Since roughly the Enlightenment period into present day, secular humanism has grown and assumed dominance in the western world. It is a worldview that co-opted the scientific and technological advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, resolving to marry the potential of a Creator-less universe with the onslaught of progress taking place in the world. Secular humanism is scientific naturalism with a moral, societal purpose. At its basest, most innocent form it assumes two things—there is no God, and that is perfectly fine. At its most egregious it demands there must be no God, else He must die. Contrary to common belief, this worldview did not come to be by deductive reasoning or scientific study, rather it was presupposed and largely forced into existence. Nor does it face any critical examination in today’s universities. Considering that, this paper will test the tenets of secular humanism against certain criteria, in the end suggesting it to be unviable and irrational, while at the same time and using the same criteria attempt to prove Christianity objectively viable and wholly rational.
Summary of Secular Humanism
First, every worldview has some source of ultimate authority. Whether it be ancient text, divine revelation, or the impulse of human nature, an authority exists. Secular humanists may reject this notion, but nonetheless their sources of ultimate authority are empirical science and its byproduct, human reason. Put simply by the most recent Humanist Manifesto, secular humanists believe “knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.” Professor Philip Kitcher provides insight into secular humanists’ adherence to science when he states “the core of secularist [thought] is skepticism about anything ‘transcendent.’” Despite the manifesto claim, this morphs into something more akin to worship of science, or as Homer Duncan terms it, a “scientific theology.” Modern secular humanists will springboard off observable science to greater assumptions about the unobservable, such as the origin of life in the universe. For the secular humanist, science and evolution are inextricable. Regarding human reason, Duncan explains that the phrase encompasses the belief that “man can begin from himself” and by “utilizing his mental faculties alone think out the great questions which confront mankind.” It is important to note that secular humanism’s epistemology is also their secondary source of ultimate authority—human reason. There will be a lengthier discussion on that in the next section.
Secular humanists find their salvation within this progress. Cosmically, in contributing to the advancement of human—and even universal—progress, and individually, in attaining self-actualization.
The ultimate reality for a secular humanist is evolution. On one hand this emphasizes naturalism, the idea that, in short, there is nothing but the natural universe. The universe is self-existent and self-governed. The existence of anything immaterial or transcendent is imagined and belief in such must be opposed. However, it is important to expound on the secular humanist’s idea of evolution. The second feature of their ultimate reality and the heartbeat of the entire worldview is inevitable progress. This progress is the compulsory advancement of the universe. Physically, the universe is progressing from lesser to higher life forms, towards greater technology, towards a more perfect society, towards a more fulfilling and meaningful existence. It is on this point that secular humanism moves from philosophy to religion.
Secular humanists find their salvation within this progress. Cosmically, in contributing to the advancement of human—and even universal—progress, and individually, in attaining self-actualization. Prominent secular humanist A.C. Grayling speaks of this in espousing that there is “a beautiful and life-enhancing alternative outlook that offers insight, consolation, inspiration and meaning, which has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with the best, most generous, most sympathetic understanding of human reality.” Humanist Manifest III plainly, if not blandly, states, “life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals,” later emphasizing cooperative relationships and the benefitting of society. The tangible idea of salvation is not yet realized and, perhaps, is best characterized as an eventual salvation marked by human potential. The immediate salvation then would be the removal of religion from society. Humanist Manifesto II, a more exhaustive work, states, “promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful” and distract humans from “self-actualization and rectifying social injustices.” Grayling illustrates religion as shackles on the human mind that must be cut at the root for human progress to flourish. It cannot be overstated that the most intense desire of secular humanism is to remove forever human belief in the supernatural.
For the secular humanist, “ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.” Over time, crude and rudimentary tests of pleasure and pain turned to more advanced decisions based on the consequences of certain actions. Thus, there exists no external standard of morality, only internal standards reflective of a particular environment. However, as humans advanced and group sizes grew, general normative guidelines took form. Modern secularists such as Philip Kitcher argue for this type of constructive morality.
“Good without a God” in some form or another has served as the main theme of the worldview since its formation. Critically speaking, if that tenet were to fall the whole worldview would crumble.
Lastly, humans, though a product of nature, have become a pinnacle feature of evolution. Because of their advanced rationality and intellectuality humans are now capable of self-awareness. No longer do they have to adhere to stone-age-like religious traditions and made-up deities, they can understand the universe and even speed the inevitable progress of humanity through the communal force of their faculties.
