Mutiny Not Just on the Bounty
One of the more pernicious lies abroad is the that there is a demarcation between the secular and the spiritual. For the Unbeliever, the secular is the real. The spiritual realm is either an imaginary weird construct or an unassailable realm of private, personal identity. Either way, it is irrelevant to the real business of life.
Many Christians have either bought the lie or fallen under its sway. They have come to accept Jurgen Habermas's distinction between the private and the public spheres. The private sphere is, well, private. Personal. Soul stuff. That's where religion is believed and practised. At most it should influence no more than a family household--and even that is contentious. Church is where people who have the same private beliefs about God gather and encourage each other in their private religion. Such religion is tolerable to Habermas. He cares not whether the religion is true or not, as long as it is kept private--or irrelevant.
The public sphere is where people of all kinds of beliefs gather and interact for the common good. In order to do so, says Habermas, they must leave behind all their private beliefs (which by definition are not shared with everyone else) and engage with one another in a purely secular fashion (that is, as if there religion were not true).
This is laughable nonsense, but unfortunately many Christians have bought it. It's wrong, they say, to impose my beliefs upon others. So they check in their faith at the entrance of the public square and promptly accept the secularists imposing their religion of secularism upon everyone. It reminds one of the duplicitous pirate captain inviting his mutinous crew to lay down their weapons, and encourages them by being the first to do so--all the while having a couple of pistols stuck behind his back.
The fundamental error underlying this Christian capitulation is the tacit acceptance of the distinction between the sacred and the secular. How does that square with the Bible's teaching? Not at all. The Christian ought to know--because the Bible says so--that all of creation is spiritual and religious. It all comes from God; it belongs to Him. In God, it lives, and moves, and has its being. For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. (Romans 11: 36; Acts 17: 24-28)
The secular world or realm is thus a rebellious imaginary construct--an idea fabricated by sinful men asserting independence from God. It is a lie. It is false. It does not exist. All of life and creation is spiritual: it all depends completely upon the Spirit of God for its very existence.
When Unbelief claims a secular realm where God does not and may not intrude it is not just mistaken (which is bad enough) it is a mutinous act. Unbelief is rebellion, plain and simple. Thus Paul, speaking in the public sphere in Athens, warned the Athenians that God's patience was running out and He was calling them to repent before the judgment fell upon them and their city. (Acts 17: 30,31)
Of course Paul was mocked and ridiculed for his warning. What else would you expect from a bunch of mutinous rebels who thought they still owned the place?
We can understand the reaction of the rebels in Athens. They were who they were. We can understand the Habermas's of our world, the mutinous rebels of our day who assert independence from God, insisting that He be locked up into a little box marked "Private and Confidential". Of course they would say that. Rebels will out. What we cannot understand, however, is the Christians who agree with them. Why would they grant Unbelievers authority over God? It's a mystery really.
The history of our people gives us some insight into how God will respond to such Christian infidelity. When the kings of Judea sought common cause with the kings of Egypt and Syria and Babylon--engaging in bit of common-ground, public sphere "realism"--God gave them up to the very pagans with whom they sought to curry favour. Why should we expect to be treated any differently--we, who have been given so much more than our fathers, and who have seen the Christ and His resurrection to the right hand of the Almighty? It's time for we Christians to stop our own little mutiny we have got going.