Musings on being secular

By Dr. Norman Wise

I think that most people, even those who say they believe in God or even Christianity are very secular in their “Monday Morning” approach to life.  I know that it is easy for me to fall into a “secular” frame of mind.

What do I mean by secular? relating to the cultural or temporal concerns without any reference to big ideas, metaphysical thoughts, religion, or faith. The core idea is that it is focused on the here and now.  

It is looking at life “under the sun” and not connecting it to the eternal.  All things spiritual are irrelevant, impractical, and lacking significance.  A person who thinks in a secular way can believe there is a God but that the existence of God is not needed to daily life.  

When I am in a secular mind frame, I act like God does not exist, regardless of what I say on Sunday morning.

When we are in a secular frame of mind we don’t pray because we doubt God cares to answer.

When we are in a secular outlook we don’t believe that we need God to live an effective life or happy life.

When we see things through secular eyes we don’t read the bible because we don’t think we need it to know about life.

When our focus is on the secular we fear that getting involved with God would hinder what they need to do to succeed and enjoy life. 

People who live mainly in a secular world view, can go to church for a little encouragement and motivation but we see going to church as leaving the “real world” for a temporary pick me up by visiting the “sacred space”.  We can be “Sunday only Christians” and but we keep our “religion” to ourselves. 

When we are in this mind frame we may have made a promise to ourselves that just before death we will “get right with God” just to cover the potential of a life after death.  But we try to not think about death much. 

Now some secular people are simply atheists or agnostics.   They are consistent and sincere in their outlook on life. Even such people may find some “faith” in “foxholes” or crisis moments, but for the most part they strive to live only considering the “real world” that they can see and experience.

But many people who believe in God are secular in their lifestyles.  Most “Cultural Christians” are secular people.   They have a “little faith” but it does not transform or guide their lives.   

Many more people are practical atheists who would ever agree with atheism itself.   All of us can have “atheist moments” when we forget God and live as though HE did not exist.

So, in the last week; how often did you and I live as a “secular” person?

How often was God’s existence not important, relevant, or significant to me?

One of the ideas in the bible that deals with the concept of “secular” is how the Messiah Jesus sometimes uses the word “world”. 

[Jhn 12:46 NASB] 46 “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

The idea of “world” in this context refers to society, human community, and civil structure focused not on the “Kingdom of God’ but just life here and now without any need of the spiritual or eternity.    Jesus believes that such a view of the world is dark.  He has come to take away that darkness.

Is Jesus right or wrong?

Some would feel that secularism is “light” and that faith in God being important to life is the “darkness”.   They would see the “dark ages” existed when people took the idea of God seriously in their daily lives and now we live in the age of “enlightenment” which knows that God is not to be part of everyday life (excluding an hour on Sunday occasionally if you happen to be into that sort of thing).   

So, they would feel strongly that Jesus is wrong. 

Is Jesus right or is John Lennon right when he sings

“Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for today” The real question is how should life be lived?  Should we be secular or sacred in living “for today”?

Should I live as a “secular” person with no concern for heaven or hell, or as a “sacred” person who has God in his heart and all his actions?

Now, which God we serve and what is the will of that God is critical since the wrong “God” can be a demon.  Thus, the danger of getting God involved at all in everyday concerns since much evil has been done and is being done in “God’s name”. 

So, what is a healthy view of God? How can we bring the sacred into all of life and not become religiously abusive to others? This ancient creed may help us.

[Psa 103:8, 13 NASB] “8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. … 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”

People who incarnated this vision of God consistently in their hearts and actions would bring good to the world.  This was the vision of God made perfectly incarnate in the Messiah Jesus.

Now some question, if there is any escape for any person to be without “religion” or “faith”.  Is it possible to be truly “secular”?

“To be human is to be scientific, yes, and practical, and rational, and moral, and social, and artistic, but to be human further is to be religious also. And this religious in man is not just another facet of himself, just another side to his nature, just another part of the whole. It is the condition of all the rest and the justification of all the rest. This is inevitably and inescapably so for all men. No man is religiously neutral in his knowledge of and his appropriation of reality.” The conclusion of this idea would be: “The world is not composed of religious and nonreligious people. It is composed rather of religious people who have differing ultimate concerns and different gods and who respond to the living God in different ways. Each human life manifests different ways of expressing a person’s allegiances and answers to the ultimate questions of life. All humans are incurably religious; we manifest different religious allegiances.”

So, the “secular person” is just exercising faith that “all that matters, is matter” while the “sacred person” is exercising faith that “God, is all that matters”. 

The idea of the incarnation, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Messiah Jesus as God the Son who has come to us as the Son of God in the flesh, bridges the gap in these perspectives with the firm reality that for the God who is Jesus, matter does matter.  What happens “under the sun” is important to God and is always in relationship to heaven.

Considering all of this, how ought we then to live?

Can faith in God matter in a positive way for our daily lives?

Do we need Jesus to be a light to our lives?