Evaluation of Secular Humanism
In his robust apologetic, Douglas Groothuis sets forth a method for evaluating worldviews which measures them against eight criteria, many of which will be employed here. The first criterion is simply that a worldview explains what it ought to explain, not invoking mystery or paradox unnecessarily. On this first foundational assessment, secular humanism passes without any necessary objections.
Criterion 2 asserts that a worldview must maintain internal logical consistency. That is, the essential elements of a worldview must not contradict each other. Under this criterion, secular humanism encounters two major roadblocks. First, if naturalistic evolution is true, how did moral and ethical standards come to be? Or, to put it a different way, if there is no God, how can there be good? “Good without a God” in some form or another has served as the main theme of the worldview since its formation. Critically speaking, if that tenet were to fall the whole worldview would crumble. Oddly enough, it is on this basis that secular humanists admit difficulty in explaining. Kitcher acknowledges: “Abandon the religious foundation and, it seems, the concepts of ethical demands and prohibitions and permissions lose their objective force.” He is quite correct; yet continues on to espouse a form of constructed and relative human ethics, as most all secular humanists do. The secular humanist theory of constructed ethics supposes that humans built moral systems based on human need and interest; starting with the individual then in cooperation with smaller group units, until finally arriving at the modern evolution where there is recognition of the inherent worth of the human race as a whole. First, that progression is philosophically unrealistic without a guiding moral force. Cultural relativism leads to individual relativism which in turn descends into nihilism, where everything is ultimately meaningless. Groothuis argues against cultural relativism by posing the question to naturalists, “which culture decides morality?” The unanswerable question leads him suggest, “if there are no rules for finding our defining culture, then there seems to be no reason why individuals should be constrained by any … cultural authority.” Also, the very notion of moral “progress” is self-defeating and impossible to apply without an objective moral standard. What are we progressing towards or measuring up to? What makes things better than before? Secular humanism tries to have both naturalistic evolution and moral progress, but these concepts are philosophically inconsistent.
Second, if the human mind is solely a product of naturalistic evolution, how can it be trusted? Secular humanists hold human reason as a source of ultimate authority, while at the same time admitting that it is ever-developing and changing. This inconsistency is largely problematic. In his apologetic, The Advancement, L. Russ Bush launches an effective critique, stating, “if naturalism is a proper description of reality, man’s mind could not truly be free to look at biological facts objectively.” In fact, the mind and any examination it does would merely be the result of the same underlying “non-rational, non-purposive, chemically describable, ultimate reality.” The implications of this are great and many. Is, then, there any significance to making decisions? Are we biologically constrained or predetermined to believe what we believe based on evolution? Is meaning an illusion? What is most perplexing in light of this epistemological deficiency, is that secular humanists would look down on those with differing perspectives, often demanding they throw off their religious belief. On what basis, one might ask, and for what purpose?
Criterion 3, which calls for a worldview to be logically coherent, provides another point of difficulty for secular humanism, not necessarily in theory but in practice. For secular humanism, eradication of religion is imperative, prerequisite, and usually the first topic addressed in apologetic material. But authors often grapple with even the term struggling to settle on a definition. Grayling defines religion as “a set of beliefs and practices focused on a god or gods.” Perhaps, unwittingly he has raised a conundrum. Certainly, secular humanists have a set of beliefs and practices—would they write manifestos if they did not? Could one believe in the Christian God and be a secular humanist? Could one kill other humans in mass and claim secular humanism? No, in fact, the worldview instructs adherents to practice altruism towards the rest of humanity and believe atheistic evolution. One question remains; who are the gods they are focused on? Humanist Manifesto II asserts the focus of their practices are to achieve “full appreciation of [human] potentialities and responsibilities,” and “maximum autonomy.” The language implies god-likeness. Other authors, such as Kitcher, are more careful to categorize religion as “the transcendent,” yet still the distinction is murky. William James says of the atheist, “he believes in No God and worships Him.” Could it be said of the secular humanist, “he believes in No God, and worships himself?”
The story of the Bible is not at all about human adherence to God’s law, on the contrary, it is about human erring from God’s law. Thus, ethical standards are reflective of God’s character, not humanity’s.
