Christians often think of secular music or entertainment when they hear the word “secular.” Secularism is more than these things and is widely used as a tool in governments.
Secularism has roots dating back to 1851 when George Holyoake coined the term. At the time, he created the term to promote the idea of a social order that is separate from religion. Holyoake claimed that, “Secularism is not an argument against Christianity, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity, it advances others.”
Secularism is commonly associated with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe and the separation of church and state in the United States. The Reformation played a role in the emergence of secularism as the political leadership of the Catholic Church was overthrown. As a result of the separation of church and state, from the secularist perspective, it is expected that political decisions are made for secular rather than religious reasons.
For example, France has a secularism principle called “laïcité.” As a founding principle of the French Republic, it is so sacred that it is included in the French Constitution. Faith is a private matter for each citizen, and the government is a “no-God zone,” Florence Villeminot of France 24 said. In 2004, the French Parliament ruled that all conspicuous religious symbols in public schools would be banned in the name of laïcité.
Secularism questions how freedom of religion is balanced with other rights. There are three principles of secularism:
- Separation of religious institutions from state institutions
- Freedom to practice one’s faith or belief without harming others
- Equality so that religious beliefs do not put anyone at an advantage or disadvantage
Secularism is a godless system, completely separating any influence of beliefs from society. However, Christianity has proven to be persistent despite culture clinging to modernity. It is important to understand that secularism is not the same as atheism. Secularism is separating religion from one’s lifestyle, whereas atheism is a disbelief in the existence of God at all.
So, what does all of this mean for Christians?
Encouragement for Believers
Secularism makes a gospel movement seem impossible. Where secularism exists, the soil is very hard, and it is difficult for the gospel to take root. Despite the difficulty secularism presents, we must press on as believers. We must have faith that God can do miraculous things in secular countries. People are longing for more in life and to find their purpose. They do not yet know the One who can satisfy their desire for purpose. As believers, when we make our faith visible to unbelievers, they can experience the presence of God and his unchanging truths.
It is essential to pray for secular countries and for the gospel to be made known to all people, even when the soil is hard. As John 16:33 mentions, the Lord promises us difficulty in this world, but he has already overcome the difficulties we will face.
“‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’” -John 16:33
As Christians, we are called to set our eyes on the things above instead of worldly things or systems such as secularism. As much as our world tells us there is no place for God or that He must be kept separate, we can rest in the fact that the will of God abides forever. God has always been and will continue to be sovereign over the things of this world. We can take heart in the fact that He has already overcome the world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” -1 John 2:15-17
Secularism focuses on separating religion from society as seen throughout history. There is an opportunity to share with others how God is in all things from creation until now. God’s intention was not for us to separate Him from our lives, but instead dedicate our lives to making Him known.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:4-6
We can share with others through the gospel that Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins, so that we can be reunited in right relationship with God. The same God who is “through all and in all” deserves reverence in all aspects of our lives.