I read John de Gruchy’s Confessions of a Christian Humanist for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were that he is a South African liberation theologian and because I think his expression for himself, a Christian humanist, is a very good way to describe many in the emerging movement.
Question for the day: Is “Christian humanism” a good expression for central themes in the emerging movement?
Yes, that’s right. I’d say that many of the emergent sorts in the emerging movement are Christian humanists. So what is one?
Let me give you a sketch of this book: de Gruchy tells his story of a fundamentalist, evangelical conversion; of going off to university and broadening his look; of discovering Americans like Martin Luther King Jr and theologians like Bonhoeffer; of entering back into the public university system in RSA to think his way into how best to be a Christian in South Africa in order to make it and the world a better place.
This book is a memoir — it tells de Gruchy’s story in such a way that it elucidates his ongoing development into a Christian humanist. His chps are about being human, and being religious, and being secular, and a believer, and a Christian and a Christian humanist. De Gruchy is a world expert on Bonhoeffer, and known for reading Bonhoeffer’s earlier wriitings through the lens of his Letters and Papers from Prison rather than poo-pooing the latter in favor of The Cost of Discipleship.
The gospel, de Gruchy argues, makes us fully human. The test of one’s religion is whether it humanizes, whether it anchors us into this world instead of releasing us from this world. His regular critiques are shaped toward the pietistic strains and the withdrawal forms of the Christian faith. He also critiques secular humanism for its individualism and selfishness; a Christian humanism seeks the good of others and the world.
Here are his themes for a Christian humanism:
1. A love of learning: seeking wisdom
2. Respecting difference: standing for the truth
3. Critical patriotism: struggling for justice and peace
4. Creativity of the Spirit: cherishing beauty
I stumbled upon this book in a footnote of John Stackhouse’s. I’m glad I did; it was challenging, thoughtful, and I think a paradigmatic book for many in the emerging movement.