Recently the Barna Groups’ annual report on the “State of the Bible” reported that half of Americans are Bible users and about six out of ten say Bible reading has changed their lives. This is good.
At the same time, however, the report showed a growth in the percentage of Americans with secular and non-traditional views on such matters as: divorce, sex outside of marriage, same-sex marriage, having a baby out of wedlock, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography, polygamy …., etc. I suspect the Canadian picture would be little different.
Do these findings suggest that secularism is eroding the Christian faith to any serious degree? I propose three questions to ponder.
First, in the simplest words possible what is secularism? The word is from a Latin root that means this world or age. The emphasis of secularism is on human self-sufficiency and the concerns of this world only. Secularism tends to be anti-religious and has no place for the eternal or transcendent.
Secularism insists that religion is a private matter and should be kept within one’s own head or at most, within the walls of the church. We might ask ourselves: Am I buying into this, and subtly devaluing Christian faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, favoring instead what is secular only?
Second, in processing the flow of questions that repeatedly crop up in today’s social discourse, what is my primary source of authority in matters of life and death? Do I seek answers from the Scriptures, and do I rest my beliefs in what the Bible makes clear? Recall that the Bible stood as a beacon on all of life long before we moderns came on the scene and it will continue to do so long after we are gone. It has proven to be timeless.
For example, when the Bible makes clear that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life, as is beautifully described in Scripture and sanctioned by Jesus, do I lodge my faith there and seek to be obedient regardless of national trends? (Genesis 1:27; 2:20-25; Matthew 19:1-12; Hebrews 13:4)
Third, do I join weekly with a company of Christians to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and to enrich my understanding and practice of the Christian faith? It is in neglecting this historic practice that secularism may erode faith and make inroads into my values, moral understandings, and lifestyle commitments.
The New Testament’s most used word for church is ecclesia which means the “called out.” It appeared first in common Greek and was adopted by the apostles and church fathers. It means to assemble or to be called out to meet in a central place. A church is a gathering of God’s people whether in a store front or a cathedral, whether a dozen in numbers or a thousand.
Jesus was speaking of the church in its simplest form when he promised: Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them (Matthew 18:20). Churches have their human weaknesses, for sure, but they are God’s way of gathering his flocks together for nurture and challenge. Our scorning or even neglecting such gatherings may reflect the drift of secularism.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews exhorts: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).
If we stay alert to the creeping inroads of secularism, assent to the authority of God’s holy word, reading from it daily, and join our energies regularly with a company of God’s people we will avoid the world’s secularity and live joyfully with eternal life in view.
Photo credit: Chris Yarzab (via flickr.com)