When Self-Sacrifice is Stupidity

kolbe-2One need only consider the highest Christian ethic of “Greater love hath no man” and thereafter ask oneself what conceivable secular rationale could justify the death of St. Kolbe [a Polish Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz]. True, such tales of self-sacrifice cannot but impose themselves on the sensitive human heart. But if there is truth to the secular doctrine that the ephemeral life — this eye-blink in the history of the universe that we call Self — is the only thing that any living being will ever possess, then the ultimate act of love really turns out to be the ultimate act of stupidity. And since one can just as easily be desensitized to love, we can hardly rely with any confidence on the sensitive human heart.

From the Christian perspective, self-sacrifice is of course an act of love in the sense that it is an act of faith, which also happens to be the theological justification for the very virtue of faith, namely that if the existence of God and the full consequence of any act (both finite and eternal) were obvious to us, it would render altruism impossible. But any act from which the Self cannot possibly profit simply has no rational justification in the secular, even in the sense of one’s deeds reverberating through the future of humanity, which at any rate is just as doomed to die as the Self (and these days possibly not long afterward). I may therefore assume with confidence that if we are indeed living in the secular world, the only thing of ultimate importance is incontrovertibly the precious thing that is me — my thoughts, my feelings, my determinations — my experience of reality… It would be quite superfluous . . . to demonstrate that the secularist is inclined to egotism, though it is quite demonstrable that it would be quite illogical for her to be inclined to anything else, so long as she is unable to afford sufficient reason for placing ultimate value elsewhere…

–Bo Jinn, 
Utopia, The Secular Delusion

The ethical bankruptcy of humanism

Clark pinnock copyAlthough the world cries out for justice, the basis for it has been disintegrating now that the vagaries of human will have come to replace faith in divine justice and eternal law. Although there is still a broad cultural consensus that it is right to be committed to the well-being of others, the rise of secular humanism makes it more and more difficult to support and explain any such obligation . . . All that the secular humanist has is his own present existence. Nothing has a rational claim to be of greater value for him. Therefore, no ethical claim which involves self-sacrifice, unless it promises due recompense, can win his assent.

The secular humanist who performs an act genuinely altruistic and self-sacrificing is presupposing the falsity of his humanistic beliefs. Loving our neighbour is not a rationally defensible ethic within the humanistic system. It is an ethic theologically grounded in the gospel and respected long after the erosion of faith because of its recognized rightness. It does not and did not grow out of humanistic soil. Logically speaking secular humanism is ethically bankrupt and its assumptions about reality when taken to their logical conclusions turn out to be inhuman and anti-human. The world’s deepest problems are moral and spiritual, not economic and technological.

–Clark Pinnock