Seminary Viewpoints

Humanism in High Gear: Leading by Faith in a Fallen World

Guest Author, Les Ollila | November 11, 2021
Theology Thursday

Excerpted and adapted from two sessions taught by Dr. Les Ollila at BJU Seminary’s Stewart Custer Lecture Series and discussed on The Steve Noble Show on Nov. 11.

Not long ago, I was driving with my wife on the highway when a car suddenly appeared in my rearview mirror, rapidly bearing down on us. As the car, driven by a teenage girl, flew past us, we glimpsed her bumper sticker that read, “Keep your laws off my body.” 

That bumper sticker was not a mere political statement. Rather it was the perfect picture of humanism in high gear — placing man and woman at the center of all things, a rejection of human and divine authority in every way possible.

And like that low-orbiting car, that humanism in high gear is the real moving force before a woke culture that has turned every semblance of authority structure on its ear.

So how should Christians in general — and our appointed leaders in particular — respond with a theological perspective to this pervasive humanism that leads to wickedness, violence and other tragic consequences?

It starts with recognizing that, while this cultural shift may seem new to us, this perversion of authority to anarchy originated back in the Garden of Eden with Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God’s original intent in Creation.

Authority to Anarchy

God set up an authority structure that was necessary to protect Adam and Eve — and now us — from Satan and his schemes. However, taking the form of a subtle serpent, the evil one successfully attacked God’s authority in three steps:

  1. In Genesis 3:1ff, Satan turned God’s commandment from Genesis 2 into a question. God said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” Then Satan asked, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” 
  2. Satan directly stated that God was a liar (“you will not die”). Society is making this same declaration today because people want nothing to do with the truth of the Word.
  3. Satan told them they would be “as God.” He despised God’s rule as he had in his own rebellion: “I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:14).

With that final lie, humanism was born. When people think and treat themselves “as God,” they deny all authority by making themselves the ultimate authority. 

Now that we know the source, we know how to respond: with faith, trust in God and His truth, as reflected in His sovereign plan.

Fortunately, God also provided a model of that response in Noah.

Noah’s Faith in God’s Truth

Today’s wickedness and violence can be likened unto that in Noah’s time. By grace, God chose to save Noah and his family and told him to build an ark — for 120 years. The only way Noah could live his apologetic for that long in a world going at a breakneck speed away from God’s absolute truth was by faith. 

Hebrews 11:7 teaches five aspects of his faith:

​​1. The Word: the warning for Noah’s faith.

“being warned of God of things not seen as yet” 

Noah based his faith and actions on the word of God. We live our apologetic the same way today — by faith anchored in God’s truth. No matter if people deny heaven and hell or claim there is more than one way to be saved, we can stand firm not just because of what we think but because of what the Bible says.

2. Worship: the expression of Noah’s faith 

“moved with fear” 

Deuteronomy 5:29 teaches three phases of fear, the first of which is to see God for who He is. Part of faith is holding God in awe. He is a God of order and design with power to wipe out the earth with a flood. Without understanding who God is by reading His Word, we cannot properly express our faith today.

3. Work: the action of Noah’s faith

 “prepared an ark” 

James 2:17 teaches that faith without works is dead. Noah acted on what God said about the coming destruction by obeying God’s instruction to build the ark. Today we live knowing that Jesus will one day return and God will judge all who have not repented. If we are to act on our faith, we desperately need to get working for God’s purpose and glory by proclaiming His truth.

4. Witness: the evidence of Noah’s faith 

“by the which he condemned the world”

The proclamation of God’s truth through Noah’s obedience was the evidence of his faith. By it he, and we, condemn the world. We too are under an imperative — to proclaim the Word. And the world desperately needs to be woken up. Therefore, we need to mean business about sharing the Gospel. Be prepared, though — as in Noah’s time, the truth offends unbelievers because it is supernatural and has to be accepted by faith. But we don’t have to argue someone to the truth — God is sovereign over all and can convince anyone of the truth.

5. Wages: the reward of Noah’s faith  

“saving of his house … and became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith”

Because Noah had faith in God’s truth, God acted on His promise to save Noah along with his family and to establish His covenant with Noah. If we stay focused as Noah did, eventually we will understand this reward as we love God, worship Him and obey His truth.

While we live in this sinful world full of discouragement and spiritual warfare, it is easy to feel like we’ve hit the wall.

So what are we going to do … quit? Chuck the truth? Join in humanism’s high-gear pursuit of hell on earth?

No! If we, as Paul did, continually fight, continually pursue the finish of the race and continually keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7) — if we accept God’s authority and truth and use it as our guide in leading, we too can look forward to a crown of righteousness.

Let that encourage you as you live and lead in this dark, decaying world as Noah and Paul did: by faith.

Les Ollila is the founder and director of Building Great Leaders, a ministry devoted to producing effective servant-leaders in the pulpit and the church as well as providing them instruction, encouragement and resources. In addition to serving as president of Northland Baptist Bible College (1984-2002) and later as its chancellor (2003-2013), Ollila is a nationally recognized seminar and conference speaker in the area of leadership training, Christian educators’ conferences, family-centered church meetings, summer camps and Christian school ministries.