OF TWISTED WORDS => SECULAR

freedomconscienceIt was only after I posted it I realized I had made a mistake. When I posted BECOMING SECULAR, I should have added it to the series I had started, OF TWISTED WORDS.

How have we twisted the word “secular?” Well, according to the dictionary the word secular pertains “to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred.” However, as the examples given in BECOMING SECULAR demonstrate, “becoming secular” is a religious choice. When we hear so and so is “becoming more secular,” don’t we know that means?

Fortunately, two commenters wanted to debate.  So they gave me an excuse to add the word “secular” to the OF TWISTED WORDS series.

Atheism

hessianwithteeth has two problems with BECOMING SECULAR (his comments are here, here, here, here and here).

  • He takes issue with the fact that I supposedly called him a fool.
  • As an atheist, he does not believe the Bible. That is, there is no God, and the Bible is not His Word.

Did I Call  A Fool?

Did I call  a fool? No. What I said in BECOMING SECULAR is that becoming secular through indifference, ignoring God, is foolish.   says he has studied the matter carefully and determined that God does not exist. That is not the same thing as “becoming secular.” Instead of ignoring God,  has deliberately turned his back to God, saying He does not exist.  calls himself an atheist, and an atheist is someone who has made a conscious decision that God does not exist. God, not me, calls atheists fools.

Psalm 14:1 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 The fool has said in his heart,

There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.

In fact, both Psalms 14 and 53 make it quite clear that God has a low opinion of those who turn away from Him. Nevertheless, I have no idea what is in ‘s heart, and it is not my place to judge anyone.  I can only look at a man’s deeds, and I know next to nothing of ‘s deeds.

Does God Exist?

Can I prove the Bible is the Word of God? To some people? Maybe. To ? That depends upon him.

As a practical matter, we each allow the Bible either prove or disprove itself. If we study the Bible carefully and objectively, I think most of us will accept the Bible as true. Nothing else besides the Bible provides an explanation for why we exist and why we are as we are that makes any real sense. Unfortunately, we are lazy. Relative few actively study the Bible, and no one who has studied the Bible remains objective.

In this comment lists some of his objections. They illustrate some knowledge of the Bible, enough knowledge that he has lost his objectivity.

  •  wants independent proof, a report from somebody who is neither christian/jewish nor roman (stipulated in a latter comment).  That sounds reasonable, but it is not. Luke was a Greek. He wrote one of the four Gospels and Acts, and he believed. So he became a Christian. Thus, because Luke believed,   disqualifies him.
  •  does not find it odd that people converted to Christianity. He compares Christians to the Jewish Zealots. Yet any historian, which  claims to be, should able to observe just how unique Jewish history is and that there is something incredible about the spread of Christianity. In spite every attempt to destroy the Jewish people, they remain, and Christianity spreads through the blood of martyrs, not the sword.
  •  offers as argument that morality existed long before the Bible (and he considers the subject further on his blog, Do We Require Religion to be Moral?). It is true that morality existed before the Bible. God existed long before the Bible. As the Apostle Paul observed:

    Romans 2:14-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

    14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

    What is relevant about Christianity is how much people’s morality improves when they become devout Christians. Consider, for example, that it was in Christian lands that governments first abolished slavery. In the 1850’s who other than a Christian writer could have written this paragraph and been taken seriously by millions?

    “My view of Christianity is such,” he added, “that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle. That is, I mean that I could not be a Christian otherwise, though I have certainly had intercourse with a great many enlightened and Christian people who did no such thing; and I confess that the apathy of religious people on this subject, their want of perception of wrongs that filled me with horror, have engendered in me more skepticism than any other thing.” (from UNCLE TOM’S CABIN or Life among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

    Because we live in a large nation where almost everyone has a Christian heritage, we don’t understand the significance of that heritage. Because those people are far away, few appreciate the reason for the relative lawlessness in other lands. Those people don’t share our Christian heritage. And fewer still have studied our ancestors well enough to appreciate the civilizing influence of Jesus Christ’s teachings. Through Jesus, we learned just how much God loves us.

Compartmentalization

scout objected to my observation that we have twisted the meaning of the word “secular.” Instead, he said the dictionary definition of the word remains true. He also said that we can easily distinguish the religious from the secular (his relevant comments are hereherehere, and here). The second paragraph in ‘s first comment probably best summarizes his argument.

