“Around 1995 a shift occurred in our nation,” a speaker shared at a conference I attended a couple of years ago. “Before this time the majority of our nation held to a Judeo-Christian worldview, after 1995, the majority of our nation transitioned to a secular worldview which has now become the predominant worldview in our country today. This transition in worldviews has greatly affected the church and how we will be able to reach the communities in which we live.”
The reason we need a new beginning (previous article) is because of secularism. But what is secularism?¹ To understand the term secularism, we first need to talk about the concept of worldview. Everyone has a worldview. It is the means by which we decide right and wrong, determine value, respond emotionally to an experience or find purpose and meaning. It is our interpretive grid. It is the “default setting” through which each person views and lives in the world. Scripture primarily uses the word “heart” to express the idea of worldview.
We can illustrate worldview by what we call the “ick factor.” What a culture thinks of as cuisine differs. One culture will eat dog, another locust, another fried cheese curds, and another pork tenderloin sandwiches. The “ick response” to those foods varies depending on how you were socialized to think and feel. There is an automatic, heart-felt response. While it applies to food preference, it can also be applied to deeper issues of what constitutes murder, cheating, or the idea of what makes a good citizen or a good daughter. It is what is in our hearts.
A worldview is created through the family you were born into and the society you live in. We live and work and play and rarely reflect on why we do what we do. This is because like an iceberg, most of who we are lies below the surface. We may not know what lies below, but it still drives who we are and what we do.
When we talk about someone following Jesus and being transformed, we are talking about a reorientation that touches the deepest regions of the heart.
Repentance includes recognizing that we are wrong at every level, that we must change our minds, receive forgiveness and turn toward Jesus as we allow His Spirit to begin to re-wire our hearts – our worldviews.
Human cultures are a mixed bag; just as men and women contend with evil, so too every culture is broken on some level. While we may retain the marks and habits of a particular human culture and family, we are in a life-long process of allowing Jesus’ goodness to correct, heal, and renew our desires, thoughts and actions – our worldviews.
To lead others in everyday disciple making is to cause a revolution of the heart, a recreation of worldview.
And what is the worldview of the secularist?
Secularism is not a formal religion. Yet secularists do appear to have some common beliefs, traditions and rituals. Secularism acts a lot like a religion, seeking answers to the big questions: What is real? What is good? Who am I? Etc…
A good working definition of secularism is a “society (or worldview) in which religion is not at the center of human life.”² This means practically that God/religion no longer is the center of the universe but the “human-self” is the authority. The prime purpose of secular peoples is to create a “good self.” Secularism is all about “project-self.” Characteristics include:
- Truth is what works, it is personally defined.
- Meaning and identity come through experiences.
- Avoidance of pain and the pursuit of happiness are prime objectives.
- Purity concerns connected to: diet, the environment, and ethical business.
- “Sacred texts” are movies, tv series, books and popular culture.
- A shift from “I think” to “I feel.”
Here are some examples of statements secularists might make:
- “Christianity has been attempted historically and has failed and is no longer relevant.”
- “My philosophy is to find what works for me. I want to have a nice life and avoid trouble if I can.”
- “Life is about being in the moment. We can’t know anything certain about life beyond death, so we must make the most of our own moment and opportunities.”
- “I don’t trust the Church. They did a lot of terrible things in history and hurt a lot of people. They just want to control people.”
- “Everyone has a different idea of what’s right and wrong. I think you have to figure things out for yourself and be comfortable with your own choices.”
It would be simple to equate atheism with secularism, but they are not synonyms. Secularists come in a variety of forms. Radical atheists, like Richard Dawkins, are the minority within this group. Some secularists are actually committed to a religious identity (ie: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, etc…), but the individual self is still what drives choices within their lives. These individuals think there are many paths to god and that god is an option, but not an obligation. The largest group of secularists are spiritual in nature. What makes them secularists is that their spiritual beliefs do not dominate their lives, provide a firm guide for behavior, or give them something to live for. The individual self still reigns supreme as the moral decider and purpose-creator.
It is important to consider that everyone in North America has been affected by secularism. It has affected our thoughts, motives and the way in which we choose to live our lives. It has affected our reactions to events and people and even influences our expectations and opinions of the church.
If you seek meaning through experiences, you have been affected by secularism. If you seek to avoid pain or tragedy through financial security, you have been affected by secularism. If church is simply part of the “mosiac” of your life, you have been affected by secularism. If you are more concerned with individual rights and preferences than kingdom priorities and responsibilities, you have been affected by secularism.
That’s why God is bringing about an awakening that reveals where culture is at today and how He intends to transform our hearts and reshape our worldviews.³ Because in the end, secularism fails the secularist. This is where God comes in. We’ll talk next week about God’s desire to bring healing, to bring wholeness to people’s lives as part of the next great awakening.
We’d Love to hear from you!
How has secularism affected you? Share your comments below.
1 This article is a compilation of thoughts, experiences, and research gathered by Shawn Galyen and shared with our Connection Point Church leadership team. Shawn leads the Secular Peoples Initiative for Assemblies of God World Missions.
2 Roy, Olivier. Secularism Confronts Islam. pg. 10
3 You can also find a video message of this content here.
Great thoughts, Zach. We work in Europe and understand. Ciao!
Thanks Joe. And thanks for serving Jesus in Europe. I’ve learned a lot from people serving there along with pastors along both coasts (New York, Seattle and Portland).
As I read this article I was thinking back to my life when I was young. I was brought up Roman Catholic. We were definitely living in a Judeo Christian time. Our family never missed Mass on Sunday! Never! It wasn’t what we’d call Christian today, because of language my dad used even though he was the driving force on us being Catholic. His sisters were nuns, but I didn’t see a spiritual side to them. In fact when oone of my secular aunts was dieing in the hospital, we were at the hospital praying for Aunt Kay. The nun asked if we didn’t have something better to be doing than coming to pray for her sister and my aunt
I think Confession was a good thing to keep your conscience clear. It helped form me into a person that didn’t go smoking pot and becoming a hippie!
Still, my heart wasn’t perfect and I began doing secularly accepted sins in college. Confession wasn’t part of my way of life after about twenty years old. Thankfully I got saved by 23. Learning what the Bible said and having a changed heart brought me back to a better life and even clarified wrong teachings. I wasn’t perfect, but when I found a Bible believing church my life was really transformed.
So i guess my life was terribly influenced by the secularism of my day.
Thanks Peggy. And thanks for sharing your journey.