Under criterion 4, which requires a worldview’s factual accuracy, secular humanism fails due its promulgation of evolutionary biogenesis. Despite its almost universal acceptance in western academia, naturalistic evolution suffers from a major lack of evidence. Again, in The Advancement, Bush puts forward five objections to scientific naturalism that go generally as follows. First, materialism is not self-evidentially true. The existence of a genetic code implies a source of information beyond chemistry alone. Second, chance reproduction has never been proven to produce an absolutely new life-form. Even artificial selection in controlled-environment experiments has failed. Third, encoded information directs cell chemistry, not chance. In short, DNA is the precondition for biological life rather than the other way around. Fourth, the necessary information-decoding system is not found in non-living matter, yet that decoder would likely have to exist first. Fifth, no known conditions result in information arising spontaneously from non-information.
Christianity as the Alternative
Now, Christianity must be set against the same worldview assessment criteria. Under Criterion 1, Christianity passes. Although perhaps unsettling to the naturalist, the proposition that there is a Creator-God who has revealed himself to mankind—via literature, nature, and by ultimately taking the form of a man to reconcile his creation to himself—is not unintelligible. It is logically both possible and conceivable. However, as Groothuis warns, if Christians are to write off the incarnation or the Trinity, etc. solely as unexplainable mysteries, then the Christian worldview is in trouble. Apologists for any worldview must be ready to explain. Also, as a necessary aside, attacks on otherwise feasible worldviews as buffoonery should be avoided. If honest, debaters would recognize the fairytale-like quality of our existence. We spin 10,000 miles per hour on a planet floating in a galaxy inside an unknowably vast universe where, quite literally, all we are and experience came into existence either by something greater than us or, as the evolutionist suggests, nothing at all. Is it so ridiculous to suggest that God exists?
Where criterion 2 gave considerable trouble to secular humanism, Christianity is strengthened by a test of internal logical consistency, especially pertaining to morality and human rationality. Christianity asserts: because God, there is a moral standard. J.I. Packer notes that in the biblical story of creation, God directly followed his creation of man with orders on how they should live (i.e. instruction). The story of the Bible is not at all about human adherence to God’s law, on the contrary, it is about human erring from God’s law. Thus, ethical standards are reflective of God’s character, not humanity’s, which stands in total opposition to secular humanism. Groothuis remarks that “God has implanted in his image-bearers a conscience that acts as a moral monitor (Romans 2:14-15),” thus guilt and peace come as consequences of human behavior, even among non-Christians, and even when in secret. Lastly, if an absolute moral standard based on the character of one good and just God were true, we would expect to find similarities in ethics across cultures, or at least similar assessments of the ethics across cultures. Despite what secular humanists would have one believe, this is largely the case. Groothuis argues, “variations of the golden rule can be found throughout world history and amid various ethical systems.” Likewise, C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, claims to have discovered eight binding moral principles practiced by humanity throughout history. And if there are moral differences across cultures, they are usually in rule rather than principle.
Similarly, on human rationality, Christianity asserts: because God made man in his image, humans can reason intelligently. Groothuis eloquently states, “it is in human beings that heaven and earth meet in thought.” In implanting His image on humanity, God set us apart from the rest of creation and made us capable of reasoning, creating, and knowing Him. Bush describes this set-apart human mind an “independent observer … free to explore or examine reality.” The idea being that only something external could truly assess what is real and meaningful. If the assertion that God gave man reason were true, we may expect to find humans as rationally superior to the rest of nature as well as spirituality-minded and (at least claiming) to have a relationship with God. These are so. At the same time the existence of these two realities, among others, would seem less than likely if the naturalist assertion that human reason is a product of non-rational, non-purposive evolutionary processes were true.
Criterion 4 conjures up the manufactured construct of “science vs. religion.” The popular opinion during much of the 20th century, following Darwin’s Origin of Species, was that science and religion were at odds, and moreover, irreconcilable. However, this notion is smoke and mirrors and Darwinism’s opposition party, Intelligent Design (ID), has picked up much steam in recent decades. There are several reasons to believe ID over Darwinism. For the sake of brevity, we will look at three. The first is specified complexity, which postulates that molecular structures are so contingent, complex, and specified that they in effect could not have come to be by chance or necessity. Other structures that evidence specified complexity are known to be produced through some intelligent agency, thus the same must be true for molecular structures (e.g. a watch implies a watch maker). Second, and directly related to the first is irreducible complexity. Behe argues molecular structures are “single systems composed of perfectly matched, interacting parts … wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to cease functioning.” Therefore, if it is impossible for systems to be regressively reduced, how then should we assume they were progressively produced? Furthermore, even if they could have been progressively produced by slight modification, what would be the impetus? Each individual part of the human eye is nonfunctional as an eye part unless properly ordered with the others (see Behe’s mousetrap argument). Thirdly, DNA indicates design. In short, naturalists have an information problem. That is, according to Werner Gitt, “there is no known process … which can cause information to originate by itself in matter.” You can assemble all the matter you want over however many years you want, and quite simply never get information.
