"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Secularism Isn’t Real (and other bluntness)

Posted in Theological by matt on Saturday, February 13, 2010

My computer’s dictionary defines the word ‘secular’ this way: “denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.”

The problem with this definition is that there are no such “attitudes, activities, or other things.” I don’t think the concept ‘secular’ (as defined above) is bad, per se, it just isn’t real.

It’s like glow-in-the-dark elephants. I can imagine that they exist (and I do!). And, if they existed, they’d immediately become my favorite animal, but that doesn’t mean they exist (except in that one trippy dream Dumbo had).

Everything in life has a religious or spiritual basis. God (Spirit) is related-to spiritually, and everything exists by and is held together by God (Col 1:15-20). That means that this physical reality we see is grounded in and held together by a spiritual one we don’t see.

So whether you’re eating a burrito, talking, on a date, driving, praying, cutting toe-nails – even sleeping! They all have spiritual implications. None of those are ‘secular’ activities.

In short, there is no part of our world that is spiritually exempt, because there is no part of our the world from which God is exempt.

But most Christians (and many of other faiths) can go with that. It’s abstract, but it sounds really good, so it merits a head-nod or even a hearty, old-fashioned “Amen!”

And, honestly, who doesn’t want a perfectly good, freedom-giving, life-loving God to be a part of every aspect of their day-to-day? It’s all beautiful rhetoric, but do we believe it in a way that informs our life?

Let’s keep going, then, and move from abstract to a couple concrete examples.

1) Take music.

No such thing as secular means that a ‘secular artist’ is just as capable of singing something that’s True as a ‘Christian artist’ is – regardless of what record label they’re with. Christians may know the Truth, but that doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on it. Artists like Coldplay or Richie Spice may or may not know Christ (I hope they do/come to), but their music has shifted my focus heavenward on quite a few occasions (not to mention they’re really talented).

2) Or conversations/lectures/sermons.

God has used strung-out homeless guys to speak convicting Truth into my life that literally changed me forever. On the flipside, I’ve listened to sermons by health-n-wealth bums in suits and makeup that were nauseatingly unbiblical. Who was secular, who was spiritual? I don’t think it’s as simple as we try to make it.

3) Or how ’bout books?

A few years back I had a good friend tell me I was wasting precious time by reading classic novels and obscure philosophy when I could be reading ‘theological books.’ How sad! Many of the books that God has used most in my life were old school fiction; Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, The Trial by Kafka and many others have helped me understand my own need for God and His outrageous love and grace in a way that plain words just couldn’t.

And this goes for magazines, universities, movies, and many other things we try to segregate into secular vs. spiritual. Truth can’t be copyrighted; it either is truth, or it isn’t. Is there any Truth that isn’t God’s Truth? Is there such a thing as ‘secular Truth’?

Inevitable preface: We need the Spirit’s guidance and Scripture as our standard, or everything I’ve said up to this point unravels and we end up in heresy-land, but you get what I mean: Truth is Truth, regardless of context.

So give me some feedback. Do you agree? Disagree? Is this unsettling to you or normal? What are some evidences of Truth in a ‘secular’ context in your own life?

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Update

Posted in Day-To-Day by matt on Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whelp, only a couple weeks since I last last saw you and things are just about back to normal (apart from the whole being married thing…ya…that’s not too normal). Cayla and I are successfully transitioning into our new way of living. We use her old room as the storage/kitchen area while my room is our actual bedroom. She even decided to switch to my bathroom since it’s cleaner than hers! (but don’t tell her I told you so).

We have also found places for most of our things in the various crevices of our tiny home, but I’m often surprised by how much being married can complicate things that were previously quite simple. Like where do I put all my books? Apparently leaving them in a literary gaggle on top of the end table isn’t quite ideal, so she decided to share her bookshelf with me! I’m quite honored, haha. Speaking of which, Cayla bought me a second edition copy of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables as a wedding present. If you know me, that’s just about the best gift I could get! The pages are soured and ancient, but the spine’s totally intact and the book smells glorious! We’re reading it together now with hopes of finishing it before seeing the actual show in London this March.

Work’s also working out. I’m not particularly in love with the idea of teaching forever, but I’m enjoying it for now. Cayla and I look forward to summer break; I understand my mom’s anticipation for school letting out like I never did before! Thank God for loooong holidays.

Finally, I’d like to take yet another minute to thank everyone who supported Cay and I when we got hitched. Whether you prayed, attended the ceremony, sent a gift, or just threw out an encouraging word on facebook, I want to say thank you. I’m amazed at how loved we are despite moving across the planet. For some reason I was expecting more of a shunning, but you guys continue to humble me with kindness. I love you all, so thanks very much.

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