The Christian View Of Culture: The Secular/Sacred Divide

    Nothing for the Christian is essentially secular. It can only be secularized by leaving God out of it or by engaging in that from which God, by his nature, must be excluded.
    The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias (p. 145)

mud_poolI’ve read any number of times that one of the problems in the church and in Christian fiction is a propensity to divide life into camps—secular over there, Christian over here. Often times this line of reasoning comes from someone decrying the term “Christian fiction.”

However, the thought usually goes more along these lines: God created the world and everything in it; therefore, everything has a touch of the divine if we will see it—mountains and mud puddles, priests and prostitutes.

Interestingly, the quote above from evangelist/apologist Ravi Zacharias agrees with the idea that we have constructed an artificial divide. There’s an interesting wording difference between Zacharias’s phrasing and what I’ve read before. Rather than saying all is sacred, he says none is secular. I think that might be significant.

On one hand, those suggesting we do away with the “Christian fiction” distinction say all is sacred. There seems to be a period there. The implication is that all can be enjoyed or utilized by a Christian whether or not God shows up.

In contrast, Mr. Zacharias stipulates that nothing is secular but anything can be secularized by leaving God out

But what does it mean to include God in the picture? Are we supposed to see Jesus in Avatar, for instance? Are we supposed to read Watership Down (Richard Adams) and see some end times message?

Not at all. I think including God means I first see the object or person or piece of writing before me for what or who they are. Jesus, for example, understood exactly who the woman at the well was—a Samaritan, a “seeker,” a divorcee, a sinner in need of a Savior. He didn’t dismiss her as too far gone for God and He didn’t dismiss her as already one of the family of God.

I guess what I’m thinking is this: we don’t need to force God into places.

I remember when I saw the first two Star Wars movies. I started to see Christian parallels and began to wonder if possibly Lucas was using intentional symbolism to convey a Christian message. Maybe he was saying the Force was God. Maybe our hero was a type of Christ.

In reality, I was forcing my worldview onto the movie.

Then where is God in Star Wars? Are they simply “secular,” something I can enjoy apart from my Christianity?

While I can enjoy them, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to do so apart from my Christianity but because of it. As I think on God and His Son, I am filtering my culture through the lens of my Christianity.

For example, I can look at the Force and compare that to God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible—a personal, loving Heavenly Father. While the Jedi knights could say, “May the Force be with you,” they could never say, “May the Force comfort you in your time of grief” or “May the Force hear your prayer” or “May the Force extend its grace and love to you.” God transcends the Force by His nature, by His personhood.

So I can come away from Star Wars entertained but also thankful that I know a personal loving God and do not have to trust to an impersonal, distant Force.

That’s only one example. Other possibilities include a conviction to commit to God … Or a willingness to mentor someone new in the faith … Or a determination to stand against evil regardless of the strength of the opposition.

You get the idea.

Nothing is secular unless I leave God out.

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This article is a reprint of one entitled “The Christian View Of Culture” published February, 2010.

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2 Comments

  1. The quote you used reminds me of one I just read in “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle: “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred…”

    However, when I think of fiction being “Christian” I think of it being the “message”–not the presence of God in the story or author or whatever. In that respect, yes, there is a divide. As you said, you don’t need to force God into things–He’s wherever He chooses to be, eh? But when a book’s purpose is to tout its Christian message, then yeah, that puts up a dividing wall.

    And I’m fine with there being fiction like that. But there is a gradient outside of that. Books where there are strong elements, but that aren’t so overt. Varying levels of message and symbolism and whatnot. There are so many books that I find spiritual, but that do not fit the Christian label *at all* and they get discounted as purely “secular” by those who feel firmly that “Christian fiction” must be of a specific type.

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  2. I was intrigued by Kat’s comments. I wrote the type of novel that she defines as “but that aren’t so overt.” The idea was to drawn readers, secular and Christian, into a compelling story that both groups would find interesting, and not want to abandon because of its mild Christian message, or it’s secular elements. There is much more to “the idea,” but I won’t explain it in detail, here. I enjoy the blog, Ms. Miller. I tripped over it trying to help a new writer in her pursuit to write Christian nonfiction. Cheers from beautiful Central California.

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