The Great Sacred/Secular Divide

This is a reblog from – August 5, 2016

Every year around this time, our teams hit the road and begin speaking to over 25,000 students across North America. And each year, they report an observation: There is a dichotomy between the sacred and the secular at many Christian schools. This compartmentalized view of life and education says all things spiritual are sacred, and everything else is secular. We see this mentality everywhere: in work (“ministry” is sacred, accounting and pharmacy are secular), in education (Bible classes and chapel are sacred, history and English are secular), and in art (Kirk Cameron movies are sacred, Spielberg movies are secular). When we view the world this way, it reduces Christianity to a tiny slice of life that happens only on Sunday or in Bible study, while most of human existence plays out in the ordinariness of everyday living. And in so doing, our students begin to think of Christianity in terms of events (chapel) or places (church), instead of having a holistic view that all of life is under God’s authority. The early Church faced this same kind of thinking (Gnosticism) and deemed it heretical. So how do we reclaim a broader view of life, education, work, and entertainment that recognizes God’s presence everywhere?

For starters, God, in His merciful goodness, created a good world where the eternal and the spiritual play themselves out in the physical. Everything has the potential to be sacred since God has the uncanny ability to show up in the ordinary–a feeding trough, bread and wine, or a stormy sea. Walter Brueggemann calls this “the scandal of the particular”; it’s an incarnational view of the world that recognizes that matter really matters to God, that concrete, everyday things are a doorway to the divine. Once we realize that God is with us in the ordinary things of life (homework, mowing the lawn, or reading a book), everything becomes an occasion for worship and revelation.

This is especially true for education. Charlotte Mason said, “God, the Holy Spirit, is Himself the supreme educator of mankind.” All truth is God’s truth, and all beauty is God’s beauty. Therefore we shouldn’t classify certain aspects or areas of education “Christian,” because that would imply the possibility that other aspects of education are secular. As Christians, we understand that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, and that ultimately the culmination of all education is the personal knowledge of and intimacy with God. And that knowledge, or revelation, can come just as much from Shakespeare as St. Paul.

Our task as parents and educators is to be in divine cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the discipling and teaching of our students by helping them “lift the veil” of revelation to uncover the good, the beautiful, and the true in all things, reminding them that we really do inhabit a sacred universe. And revelation need not only come from distinctly Christian sources. Truth and beauty are revealed in the novels of Thomas Hardy, the poems of Robert Frost, and the scientific discoveries of Albert Einstein.

Ask yourself and your students:
1. Do you have a favorite movie or song that isn’t necessarily “Christian” that still reveals truth? How?
2. How does having a Christian worldview impact how you view/study history, science, sociology or psychology?

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