Can a leopard change its spots?
"... in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28.19
The "leopard" that is Humanism certainly has! What began as a movement within Christendom to return "ad fontes" (to the source) has become a by-word for secularism. How did that happen? The latest booklet by The Christian Institute tells a familiar story - which is reflected in that way that the European Union tried to airbrush Christianity out of its official history and the way in which our own governments in the UK have redefined marriage.
Dutch scholar, Erasmus, is credited with being the father of Humanism, with his emphasis on returning to the sources in everything including study of the scriptures. His approach led to printing the original Hebrew and Greek texts and influenced the Reformation leaders, Luther and Calvin. Providing access to the Bible in its original languages enabled scholars to correct errors and heresies and to make more accurate translations, which in turn spawned the missionary societies which continue their work to this day.
As ever, this more open approach to Christian scholarship had its dark side. A breakaway from the Reformation of 1517 questioned the doctrine of the Trinity (in which God is defined as One in Three - Father, Son and Holy Spirit). According to the movement which became known as Unitarianism Jesus was not divine and the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person. Although Unitarianism continued to consider itself a religion, its adherents became increasingly secular in outlook, characterised by an attitude which stressed the ability and duty of human being to save themselves, becoming morally upright in the process.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the drift from the movement's religious roots found expression in the founding of ethical societies, which no longer pretended to be churches. In 1933 the first Humanist Manifesto was published. This was followed by another in 1973. By the time Humanist Manifesto 3 was published in 2003 the break with religion was complete. Meanwhile the British Humanist Association was busy promoting a moral agenda which in increasingly at odds with the Christian vision of society, rebranding itself Humanists UK as recently as 2017.
Nach ann oirnn a thàinig an dà latha! The jury may still be out on leopards and their spots but wolves are known to go about in sheep's clothing...