Lastly, we will take a fresh look at criterion 6, which is intellectual and cultural fecundity. Groothuis alleges that if a worldview is true, it should inspire discovery, creativity, and productivity. This examination is placed in this section because it is directly related to both worldviews. Secular humanism has much to say about intellectual and cultural progress, and in particular, how the eradication of Christianity would free humanity to progress faster (see prominent secular humanist Bill Nye as a popular example). Yet, Christianity has been a consistent and frequent contributor to humanity in nearly every aspect of society from scientific discovery, to technological innovation, to work ethic. Faith stirs people to mission work, humanitarianism, and acts of sacrificial love. Christianity led to the abolition of slavery, to many democratic systems of government; churches are rescue shops for the poor and persecuted. How can a worldview that demands the removal of such a great cause of good in the world be itself demonstrating intellectual and cultural fecundity?
Further Defense of Christianity
There is some common ground between Christianity and secular humanism in that both worldviews value “good.” Secular humanists are not the same as their scientific naturalist cousins in this respect. They do not see the world as wholly mechanical and unfeeling, rather a main tenet of their worldview is that even sans God, there is meaning and good in the universe. Previously in the paper we began to examine why this conclusion is unsatisfactory, yet the secular humanists will still seek to level attacks on Christianity on the basis of morality. Of such, the most common is the problem of evil, which goes as follows: if a God who is both all-powerful and all-good exists, why is there evil in the world? God is then either all-powerful and not all-good—able to remove evil but unwilling. Or he is all-good and not-all powerful—willing to remove evil but unable. Because evil exists, says the skeptic, an all-powerful and all-good God must not exist.
The dual existence of an all-good, all-powerful God and evil is logical, because God has a good reason for allowing evil, even if we do not know what that reason is.
An answer to this problem must be given, but not in a vacuum. To adequately answer the problem of evil we must present a series of observations about evil within the Christian metanarrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption. The first of which is that evil is not intrinsic or necessary. God created the universe and pronounced it “good,” (Gen. 1), including human beings which he called “very good” (Gen. 1:26, 31). So, what happened? Cue, The Fall—humanity rebelled (sinned) against God’s good standard (Gen. 3:6). Hence, the second observation, that evil is not self-existent, but a distortion of good. Which leads to the third observation; because evil is not intrinsic and not self-existent, God did not create evil. In fact, the Bible teaches that God hates evil, brings judgment against it, and will ultimately eradicate evil forever (Is. 25:8, Rev. 21:4). This comes via the doctrine of Redemption, in which God restores his once-good universe to its proper state. Redemption is a huge, primarily theological subject, but for this purpose of apologetics it fleshes out the fourth observation we will make, which is that evil is temporary. It has not always existed and it will not always exist in the future. On this point, the Christian narrative unequivocally offers the best explanation for the existence of an “ought” and the notion of progress. If it seems that things ought to be different, or better, that is because they once were and should be.
Now that we better understand evil in the context of the Christian worldview, let us actually solve the problem. First, we rationalize the existence of evil by inserting the idea that God allows evil to be possible and to exist for a morally sufficient reason. Thus, the dual existence of an all-good, all-powerful God and evil is logical, because God has a good reason for allowing evil, even if we do not know what that reason is. One may not like this answer, but it necessarily solves the problem. But more can and should be said because, in fact, we can conceive ways in which God may “use evil to further his ends while remaining impeccably good.” Human free will should be mentioned. Logically speaking, it would be more desirable for God to create beings capable of choosing to love Him, rather than beings programmed to love Him. But free will has consequences, namely, sin. God may also allow evil for the purpose of a “greater good” not formerly possible without such evil’s existence. As Origen suggested, for God to bring good out of evil displays His virtue afresh and magnifies His omnibenevolence. Likewise, the triumph of good over evil magnifies God’s omnipotence. One not need go further than Christ’s triumph over death on the cross to understand such power.
