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Religious versus Secular

Oh, Religious is Religious, and Secular is Secular, and never the twain shall meet. That sentence is an altered form of a line from a Rudyard Kipling poem, and it correctly expresses the general sentiment in our nation concerning religion. The idea is that religion is to be carefully culled out of all other parts of life and is to be kept in a category of its own. Religious ideas and motivations are not to be expressed in the secular realm for fear that they might infringe on politics, business, science, education, or some other area that has been deemed to be the strict territory of secularism. Religion is thought to be incompatible with secular things, and therefore the two must never be mingled together.

However, the Bible does not speak of such categorical separation between the religious parts of our lives and the secular parts. Religion, which pertains to beliefs about God, and secularism, which pertains to temporal things (from the Latin word sēculāris, meaning a period time rather than eternal) are not opposite or exclusive concepts in the Bible. Instead, the Bible teaches Christians to practice their religion in such a way that it envelops every part of their lives, including the secular or temporal. This is precisely what James indicated when he wrote,

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (Jas. 1:26-27).

These words warn those who consider religion to be nothing more than a practice of ceremonial worship or a state of mind. Such a practice of religion is worthless, for God expects His worshipers to be completely transformed into living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2). Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:14-26), so a Christian's faith must be manifested through more than mere ceremony or thoughts. True Christianity is a full-time religion that governs and transforms every part of a Christian's life without exception.

The idea of secularism and its separation from religion has been propagated not by the Bible or by Christians but by humanists. The American Humanist Association (AHA) defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity" (emphasis added). This stated mission of humanists is impossible, for ethical lives and the greater good of humanity cannot be achieved "without theism and other supernatural beliefs" (see Acts 17:24-28; Rom. 2:14-16). Despite such futility, humanists want to eliminate the influence of religion, and they have been very successful in their efforts. Through the public schools, which were designed by the humanist John Dewey, and the false application of "separation of church and state," humanists have done much to marginalize Christianity and remove it from the public discourse.

Christians must resist the godless influences of humanism and abide by the Scriptures' directions in all things both religious and secular. Indeed, there is no area of life where the word of God does not guide or the authority of Christ does not govern. The Lord Jesus indicated this when He said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). The broad application of Christ's authority is expressed in a practical way in Colossians 3:17, which says, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." This commandment leaves no place for exceptions and implies no division between religious things and secular things. Whether the issue is government (Rom. 13:1-7; 1Pet. 2:13-16), occupation (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25), education (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4; 2Tim. 3:14-17), science (Ps. 19:1-6; 111:2; Col. 2:8-10), family (Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col. 3:18-21), entertainment (Ps. 101:3; Prov. 10:23), the church (Eph. 1:22-23), or anything else, Christ has authority over all, and all must be done in compliance with His will.

Therefore, let us not be taken in by the false notion that religion and secularism must be kept forever separate. This is a doctrine of humanism and the world, but it is not found in the word of God. Instead, the religion of Jesus Christ teaches Christians to live for Christ, work for Christ, marry for Christ, raise children for Christ, teach for Christ, be educated for Christ, and do everything else for Christ. "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Christ is not a set of clothes to wear in some places and take off in others, but rather Christ is to be worn at all times. May the Lord Jesus adorn us always.

Stacey E. Durham



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