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Humanistic Theology and the Educational System

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theology
Wordcount: 3202 words Published: 4th Oct 2017

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The influx of humanistic theology into the educational system has given rise to considerable tension within the Christian community in the recent years.

Questions have been asked of what humanism is and where it comes from. Humanism is a methodology that concentrates on the welfare or progress and happiness of all humanity in this alone and only life.

Humanism can be traced back to the times of Democritus and Aristotle of Ancient Greece. (Lamont, 1992). Its tie to the Greek culture resulted in pagan features such as glorification of mankind (Dodgen, 1986, 195).). It is said that the Greek set about humanizing everything. They humanized God, nature and daily life, and it is out of these acts that great minded men measured all things and gave a firm and noble body of standards to the human life which came after them (King).

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The theory of humanism as said has given rise and considerable tension within the Christian community. This brings out curiosity to know what the statement of concern is. Well Humanism is a school of thought that gives primacy to the study of human needs and interest, for instance looking at the theory of Abraham Maslow and his definition of humanism which says “The focus of the humanistic perspective is on the one self who translates to, “you” and “your” perception of “your” experiences.

This view proposed by Maslow argues that you are free to choose “your” own behaviour rather than react to environmental stimuli or reinforces. This statement is also in contrast to the beliefs of operant conditioning developed by the American research psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner. Skinner believed that all behaviour is the result of application of consequences.

The theory of humanism emphasized on faith in action. Faith in action but not in a good way. Humanism teaches that it is immoral to wait for God to act for us. It emphasizes that we must act to stop the wars and the crimes and the brutality of ties and future ages. Humanism says we have powers of remarkable kind. We have a high degree of freedom in choosing what we will do. It tells us that whatever our philosophy of the world may be, ultimately the responsibility for the kind of world in which we live in lies with us.

All this brings the fact that the issue of concern is that humanism is a philosophy for those who love themselves, a philosophy of imagination and it is focused upon human’s means for comprehending reality. It does not leave any room for God as the Creator of the universe rather it only portrays God as one who ordains the good or bad that we do.

Hence Humanism causes tension because it does not preserve the legitimacy of the spiritual world and God being the deity of all things

All that left aside the understanding of humanism becomes relevant to the practices of Christian education when one begins to look at the principles of humanistic education or educational humanism. Keep in mind that humanism did not birth in a conference room, educational reform or legislative act. It has been influenced by people of different fields.

Perhaps it is the advocacy by the modern or naturalistic humanists that seems to have drawn the ire of religious leaders towards humanism, especially fundamentalist Christians. This is in spite of the fact that modern humanists advocate a strict separation of church and state, especially in the domain of public education.

When humanism is applied to education it encompasses a variety of assumptions about the teacher, learner, curriculum and the context of learning. There are a lot of principles and each principle highlights the understanding of humanistic education. Some of the principle and objectives that can be seen as basic are:

  1. Teachers should be trusting, sincere and empathetic with their students. They should prize their students and hold them with high regard. This as proposed by Carl Rogers who concludes that such an attitude on the part of the learning leader would set stage for successful experiences and students would become more self accepting and aware of themselves.
  2. As proposed by Gage and Berliner(1991) there are five objectives that a teacher must meet which are: promote positive self-direction and independence, develop the ability to take responsibility for what is learned, develop creativity, develop curiosity and lastly create an interest in the arts in students. This can also be known as sponsoring invitational learning.
  3. Affective factors should be explored as much as the cognitive dimension of classroom instruction (Beihler, 1986, 399). Research by Bayer (1986) indicates that children who are taught in an atmosphere which is conclusive to effective learning will also have a more positive self concept (130-131).
  4. The relationship between the teacher and the pupil has important impact on the learning process. Thomas Gordon (1974) a popular humanist educator, describes a healthy teacher student relationship. He says that the relationship between a teacher and a student is good when it has (1) openness or transparency-so each is able to risk directness and honesty with the other, (2) caring-whereby each know they are valued by the other, and lastly (3) interdependence on one another.
  5. William Purky (1978) call attention to the relationship between a student’s self-concept and scholastic achievement and recommends that instructors develop and use skill of invitational learning. Such a skill as learning students names, having one on one contact with them outside of class, praising and affirming them, demonstrating personal and classroom discipline , and being transparent with personal feeling will help the child recognize his/her values and capabilities or in other word influencing self efficacy.
  6. That all teachers must always keep in mind that learning is facilitated when the pupil is prized, valued and respected by the teacher who can care without being possessive. This is what Abraham Maslow would call promotion of self actualization which would push students to work very hard.
  7. Teachers should use techniques for encouraging students to identify with others, emphasize with them, and relate their feelings to the feeling of others. Teachers are to endorse self determination or self regulation to make students accountable for their action and choices.

