. Contrast this to the Christian ethic, which teaches that God created sexuality to be expressed in the context of marriage between one man and one woman, in turn viewing any other expression to be contrary to the design of the Creator.
A more subtle contrast is seen in our view of self. The humanist philosophy prioritizes the maximization of the individual. Our rights, our dreams, and our desires guide the moral compass. “Follow your heart,” “Chase your dream,” “Be true to yourself,” and countless other catchphrases succinctly proselytize the humanist ideal.
Contrast this to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 10:38-39 calling Believers to “take up your cross and follow me” while “losing your life for my sake.” There is a stark difference between the two perspectives, and I believe we’re largely blind to it.
The difficulty lies in application. Our culture is obsessed with determining our giftings, strengths, and uniqueness. This can be profoundly spiritual as we discover the unique handiwork of the Creator. It can also serve as a Trojan Horse for humanism by focusing our attention on self by prioritizing our dreams and self-actualization over actual service. The line between the two motivations is both vague and thin. The determining factor is motivation: Is your desire to serve others? Or magnify self?
Consider a test of sorts: Would you be willing to commit to service in an area outside your primary gifting if it was the greatest need? Or do you avoid ministry opportunities because they conflict with your view of yourself? Are you willing to serve in obscurity? Will you sacrifice your dream so that someone else can thrive?
Compounding the difficulty, I believe others are best served when you exercise your natural and spiritual gifts; I also believe that when you die to self you find resurrected life and fulfillment beyond any false hope this world provides. Awareness of self is not inherently bad, in fact it’s necessary for a rich spiritual life. But to truly follow the commands of Jesus, you must also crucify self, along with its desires and dreams. Then, and only then, do you ever truly live.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”