But the post seems to go off the rails (for me, at any rate), where it equates secular content with an active decision to ignore religious issues (or God Himself, as you appear to say). At that point, I think you begin to mis-use the term “secular” and are confusing it with concepts such as atheism or agnosticism. There are many religious people (I count myself among them) who view the religious/secular distinction as an extremely important protection of religious life. Keep the base and the worldly in their appropriate context. Let spiritual issues, issues that are not of this world prosper in their appropriate sphere. I view this distinction as important, as a practical matter, to protect religion and religious expression. In this country, it was part of the great genius of the Founders that they permitted that distinction to take root and thrive, thus avoiding the debasement of religion by political leaders such as had occurred in Europe in their times and continues in many places today. The distinction also has strong Scriptural foundation for Christians, although other religions also benefit from observing clear distinctions between secular and religious activities.

Did I misused the term “secular?” Read the post BECOMING SECULAR, and judge for yourself. Let’s consider here ‘s effort to divide Creation into distinct secular and religious spheres or compartments. To the Christian, that should make no sense. As a practical matter, we do not even have what the dictionary would describe as a secular government. We have a government that is suppose to recognize the fact that our rights are God-given. Unfortunately, due to the fact that our parents allowed politicians to supervise our education, we have forgotten the intent behind the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “(from here). That means no one should use the power of the government to either to establish a religion or stop anybody from practicing their religion.

Why such an attitude towards government power? Why such a deliberate effort to keep government from interfering with religion? Christians believe in glorifying God in all things.  Depending upon the translation, that phrase “all things” occurs often, 201 times in the Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV). Sometimes that phrase says we should glorify God in “all things.”

1 Peter 4:11 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

What do numerous passages tell us what should be our primary occupation? Consider this one.

Matthew 6:19-21 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Hence, the Founders structured our government to prevent it from interfering with religion, not to use secularism or some other excuse to suppress it.

Why would someone want to suppress Christianity? The Bible reminds us of just how awful we can be. In one of his complaints about the Bible,  observed that God seems to approve of some very bad things. Oddly, considering he says he is a historian,   forgets that the Bible records quite a bit of history, often just saying what happened. Much of the Bible is also a Book of Law. Making laws appropriate for the ancient Jews, trying to civilize a stiff-necked people — like us — sometimes forced God to compensate for our hard hearts. So He allowed the Jews to divorce their wives, keep slaves, and have a king to rule over them, but He did not approve of any of these things. He simply made laws that softened the affects of our sins.

Civilizing human beings is very difficult. We too often want to do very bad things, and sometime we revert to savagery. Consider how far back to our savage nature we have already gone.

In the following passage, G.K. Chesterton talks about the religion practice by the ancient Carthaginians. Carthage was a Phoenician colony. The Phoenicians, the folks who gave us our alphabet, are apparently one of the Canaanite Peoples the Hebrews should have destroyed when they took over the Holy Land.

In a previous chapter I have hinted at something of the psychology that lies behind a certain type of religion. There was a tendency in those hungry for practical results, apart from poetical results, to call upon spirits of terror and compulsion; to move Acheron in despair of bending the Gods. There is always a sort of dim idea that these darker powers will really do things, with no nonsense about it. In the interior psychology of the Punic peoples this strange sort of pessimistic practicality had grown to great proportions. In the New Town, which the Romans called Carthage, as in the parent cities of Phoenicia, the god who got things done bore the name of Moloch, who was perhaps identical with the other deity whom we know as Baal, the Lord. The Romans did not at first quite know what to call him or what to make of him; they had to go back to the grossest myth of Greek or Roman origins and compare him to Saturn devouring his children. But the worshippers of Moloch were not gross or primitive. They were members of a mature and polished civilisation, abounding in refinements and luxuries; they were probably far more civilised than the Romans. And Moloch was not a myth; or at any rate his meal was not a myth. These highly civilised people really met together to invoke the blessing of heaven on their empire by throwing hundreds of their infants into a large furnace. We can only realise the combination by imagining a number of Manchester merchants with chimney-pot hats and mutton-chop whiskers, going to church every Sunday at eleven o’clock to see a baby roasted alive. (from Everlasting Man (1925) by Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1874-1936))

The ancient Romans utterly destroyed Carthage.

Referring to it as a secular practice, denying the humanity of the unborn, we sacrifice infants today. We don’t overtly call an abortion a sacrificial offering; we deny the practice might have any entertainment value. Nonetheless, trying to elevate the practice — making every taxpayer an accomplice — abortion supporters fight tooth and nail for public funding. Hence, to satisfy the demands of our “secular” government, abortion supporters deny the possibility that an unborn baby — a miracle of life — has any religious significance.