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Christianity and Culture: Recovering Christian Humanism in the 21st Century

Christianity and Culture: Recovering Christian Humanism in the 21st Century
This class is currently archived, but if you're interested in it being taught again, you can express your interest here!
08/21/2023 - 05/10/2024
Full Year
3.0 credits in Humanities
Grades 11-Lifelong Learning

Taught by:

About the course

This course introduces students to the historic tradition of Christian humanism as a normative contributor in the crucial developments of Western culture and a significant participant in the Republic of Letters. Students will explore the historical development of Christian humanism and its influence on the Western tradition while engaging in the conversation of perennial ideas that have occupied the Republic of Letters: faith and reason, Christ and culture, art and literature, and man and modernity (i.e., progress, machines, technology, etc.).

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible—even intrinsic—with the practice of historical Christianity, representing a real philosophical union of authentic Christian faith and classical humanist principles made explicit by the Incarnation of Christ.

Christian humanism is interested in the affirmation and flourishing of human life and culture which stems from the Christian faith as inaugurated by the Incarnation of Christ. It further emphasizes an allegiance to the Republic of Letters (i.e., ideas that advance human flourishing) over and above mere national and ethnic boundaries.

Despite the fact that modern heretical teachers like Anthony Freeman and John Shelby Spong have attempted to hijack the term (i.e., Christian humanism) to advance heterodox, atheistic views under the guise of Christian terminology, orthodox Christians of all traditions have throughout history maintained Christianity is quintessentially the normative view of humanism because of the Incarnation.

Christian humanism is broader than any particular Christian tradition and has included the good company of great men like St. Paul, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Erasmus, Calvin, Shakespeare, G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien; and great women like Dorothy Sayers, Willa Cather, Simone Weil, and Flannery O’Connor. Perhaps, this succinct quote from the theologian, J. Gresham Machen, best captures the idea of Christian humanism.

In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of “Woe is me.” Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea. The trouble with the paganism of ancient Greece, as with the paganism of modern times, was not in the superstructure, which was glorious, but in the foundation which was rotten. There was always something to be covered up; the enthusiasm of the architect was maintained only by ignoring the disturbing fact of sin. In Christianity, on the other hand, nothing needs to be covered up. The fact of sin is faced resolutely once for all, and is removed by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him. Such is the higher Christian humanism–a humanism founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace.

Important Course Notes

  • This course only has 10 seats.
  • This course is pending approval for dual enrollment credit with CCU.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will become proficient in the conversational approach to learning: close readings, interpretive questions, and Socratic discussions of the texts.
  2. Students will be able to evaluate the relative merits of Christian humanism and its influence on Western civilization as a biblical and Christian understanding of human nature.
  3. Students will grasp the literary and historical figures within the historical framework of given time periods.
  4. Students will develop lateral thinking skills by analyzing and synthesizing themes and motifs within various literary genres (i.e. history, poetry, literature, etc.).
  5. Students will be able to think Christianly and write persuasively about perennial human questions.


Required Books:

Recommended for Further Reading (not required):

Course Files

required reading Incarnational Humanism (TOC)

About the teacher

Dr. Scott Postma Scott served as a minister for 20 years and a Christian educator for 28 years. He holds degrees in the humanities, classical studies, religion and theology, English literature, and creative writing. He lives in North Idaho with his family.