Looking at those principles of humanistic education it becomes clear that many of them are based upon sound principles of education.

It would not be difficult to cite biblical references to demonstrate examples form scripture where many of the principles can be seen. That is not to say that educational humanism has its roots in scripture, because such a statement would be based on faulty methods of hermeneutics.

For someone who would study humanism there are a few key terms that would help them understand more about humanism and what it stands for when it comes to education. Some of these are:

  1. Self-efficacyis the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reachgoals. This can be seen as the ability to persist and a person’s ability to succeed with a task. As an example, self-efficacy directly relates to how long someone will stick to a workout regimen or a diet. High and low self-efficacy determines whether or not someone will choose to take on a challenging task or write it off as impossible.
  2. Self-actualization Maslow explicitly defines self-actualization to be “the desire for self-fulfilment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming
  3. Self- determination, the process by which a person controls their own life.
  4. Invitational learning, William Purky said no aspect of education is more important than the feeling on the part of the teacher that the individual student is important, valuable, and can learn in school”

However humanism goes much further than modernism in its view towards the bible .the view of the humanist is much more radical. Humanism believes in few things that as Christians we may consider them as blasphemy. Some of which are;

  1. “We believe however those tradition dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God or creed above human need do a disservice to the human species……As non-theists; we begin with humans, not God, nature not deity”.
  2. As Paul Blanshard, an editor of the Humanist (a slick national publication) wrote: “The evangelists reverently call the Bible “The Book”, and they say it is God’s word. Let’s be blunt about it. By no stretch of the imagination can the bible be called either the revealed word of God or the errorless work of God. It is not one book, and it is not holy. It is very bad history and even of questionable morals…”
  3. Looking at this we see that humanism is not indifferent toward the Bible-but is at all out ward against it. The quotations are fully typical and representative of humanistic thinking toward any revelation from God.

The only way Christians can combat their vicious and desperate influences of humanism and its war on the bibles, is by being so knowledgeable and conversant in the scriptures that can effectively wield the mighty sword of the Spirit.

The essence of positive pride is confidence and contentment, a sense of gratitude and accomplishment in the productive use of your gift (Faw, 134-136). There is a need to have a Biblical perspective of the person and human experiences in order to correctly understand the insights contained in certain theories. The truths about human nature in scripture focus largely on our relationship with God and our need for salvation He alone can provide (Faw, 137).

A Christian who meditates upon the word of the lord and keeps in his heart will have no difficulty seeing the vast superiority of Christianity over humanism or any other vain philosophy. The bible has something real and stable.

The Bible offers a perfect guide for day to day living: teaching the value of time (Eph. 5:15-16); honesty (Eph. 4:25,28); the putting away of every vice which is harmful to one’s self and others (Col. 3:5-9); benevolence and kindness in thought and deed (Col. 3:11-14). The Bible condemns all partiality and prejudice (Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:26-28; James 2:19). The Bible teaches moderation, patience, and peace (Phil. 4:4-8).

Humanism stresses that this life is all there is – that our existence is extremely brief and ultimately hopeless. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches us that while the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day. God’s word offers us eternal life and provides the motivation to live an honourable, godly life that we might live eternally with God.

The Bible and humanistic philosophy are at war. The battle is bitter, but there is only one way that wickedness can prevail: If Christians fail to study and practice the teaching of God’s word.

