Are Humans Really Underrated?

The concept of humanism has always been a dicey proposition among Christ-followers. And in using the term I’m talking about both the formal philosophy espoused by such atheists as Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky and John Dewey, as well as the general concept of the placing of the human being at the center of things, in God’s rightful spot.

The Bible gives us different looks at the importance of the human. There are texts that would challenge anyone’s self esteem. The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT). The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. (Genesis 6:5-6).

The New Testament joins with chorus as well: What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14b). For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:19).

And so we are careful about elevating humans above our place, choosing rightfully to see ourselves as “bondservants of Christ” (Romans 1:1). In fact, Paul gives us a specific warning about an overemphasis of I in Philippians 2. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

So humanism, or perhaps more specifically, secular humanism – the idea that man can be right, true and moral without God – is an anathema from the perspective of the foot of the cross.

On the other hand…

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26).

Psalm 8 seems to reflect this dichotomy: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? But it continues… You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.

I’m considering all of this as I read a new book after seeing an excerpt recommended by a friend.

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will

The book is by Geoff Colvin, a senior editor at Fortune who writes about organizational success. It is certainly not written from a Christian perspective, but I’m reading it because it is an insightful take on a culture that is driven by technology, or perhaps run over by technology. I recommend it to church lay leaders, pastors, ministers and small group leaders because of its value in helping us understand Monday through Saturday life for the people we care deeply about and lead.

Colvin considers the technology tsunami and its potential for overtaking humanity with a hearty “not so fast.”

We humans have good reason to be uneasy. Strange things are happening in the economy. Ever fewer men of prime working age—the group that historically has been the most thoroughly employed—are working (see chart), and while several factors are feeding the trend, most economists believe that advancing technology is one of them. In factories and offices, on construction sites and behind counters, technology keeps doing more jobs better than people.

Fear of technological unemployment is as old as technology, and it has always been unfounded. Over time and across economies, technology has multiplied jobs and raised living standards more spectacularly than any other force in history, by far. But now growing numbers of economists and technologists wonder if just maybe that trend has run its course. That’s why former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers says these issues will be “the defining economic feature of our era.”

How will we humans add value?


And, of course, then the book then answers the question, very interestingly, I think.

The point from a Christian leader’s perspective is this: Our folks are daily awash in a culture that tears at “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…” (Philippians 4:8). Technology threatens relationships, social networks create anti-social behavior, pornography objectifies souls and on and on. Of course I’m not saying that technology is evil. But just read this week’s headlines and you’ll see it’s certainly being used that way.

The answer in the face of all of this isn’t to overrate humans, or to underrate them, but to liberate them with the knowledge that they have been loved by the One who made them. How can we help them see that?

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