The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Humanity Before God: Theological Humanism from a Christian Perspective
by William Schweiker (University of Chicago)
This month, in conjunction with the 2003 D. R. Sharpe Lectures on Social Ethics, William Schweiker of the University of Chicago Divinity School explores the history, attributes, and desirability of Christian humanism. Professor Schweiker argues that renewed Christian humanism and humanistic expressions of other faith traditions are uniquely suited to meet the most profound challenges of modern times.
The fact is that we increasingly live in a world in which the complex interactions of cultures and traditions manifest a lack of shared presuppositions. In some traditions and cultures the idea of a “self” is hardly a defining idea. It is seen as an imposition of “Western” modes of thought. Within the spreading global market, it is not at all clear that anything can trump the drive of consumption and the satisfaction of personal preferences. Everything can be seen as a commodity for the satisfaction of individual needs and wants. Even the moral life, it is argued by some thinkers, is simply a means to the end of personal satisfaction. How ought one to respond to this new, changed situation?
Ironically, it is precisely in this situation that a renewed Christian humanism is sorely needed within the global Christian community...In a world of widespread want and also gluttony, the profoundest message of the Christian witness is that while we live by bread we do not and cannot live by bread alone. A human life driven by unrestrained want is not really living; it is a mark of death within life...
Early in October, invited responses to Professor Schweiker's essay will be offered by Professors David E. Klemm (University of Iowa), Lisa Cahill (Boston College), and Terence J. Martin (Saint Mary's College). Invited responses may be found in the archived discussion board for this Forum (pdf).