This post is a companion to the Heretics podcast found on the Podcast tab at the top of this page; and a continuation in our series of looks at the ancient heresies of the church and a refutation of them using good theology and hermeneutics.
Here we go; wading into the deep waters of the philosophical. Today we want to tackle the modern love child of history, philosophy, and theistic ambivalence that is: Secularism. Why do we want to do this? We don’t, but if you look at the world around you right now, what you are seeing is the sprouting up from the seeds that have been planted by secularism. All; and I do mean all, of the worldly thinking you are seeing going on are the orphaned offspring of secularism come home to roost.
The current resultant worldview stands at the end of the long march of history. From the birth of medieval sacralism, all the way through the Middle Ages to the birth pains of the Renaissance and the Reformation. As you move through the Enlightenment and her emphasis on: Empiricism, Rationalism, and Pragmatism; traversing through the Industrial Revolution and the birth of Materialism, you come to rest where now sits the Frankenstein’s monster of secularism. This modern worldview is one planted firmly outside the realm of any metaphysical or spiritual influence; as both have been cast aside in favor of the new abomination.
Coined by George Holyoake in 1851, secularism is an epistemology, which is the science of knowing, that at its core is agnostic. This worldview seeks to be devoid of religion and religious influence; which means by nature, it is a man focused system. Typically the secular worldview will hold to the innate goodness of humanity and lean heavily upon naturalism, the belief the physical world and laws are all that exist and govern life; and promote utilitarian ideals and ethics, the preference for that which is best in each situation.
As if you could not see already, for the Christian, this worldview is a problem. Not because we cannot deal with it, but because we must deal with it at seemingly every turn in the world in which we live. For starters, this worldview denies the most basic of Biblical concepts: Creation. Genesis 1:1, makes less than zero effort to prove God; Moses simply assumes the knowledge of the reality of the situation and moves on. We say reality of the situation, because only the fool, as Psalm 14:1 – 3 makes clear, would actually deny the existence and work of God. Right off the bat, secularism has the wrong foundation. To start with anything other than God as the basis for: knowledge, understanding, inquiry, etc.; is to start with the lesser, created, thing.
Secondly secularism, due to its wrong assumptions about and starting points with man, has no rational foundation with which to correctly define man. Humanity is wicked and sinful as is made clear by God in Scripture. We are prone to continual, great wickedness as stated in Genesis 6:5; we have wicked, deceitful hearts as the prophet explains in Jeremiah 17:9; and we need a guide in order to understand how to be righteous as is made so clearly shown in Psalm 1. To stand otherwise, is to stand outside of the truth of the Biblical revelation and reject God. But beyond just a simple rejection, this epistemology is an all-out frontal assault in sinful humanities war against God and His rule. And yes, sinful humanity is at war against God; read Romans 1, especially the end of the chapter.
Thirdly, the secular mindset cannot: comprehend, explain, or understand human evil. In theology we call the problem of evil Theodicy; and we have written books to explain the concept and subsequent application. Suffice to say, Genesis 4:7 gives us a prime example on where evil comes from, and most people will not like this, but oh well: sin comes from US!!! Sin seeks to devour us because its father, Satan, is doing the exact same thing, just as the Apostle warned us in 1 Peter 5:8. Only a Biblically based worldview, with a sound, consistent hermeneutical foundation can account for evil and properly apply faithful living in the face of death and destruction in this world.
Finally, we have the issue of objectivity. Secularism, with her utilitarian applications, cannot help but fall into the trap of subjectivity. If naturalism is correct, and the material world and her laws are all that exist, then evil is undefinable and therefore unknowable. Imagine a world in which we are unable to call: rape, child molestation, Hitler evil; that is the world secularism will ultimately create. If utilitarian ethics are fully implemented, we run the risk of arbitrary desires and wants replacing the solid mores of ethical certainty. Once this occurs, society is fractured and incapable of granting any moral or ethical certitude and therefore cannot help but descend into chaos. God alone is the anchor upon which human society depends; without Him, we will undoubtedly drift hopelessly into oblivion.
