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Andrew Fulford Archive Authors Nota Bene

Christian Humanism in an Age of Ideology

Dr. Bradley J. Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative writes about Christian humanists in the twentieth century, including lights such as C.S. Lewis, Étienne Gilson, and Christopher Dawson. The whole article is worthwhile reading for those interested in themes TCI discusses often; perhaps even more notably, the article spends time discussing the notable similarities as well as differences between the humanists:

As the label “Christian Humanist” suggests, these writers, poets, and philosophers defended liberal education as the only true education. The liberal arts—connecting ancient, medieval, and modern man—liberated one from the immediate problems of this earth and linked each person to a greater continuity that transcended time and space. The liberal arts leavened the reason of each person, conferring citizenship in a Republic of Letters—what Cicero and the Stoics labeled the Cosmopolis and what St. Augustine would call, in a specially Christian understanding, the “City of God.” Any other form of education merely forced a stifling conformity on a person, making him less what the Creator uniquely made him to be.

That was their common ground. Yet at best, these women and men formed only the loosest of alliances. Intellectual as well as personal differences separated them. C.S. Lewis especially had difficulty with a number of his fellow Christian Humanists. “Stick to Gilson as a guide and beware of the people (Maritain in your church, and T.S. Eliot in mine) who are at present running what they call ‘neo-scholasticism’ as a fad,” he wrote to a Roman Catholic nun who would later become president of St. Mary’s College in northern Indiana. Christopher Dawson, for his part, assumed—probably correctly—that Lewis had taken much of the argument of his Abolition of Man from Dawson’s own 1929 work Progress and Religion.