There is a major difference between the belief system of the messengers of God and those who reject the word of God. Others find their beliefs humanistically upon their evidences form senses, logic, philosophy and observation. Instead of founding their human study upon the word of God, they sought to test the Word of God by their human study.

Paul warned: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ”(Colossians 2:6-9).

The difference between the humanistic system of the world and God’s system is outlined in 1Corinthians 1 and 2. The world bases faith in the wisdom of men. Some seek signs- that which can be measured, seen, touched, tasted, and heard. Others look for Philosophical reasoning.

Humanistic and Biblical concepts of faith can be compared in many ways some of which are:

The humanism starts with doubt in order to prove assertion while the Bible starts with the gift of God. Humanism relies on the autonomy of humanity while the bible relies upon the word of God. Humanism is based on 5 senses while the bible is based on the power of God rather than the wisdom of men. The comparisons are many but the point still stand that humanism cannot attack the bible because God gave us all our reasoning abilities and our senses too.

All this raises the question that, what is the implication for Christian education. The focus of humanism is somewhat curious as other scientific theories regarding humans learning and behaviour also advocate a strictly materialistic view of human’s beings. The general issue of concern is how humanism affects Christian education and somewhat advocates a strictly materialistic view of human beings. Its focus has been on helping the student become ‘’humanized’’ or ‘’ self-actualized therefore helping the student discover, become and develop his or her real self and full potential.

This brings us to what implication humanism has on Christian education. Humanistic approach to learning means a process that is inevitable and unique for every individual. Humanistic approach considers human being as the central part of learning by humanistic approach.

Place of the child in teaching-learning:

According to this approach student plays a central role in whole teaching-learning process. This approach believes in child-centred-education. This approach, considers that we should first understand the needs, interests, abilities, age level, attitudes, aptitude of students then try to organize teaching learning process according to these.

It emphasizes on reach, touch and teaches the child according to his nature, and interests. All teaching material and its process must be related to individual characteristics of students.

2. Emphasis on individuality:

According to this approach every individual has his own individuality. Teacher should respect and develop this individuality through education.

Individual differences should be respected and internal virtues of individual be developed. Teacher should understand this individuality and organize his/her teaching-learning process according to this individuality.

3. Understanding the child:

According to this approach, we should understand the child first of all, and then teach him. We, as a teacher, should know our students, their interest, personality, capabilities and background environment and use teaching methods and content accordingly.

Because this approach believes in student centred education so before teaching, a teacher should understand students thoroughly.

4. Method of teaching:

In this approach teacher should use methods of teaching which are based on psychological principles. Teacher should not use teacher centeredness and traditional methods of teaching in it.

Teacher should emphasize on active learning which could consider the learner. Teacher should use the methods which could teach according to needs, interests, abilities and attitudes of learners.

Learner’s readiness, mental set and motivation are considered as basis for deciding the method of teaching to be used. So teacher should use learner centred innovative methods of teaching.

5. Discipline:

Teacher should not force student to be disciplined. He/she should encourage self discipline and self-control among students. Students should be given the responsibility of to be disciplined.

6. Place and role of the teacher:

According to this approach student plays a central role in teaching learning process. Teacher acts as a guide, friend or helper of the students.

Students should freedom to develop and make progress according to their own pace, needs and interests. Teacher should be considered as the milestone in the journey of total development of the child.

Teacher should not force his own methods and views on students but he should be only a guide in this development process.

Looking at all this we wrap it all up in a nutshell that the implication or consequence that humanism has on Christian education is that it helps Christian educators become better teachers, educators and facilitator.

Having discussed all this we see that we come to a conclusion that humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, aspired by art, and motivated by compassion. System of values and beliefs that is based on the idea that people are basically good and their problems can be solved using reason instead of religion. We have seen what the general issue of concern is on humanism form a Christian perspective. We have also seen why the understanding of the topic is relevant to Christian education and lastly the implications it has for Christian education. That humanism gives primacy to the study of human needs and interests.


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