The Sacred-Secular split

wedge

There is a wedge in our thinking. We see reality as consisting of two sections: a ‘Sacred’ part where we have God, the Bible, Worship, or Salvation, and a ‘Secular’ compartment where we live our ‘real’ lives. It is in this realm that we have Work, Politics, Community, etc. The Sacred half pertains to our personal relationship with God while the Secular concerns our interaction with others. We stuff Prayer and Church into the Sacred compartment, but they are irrelevant when dealing with the real life issues in the Secular realm.

The Christian writer Nancy Pearcey remarked thus:

“Modern society is characterized by a sharp split between the sacred and secular spheres – with work and business defined as strictly secular. As a consequence , Christians often live  in two separate worlds, commuting between the private world of family and church (where we can express our faith freely) and the public world (where religious expression is firmly suppressed).” (Total Truth, p. 65)

This distinction is so pervasive that we hardly question it. We automatically respond to our life issues depending on where we think it belongs. And the tool we deploy depends on the category we place the issue in. For instance, if I have a challenge at work, my default mindset is to examine the problem rationally, without any recourse to God or biblical principles. Why? Because work falls within the Secular realm, and God does not apply. Alternatively, if I have anxieties about my future state as a human, I could easily draw on the teachings of the Bible, for this very well falls within the Sacred realm.

It seems so logical (and convenient) to partition our lives thus. For we have grown up with the notion that religion has to do with just our relation with God. When it comes to dealing with the external world and other human beings, however, we have passed beyond the bounds of religion.

Such a mindset goes against God’s revelation. For His word reveals that He is the Lord of all the Earth – in all its fullness (Psalm 24:1). He created all that exists and takes pleasure in every detail. As Paul pointed out in his discourse with the Greeks, all things depend on Him for existence (Acts 17:28), therefore it is illogical to attempt to keep any aspect of life away from His oversight. In calling out a people for Himself, He made his word integral to every aspect of their life and community (Exodus 19:5,6; Deut 6:6-9; 8:6); for the Jews there was no Sacred-Secular split. All of life was Coram Deo – to be lived under Yahweh’s oversight and direction. Perhaps no Christian writer better expressed this truth than Abraham Kuyper, who declared:

No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

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