Saturday, February 7, 2009

False Ideas 2: Safe and Unsafe

The idea that there are secular things and sacred things for the Christian is just plain wrong. This is an idea we have carried over from the false religious viewpoint of the Middle Ages. But let’s not blame the Catholics, it was also found in the early church. In fact it is addressed in the New Testament as an issue. So if we want to blame anyone, let’s blame Gnosticism that taught the same sort of viewpoint (1 Tim. 4:1-5; 6:20-21).

There isn’t secular music and sacred music, there is just music. There aren’t secular movies and Christian movies, there are just movies. There are not secular schools and sacred schools, just schools. Labeling things secular or sacred gives them a moral quality, but things have no moral capacity. Only people with souls and the freedom to make conscious choices have moral qualities.

You can judge a book by its cover, but it has no soul, so you cannot judge it as “Christian.” It is simply a book written by someone who has a soul and views life through a Christian mind-set. You can judge a song as good or bad but not as guilty of sin. I have no problem with calling a song bad, just don’t call it secular. A song does not have a soul, unless of course it is performed by James Brown or Aretha Franklin, but that is an entirely different sort of “soul.”
People are able to make moral choices and are therefore good or bad. The fruit of their lives reflect what is within, so bad people produce bad fruit.

When we call the things Christians produce sacred, we are assuming they are good, and this is definitely an incorrect assumption. A lot of the works Christians produce are less than stellar in quality. We may do Christ a favor by removing his name from some of the things we call “Christian.”

This false dichotomy, deciding whether something is sacred or secular, has wreaked havoc on the kingdom of God in multitudes of ways. We start assuming that the sacred is safe and the secular is unsafe. Often it may be the other way around. It is common for something labeled “Christian” or “sacred” to be indeed toxic, legalistic, and unsafe. Many churches, schools, and even families are this way.

We believe that the spiritual can be contaminated by coming in contact with the secular. The truth is that we simply cannot be removed from contact with the world. Paul states that it would be virtually impossible to be removed from the sin of the world (1 Cor. 5:9–11). But of course we can carefully choose those with whom we share our intimate lives. Paul states, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). It would be far better if we called things “healthy” or “unhealthy” rather than “secular” or “sacred.”

There were laws in the Old Testament that seem to imply the secular is unsafe. When you touch something unclean, it rubs off, and you become unclean. This implies that godliness comes from the outside in, rather than the other way around. Jesus changed all the rules when he came and established the new covenant, which places God’s pure law in our hearts. Spirituality was no longer conditioned on people staying away from the unclean but comes from within and is worked out in any and all environments.


Katie said...

Neil, I love this post! I have a couple questions I would love to hear your thoughts on.
Why God did spend so much time giving the Israelites directions an instructions regarding everything from clothing, food, ceremonies etc.? Was it just to show them they couldn't do it and therefore point to the Savior? Just curious to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Neil Cole said...

Katie, great question we can all ponder upon. I believe that the answer is that the people of God were given the law to show them that they need a Savior, so you are right. The laws all point to Christ in every way and also reveal that without Christ we are incapable of being holy.

That said, once Christ came, fulfilled the law and paid its due payment in full, we were all redeemed. being cleansed of all sin now we can have the indwelling Spirit of God. I think that is a big part of it.