Secondarily, on the discussion of meaning and good in the universe, we must revisit the importance of objective morality. In his “how-to guide” for living morally without God, Epstein compares the Ten Commandments to secular humanist ideals, opting for a rephrasing of the biblical statements to exclude God and focus on humanity. It is remarkable how similar the values are. In the cases of commandments 6-9, he even writes, “same.” Does he not realize how damaging this is to his worldview? What Epstein reveals about secular humanism is that by-in-large its adherents ascribe to a moral code somewhat similar to Christianity’s, only they wish to remove the obligation to it. But the fact is, without a moral external force (God), their naturalist model is pure nonsense. Moral relativists cannot avoid the “all is permitted” dilemma. Despite indulging the idea of a constructed and valuable moral code, based on naturalist implications there can never be “better” or “good” ethics without an external standard. One may follow a moral code that “works for them,” but in assuming such on others even in the slightest they unwittingly point to the truth of objective morality. Under naturalism, while refraining from murder may appear a best practice for one, by no means can it be expected from another based on some moral high ground. This reliance on objective moral standards does much more than merely dent secular humanism, it vouches for God’s existence. For, it can be argued that if God does not exist (as secularists suggest), then objective moral values do not exist. Of course, objective moral values do exist, and therefore God must exist, as well.
Much more could be said regarding the weaknesses of the secular humanist worldview. Modern secular humanists fancy themselves accomplished skeptics, yet would do well to heed their own advice as it pertains to the claims of their very own worldview. Critical examination of moral values alone would refute their beliefs. Likewise, much more could be said about the truth and rationality of the Christian worldview. Cosmological arguments could be leveraged against secularism to explain the necessity of a First Cause and Prime Mover. A discussion on dualism and materialism could demonstrate the reality of the immaterial. And of course, a pertinent question for secular humanism, nay, all non-Christian worldviews, could be asked. That is, “What do we do with Jesus?”—the historical figure of Christianity who claimed to be God and rose from the dead. For now, this examination alleges to be sufficient enough to prove secular humanism unviable and irrational in contrast to Christianity.
 “Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933,” American Humanist Association, Accessed May 8, 2017. https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto3/
 Philip Kitcher, Life after faith: the case for secular humanism, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6
 Homer Duncan, Secular humanism: the most dangerous religion in America. Lubbock, (TX: MC International, 1984), 10
 Duncan, 9
 Kitcher, 6
 Anthony C. Grayling, The God argument: the case against religion and for humanism, (New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury, 2014), 4
 Humanist Manifesto III
 “Humanist Manifesto II,” American Humanist Association. Accessed May 7, 2017. https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto2/
 Grayling, 7, 40
 Humanist Manifesto III
 Kitcher, 32-36
 Humanist Manifesto III
 Douglas Groothuis, Christian apologetics: a comprehensive case for biblical faith. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011), 52-53
 Groothuis, 53
 Kitcher, 27
 Groothuis, 339-340
 Ibid., 336, 340
 L. Russ Bush, The advancement: keeping the faith in an evolutionary age. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 40
 Bush, 41
 Grayling, 21
 Humanist Manifesto II
 Kitcher, 5-8
 Bush, 77-83
 Groothuis, 53
 J. I. Packer, Knowing man, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 24
 Groothuis, 335
 Ibid., 336
 Packer, 24-27
 Bush, 39
 Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s black box: the biochemical challenge to evolution, (New York: Free Press, 2006), 25
 Behe, 39
 Ibid., 66
 Werner Gitt, In the beginning was information: a scientist explains the incredible design in nature, (Green Forest: Master Books, 2007), 107
 Greg Epstein, Good without God: what a billion nonreligious people do believe, (New York: Harper, 2010), 31
 Groothuis, 616
 Groothuis, 615
 Ibid., 630-31
 Groothuis, 632
 Ibid., 637
 Henry Bettenson, ed. The Early Christian Fathers (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 264
 Epstein, 118-119
 James Sire quoted from Groothuis, 350
 William Lane Craig, “Five Reasons Why God Exists,” in God: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist, ed. William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 19
 Kitcher, 1-25