05 Dec Righteous Invasion of Humanism
One of the most remarkable phenomena over the past half a century has been the renaissance of humanism in various ideological systems. Credo of American Humanist Association is “Good without a God”. Secular human psychologists emphatically proclaim goodness of human beings. Abraham Maslow writes, “As far as I know we just don’t have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” Carl Rogers says much the same thing: “I see members of the human species, like members of other species, as essentially constructive in their fundamental nature, but damaged by their experience.” Paul Kurtz sees us as “perfectible.” Due to its insistence on the innate goodness of humanity, humanism cannot easily answer the question of evil, yet at the same time it is unable to deny that evil exists. Man is considered not inherently bad. To stretch it further, in today’s world, it is believed that there is nothing good or bad. These are termed as relative terminologies. Some are of the view that what is good in one culture or language or a particular era may be bad in another culture, language or different age. Relativism is the order of the day. We enjoy freedom to use different standards to level someone or his/her deeds as good. The issue was confronted at all ages.
During the time Jesus lived on the earth, a rich young ruler, with influence of great wealth and position in the society, asked Him, “Good Teacher, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good except one-God” (Luke 18:18 -19). In all Jewish literature there is no record of any Rabbi being addressed as ‘Good Teacher ’. The Rabbis always said “there is nothing that is good but the law”. Therefore, to address Jesus in such a manner was quite unusual. Though Jesus was sure that his power and message came from God and He and God are the same, He began by driving the ruler and his thought back to God. By doing so, Jesus attributed absolute and only standard of goodness to God, nothing less than the supreme One and the Creator Himself. All our ideas of relativism of a good or bad person draw flak as we see God as The Perfect and The Ultimate. Genesis 1:31 declares at the end of creation God saw everything that He had made including man and found them good. Though man was created in perfect image and likeness of God, he deliberately opted to disobey, sin and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). The rich young man was himself convinced that he was keeping all the commandments and law from his youth. It appeared indisputable that the ruler was a good person. But soon he realised that he was leading an imperfect and contradictory life as the Lord pointed out the one thing he still lacked. He felt within his heart and soul that in his life there was something lacking. Man may lead a very religious life under the law and the commandments and do all good things possible. Many people do noble and praiseworthy work and are considered as good persons. Even many students do not indulge in doing bad things and the neighbourhood considers them as good boys/girls. But God does not see as man sees. The Word of God declares that all our so–called righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We are saved not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His Mercy He saved us, by washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5). When one turns to Christ he becomes a new creation and what is old passes away and all things become new (2 Cor.5: 17). A transformed person is His workmanship having been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). A person is not saved because of his good works but he does good works because he is saved. All goodness flows from The Absolute. As new creation in Christ, a man is justified through the blood of the Lamb and the Holy Spirit leads him to see others through the vision of God with love and compassion. Therefore, he thinks about and meditates on things whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). He leads an exemplary life in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (I Tim. 4:23).
The psalmist David writes “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. And He delights in all His ways. Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds his hand. (Psalm 37: 23, 24). There is nothing in Hebrew for ‘good’. The Hebrew word for man used here is ‘geber’ meaning a strong man, mighty man, a conqueror. Even the most powerful must be guided and supported by the Lord; otherwise his strength and courage will fall. Though he falls, the righteous will be held by God. The Hebrew word for ‘ordered’ is ‘kin’ which means prepared and established. Apostle Paul, quoting extensively from the Old Testament passages, describes about the state of man irrespective of his origin- ethnic , language or ages- as follows: “ There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God……There is none who does good, no not one” ( Romans 3: 10-12).
The scripture emphasizes more on a righteous person, rather than a good person, who seeks after God, understands, fears God, shuns evil, walks on the way of peace and of course, does good. True and perfect righteousness is not possible for man to attain on his own; the standard is simply too high. True righteousness is possible for mankind, but only through the cleansing of sin by Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have no ability to achieve righteousness in and of ourselves. But we possess the righteousness of Christ, because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His perfect righteousness so that we can one day stand before God and He will see not our sin, but the holy righteousness of the Lord Jesus. This means that we are made righteous in the sight of God; that is, that we are accepted as righteous and treated as righteous by God on account of what the Lord Jesus has done. On the cross, Jesus was treated as if He were a sinner, though He was perfectly holy and pure, and we are treated as if we were righteous, though we are defiled and depraved. On account of what the Lord Jesus has endured on our behalf, we are treated as if we had entirely fulfilled the Law of God and had never become exposed to its penalty. We have received this precious gift of righteousness from the God of all Mercy and Grace.
In the Book of Acts, Barnabas, an apostle and first missionary to Antioch from Jerusalem Church, was described as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.( Acts11:24). He had the Grace of God wrought in his soul and did good works. He was very kind, generous and charitable. He had sold the land he had and gave the money to the apostles for the needy brethren of the community. That act was the demonstration of his Christian love and his generosity. Barnabas stood by Paul and sponsored him when all men suspected him (Acts 9:27). He was a man of large heart and very flexible and as such most suitable to be sent to Antioch where the gentiles being swept into the fellowship of the Church. When he came to Antioch and had seen the Grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord (Acts 11:23). Sense of ‘good’ as mentioned for Barnabas is plainly ‘large-hearted’, ‘liberal minded’ and rising above narrow Jewish sectarianism and that because as the historians add, he was ‘full of Holy Ghost’ and ‘faith’. He was full of several graces of the spirit and particularly of faith and he was full of the extraordinary gifts of the spirit and of the faith of miracles. His life was full of faith and of spiritual gifts for the ministry to the others and the same Grace was given to Stephen (Acts 6:8). The result was a great many people were added to the Lord. It will be incomplete and inappropriate to conclude life and ministry of Barnabas without specifying his extraordinary ministry of comforting, consoling, encouraging and building many fellow believers and leaders. He went to the extent of seeking Paul in Tarsus and facilitated Paul’s life, testimony and gifts and talents for the use of the Kingdom of God. Later, in spite of sharp difference with Paul at the time of the second missionary journey, Barnabas was committed to build up John Mark, another leader of the early church and writer of the second gospel in the New Testament, from not-so-serious and less faithful minister to a most faithful and profitable minister. He preferred his mentees to take leadership in the forefront and excel and grow beyond him. He disappeared unrecognised and unrecorded in the rest of the Acts of the Apostles but made an indelible mark in bringing many to the fold of Kingdom of God, building at least two prominent leaders and encouraging and consoling hundreds of others in the first century. Luke is justified to demonstrate a lively example of a good man fully committed to God and devoted to serving others in spirit and faith without holding back anything for his own.
The supreme example of anyone doing good to others of all ages of humanity is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible declares how Jesus being anointed by God with Holy Spirit and with power went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him (Acts 10:38). Finally He sacrificed His life for the redemption of mankind. God our Saviour desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth, fear God and work righteousness (I Tim 2:4, Acts 10:35).
Dr. Nanda Dulal
The author is presently working as Group Director (Administration) in a central Government Department. He resides in Bangalore with his wife Geetanjali and daughter Bonita. He and his wife are involved with UESI ministry from their student days.