Firpo Files 9-20-2012
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Secular or Sacred?

Exploring the difference

The Firpo Files

(September 20, 2012)


In a January 1, 1802, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) spoke of "a wall of separation between Church & State." The letter was thereafter published in a Massachusetts newspaper.

Though Jefferson receives credit for the phrase, the concept of ‘church-state separation' was earlier voiced by theologian Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of the first Baptist church in America and arguably the first abolitionist on the continent, as well as the English philosopher-physician John Locke (1632-1704).

In using the phrase, Jefferson was expressing the intent and function of the First Amendment; more specifically, the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause. In a word, it was "secularism."

What is "Secularism"?: The university textbook Experiencing the World's Religions (2010) declares that the "word secularism comes from a Latin word for ‘world' (saeculum) and implies a focus on this world, without reference to values or entities beyond this world."

"In line with what Jefferson wrote, it further states that "Secularism seeks to create political institutions that are independent of any established religion"; it "refers to the modern tendency to separate religion (which deals with the sacred) from everyday life (the secular)." "The word secular is often used as the opposite of sacred."  

Secularism Saves the Sacred?: A common misconception in some religious circles is that secularism was inherently designed to be opposed to the scared. "Secularism is not necessarily antireligious," discloses Experiencing.

"In its political form, it actually developed in part for religious reasons--to avoid religious fights and to enable all religions to flourish. The point of the secular model was not to destroy religion but to allow all religions to exist without hindrance from any one religion or from government.

"But secularism is based on a governmental system of laws, courts, and legislatures that operate independently from any religion."  

Some understand Jesus' words to ‘pay back Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God' (Matthew 22:21, New World Translation), as a recognition and acknowledgement of the foundational hypothesis of separation of church and state.

Science Supports Secularism?: "Science has also promoted secularism," says Experiencing.  However, this should not be understood that historically, all scientists have been anti-God; albeit true that the consensus of modern scientific thought seems to ignore Him.

Experiencing continues: "Although investigators such as Isaac Newton (1642-1727) once looked into the properties of light in order to better understand the nature of God, scientists nowadays rarely carry on their work in this spirit.

"Science pursued for its own sake has led to a view of the universe that does not include God, as either its creator or its moral guide. In this worldview, God is not necessarily excluded but is simply not mentioned."

Separate from Secularism: As noted above, Jesus Christ stated that the secular authorities ("Caesar") should be paid what is rightfully due them in the way of taxes.

And his foremost apostle, Paul, expanded: "Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God" (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:9, 10).

As long as the laws of said "authorities" do not conflict with God's laws, true Christians are obliged to obey. (Acts 5:29) But what about societal secularism in general?

Jesus said: "You are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." (John 15:19) Of this text the Bible handbook Reasoning from the Scriptures (1989) comments: "Thus true Christians are no part of the mass of human society that is alienated from God. They care for normal human activities, but they shun attitudes, speech, and conduct that are characteristic of the world and that conflict with Jehovah's righteous ways." Nevertheless, true Christians humbly "work what is good toward all" (Galatians 6:10; Matthew 5:14-16).

Whorish Christians?: Throughout Scripture, unfaithful servants of God as a collective are depicted as an adulterous woman, or even a prostitute, when it came to profaning the sacred. (Jeremiah 3:8, 9; 5:7, 8; 9:2; 13:27; 23:10; Ezekiel 23; Hosea 7:4; Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:38) This is no less true of the secular.

Therefore, predictably, when Bible writer James reminded fellow anointed Christians that whoever even "wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God," he likened the guilty to unfaithful wives, calling them "adulteresses." (James 4:4) A professed Christian would do well to introspectively ask, Is mine a whorish form of worship?--James 1:26, 27.

Peace and blessings to all. Amen.