There is a greater insidious problem with modern secularism which we must be made aware; the problem of reality. Secularism has taken spiritually connected beings and denied that reality out of hand. What I mean by this is: we were made to worship God as Psalm 150 instructs; and in the absence of that worship, we WILL find something else to follow like a lost puppy as Romans 1:21 – 23 shows us. And if we are honest with ourselves we especially love to worship us and our ideas as the prophet condemningly told the people in Isaiah 29:13.
This black hole of worship and drain circling leads us to the false worldview application of intersectionality, which could be its own episode. Intersectionality, besides being a great Scrabble word, is a sociological web designed to demonstrate interconnectedness on the basis of naturalistic traits. Postmodernism, by its very nature, denies Truth and fragments every society it touches. Intersectionality seeks to bring that society back together in a hierarchy based upon: ethnicity, sexuality, finances, etc. All the base things of the world, brought together as a means of spurning God: denying His Law and ruling hand; while simultaneously attempting to remove our responsibility before Him. The modern secularist seeks to live accountable only to himself ala Judges 21:25.
Our correction is going to be less about historical theology than typical corrections; and much more about worldview, because that is what secularism truly is: an attempt at a unifying, Godless worldview.
As Christians we have to start with the source of life; we as believers are dependent beings. We understand this because we know our salvation is brought by God to us dead sinners as Paul described in Romans 5:6 – 11. We know that same salvation upon incapable sinners is the result of God’s grace alone as laid out in Ephesians 2:1 – 7. But beyond just us, we must remember that all of humanity is dependent upon God.
From the beginning, we only have life because God breathed it into us way back in the Garden of Genesis 2:7; and we know from the Psalm 139:13 – 16, we only exist because of the creative forming and building done by God. Therefore, any worldview or epistemological system that does not start with God as its foundation will fail. This is the parable of Christ in Luke 6:46 – 49 lived out in vivid detail. God has weighed and measured this universe, as he chided Job in chapter 38:2 – 7; and we must recognize this lest we fall. The fallen mind is incapable of understanding these truths, and we as Christians girded with the thoughts and mind of Christ ala 1 Corinthians 2:14 – 16; must bear the truth in this world.
That means we must critique the a priori, or foundational beliefs of secularism. We have to be disciplined to see past the arguments over: race, equality, sexual identity, financial systems; and argue in accordance with the spirits at work within them as 1 John 4:1 – 2 warns us. In other words; we must see the rejection of God’s Law and Truth, and respond accordingly.
So instead of a discussion on race, we need a look at the doctrine of humanity in line with our fallenness (Romans 3:23), and the impending judgment we will incur (Ecclesiastes 12:13 – 14). Only then can we come to true agreement and peace. Furthermore, we must focus less on artificial, outward identity; and truly focus on righteous living: thinking God’s thoughts after Him as Paul applied in Romans 12:1 – 2; and eyeing only our future in Christ as commanded in the application of Hebrews 12:1 – 2. Instead of arguing over the world’s understanding of her systems; we want Biblical definitions of relationships as founded by God in Genesis 2:24 – 25, serving His Kingdom as commanded in Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9, functioning as He has ordained in numerous places like Ephesians 5:22 – 33 and 6:1 – 4, and glorifying Him and Him alone in everything as described 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17.
So how do we do that? We accomplish this by being a people out of time and well out of touch with modern sensibilities and slights. To our shame, we too often are comfortable wading in the waters of the secular world until the true fangs of her demonic ancestry are shown. Instead, we should actively seek to be the people of God, set apart, not living for this world as Peter commands in 1 Peter 2:9 – 12. We want to walk with Paul as in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 28, living simply according to what God has commanded and commended. In all things, exposing the darkness of society (Ephesians 5:11), and denying oxygen to the fire that is the lie of lightless enemy (Romans 13:11 – 14). All the while, trusting in God for our security and future; as we know He will secure us and bring righteousness to all the unlawful deeds under heaven (Romans 12:14 – 21). Seeing our security rightly, not here; but with God who has redeemed us (1 Peter 1:3 – 5).