Secularism and the Church

John Sittema’s excellent book entitled With a Shepherd’s Heart has several good chapters on what he calls the “teeth of the wolves.” These are the ways in which Satan is generally attacking the church today. He lists five main attacks: secularism, materialism, relativism, pragmatism, and feminism (p. 49). I’d like to do a few blog posts on these “teeth.” It is crucial for us to recognize these enemies and not only be on guard ourselves, but also guard our flocks from these teeth.

So the first one is secularism. Sittema’s definition is quite excellent: “There is a timed-ness to God’s creation; and according to God’s own assessment, it is good! (par. break, LK) But when that timed-ness of creation, when the here and now of our creatureliness, gobbles up any sense of our eternity and occupies all of man’s heart and mind and attention, you have secularism” (p. 50). The upshot of it is that “Only if religion has value for the here and now is it of any real significance” (ibid.). The consequences for people’s thinking are several-fold: 1. instant gratification; 2. dualistic dichotomy (rather than a simple distinction) between secular and sacred, 3. obsession with relevance (pp. 51-52).

Sittema offers three suggestions for how to fight this enemy: 1. Point out the enemy of instant gratification (self-delusion and blindness are often key characteristics of secularism), 2. Teach the principles of biblical stewardship (especially equip the deacons to do this). 3. Ask people whether they have this rigid divide between secular and sacred, rather than a simple distinction. And a few more suggestions I would add: teach people the principle of pilgrimage. Noting the etymological connection of “secularism” to “this worldliness” or “this aged-ness,” I would strongly suggest pointing out the blessedness of the new heavens and the new earth, since this world is not our home. We are looking for a better country. Now, obviously, we should take care of this world as good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Nevertheless, we are pilgrims, and that should color everything, and give us an eschatological perspective on life.