How would you describe people?
If you have been influenced by our society’s teaching, you believe that people are basically good though sometimes they act immaturely
and make mistakes, some of which can be very serious.Ê
However, through education and counseling, people can learn the difference between right and wrong, and have within them the power
to correct what needs to be changed in their thinking and behavior. This is humanism’s doctrine of the human being.
With these beliefs, parents teach their children acceptable behavior so they can live successfully in society. They should be polite, have a concern for others, accept responsibility for their behavior,
and the list continues. All goes well until human weaknesses appear in the child’s behavior. You try as parents to correct these weaknesses,Êbut at times it seems the child pays little attention to what you are telling him or her. It isn’t long until the teacher at a school conference points out that your child displays some temper outbursts andÊan inability to get along with other children on the playground.
When your child’s behavior grows worse, you visit with the child psychologist. His counsel seems to help for a while, but then all hope seems to disappear when you are called to the police station and are confronted with the fact that your son has been arrested for possession of drugs. “Where have we gone wrong? We have
tried everything to make him a good person.” You are living with the assumption that your boy has the ability to change himself and just isn’t doing it.
After many difficult experiences your son completes his formal education and heads out to make a life for himself. His explosive temper and inability to control his emotions sees his marriage end in divorce, and his employers give him one last chance. Get anger management counseling or we will have to terminate your employment with our company! is the final word.
Now this might be an extreme case to make our point that society’s understanding of the human being is inadequate, but I believe it can be shown that all of us know what is right and wrong, but lack that inner power to correct what is wrong in our lives.
If you have been influenced by Biblical teaching, your understanding of people is different from humanistic teaching. St. Paul summarizes
the Bible’s teaching of people when he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,
but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.Ê
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?ÊThanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
(Romans 7:15; 21-25).
The description of people is clear in this statement. Paul knew what was right. He wanted to do what was right, and yet somehow he
could not do it. It was like two people inside of him who were battling each other. He was being pulled in two directions. He loved and hated his sins at the same time.
This presentation of people is drastically different from the humanistic approach which says you can change what is wrong inside of yourself.ÊThe Biblical description of people is often described as pessimistic and negative. However, Christians find the Bible is realistic in describing us. It acknowledges the limitations of human knowledge in dealing with these problems of thought and behavior. We can diagnose what is wrong with us, but we can’t do much to correct our condition.
A walk through our prisons shows how helpless people are when it comes to changing our behavior. I visited with a man who was spending
time at the state prison, having been found guilty of assaulting boys. As we visited about his sentence, he said words to this effect: “I know
exactly what they will do with me. I will be sent to a prison hospital where they will work hard with me in the hopes that I will be cured of this affliction. After a number of months, I will return to my hometown where a notice will appear in the newspapers telling citizens that I am back in the community and dangerous. They are to be aware that their children are not to be around me unless another adult is present. The officials know, and I know, that my intentions to never
assault another child are good, but I have this weakness that could appear again.”
How sad to hear this man’s story. No one knew better than he how helpless the human being can be. It causes us to ask the same question
that Paul asked, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The Christian has found the answer, Thanks be to God.ÊJesus Christ is my deliverer.
Listen to our Lord’s words, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. But
the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,Êwill teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to
you” (John 14:16-17; 26). The Holy Spirit will not only teach what is right and wrong, but He will empower us to overcome our sins.
Peter told the people in his audience on the first Pentecost Sunday,Ê”Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). God the Holy Spirit will come to us through the
Word of God and live in us. Peter had experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in his own life, as had St. Paul. Once Paul
wrote, “What I don’t want to do, and what I want to do, I don’t do.”ÊLater he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”Ê
(Philippians 4:13). With Christ by the human being’s side, great things can be accomplished. Apart from Christ, we can do little.
Today’s Church must be reminded that Christ alone is the answer for our spiritual problems. All the moralizing in the world is of little value when the person is unable to live by the morals.
Our newspapers have carried several articles on the famous basketball coach from Indiana, Bobby Knight. This highly successful coach has
been fired by Indiana University for behavior unbecoming a coach,Êaccording to the officials of that institution. The question is raised,ÊWill Bob Knight coach again? His friend, Digger Phelps, has givenÊan interesting answer to that question: “Bob Knight will coach again if he receives some anger management counseling.”
Mr. Phelps is on the right track. The coach needs help. Resolutions to control his temper are not adequate for a future employer. However, Phelps followsÊthe humanistic philosophy that somewhere within the individual is a power that will enable him to change his own being. The BibleÊdisagrees and teaches that only Christ can change the person.Ê
The answer for Coach Knight, and all of us, is to let Christ bring about the changes in our own person. Then we will become new people. This is the blessed hope offered to all people.
The Church has always had to battle humanistic thought. In the days of Martin Luther, the humanist, Erasmus, was making life difficult for the reformers. Through his teaching, humanistic thought found its way into the Church. It continues to move into today’s Church. Recently, a clergyman speaking on television said, “The fall into sin made us spiritually wounded.” He went on to say that people are basically good and can pick themselves up from their dilemmas.Ê This sounds nice, but it is not Biblical. The Scriptures say, “We were dead in our trespasses and sins in which we once lived” (Ephesians 2:1). To be wounded is one thing. To be dead is something else.
Humanism is Christianity’s greatest enemy, for until we see our complete helplessness, there is little or no need for a Savior. Only Christ Jesus is able to change us. This continues to be the strong emphasis of evangelical Christianity. Secular society and the Church of Jesus Christ are at odds in understanding people. How do you
understand yourself? Can you save yourself, or are you in need of the Savior?Ê