More from Nancy Pearcy on the sacred/secular divide

More from Nancy Pearcy on the sacred/secular divide January 2, 2005

Nancy Pearcy’s book has a chapter online for us to read. I am so going to read this book! In it she says the following:-

As we saw in the previous chapter, modern society is characterized by a sharp split between the sacred and secular spheres with work and business defined as strictly secular. As a consequence, Christians often live in two separate worlds, commuting between the private world of family and church (where we can express our faith freely) and the public world (where religious expression is firmly suppressed). Many of us don’t even know what it means to have a Christian perspective on our work. Oh, we know that being a Christian means being ethical on the job as Sealy put it, “no lying or cheating. But the work itself is typically defined in secular terms as bringing home a paycheck, climbingthe career ladder, building a professional reputation……

We all long for our work to count for something more than paying the bills or impressing our colleagues. How can we experience the full power of our Christian faith when it is locked away from the rest of life? How can we lead whole and integrated lives when we’re required to shed our deepest beliefs along the way as we commute to work, functioning there from a purely secular mindset?

The dichotomies we’ve been talking about secular/sacred and public/private are not merely abstractions. They have a profoundly personal impact. When the public sphere is cordoned off as a religion-free zone, our lives become splintered and fragmented. Work and public life are stripped of spiritual significance, while the spiritual truths that give our lives the deepest meaning are demoted to leisure activities, suitable only for our time off. The gospel is hedged in, robbed of its power to leaven the whole of life.

How do we break free from the dichotomies that limit God’s power in our lives? How can love and service to God become living sparks that light up our whole lives? By discovering a worldview perspective that unifies both secular and sacred, public and private, within a single framework. By understanding that all honest work and creative enterprise can be a valid calling from the Lord. And by realizing there are biblical principles that apply to every field of work. These insights will fill us with new purpose, and we will begin to experience the joy that comes from relating to God in and through every dimension of our lives…..

It is only when we offer up everything we do in worship to God that we finally experience His power coursing through every fiber of our being. The God of the Bible is not only the God of the human spirit but also the God of nature and history. We serve Him not only in worship but also in obedience to the Cultural Mandate. If Christian churches are serious about discipleship, they must teach believers how to keep living for God after they walk out the church doors on Sunday.

….A high-ranking Washington official once lamented how difficult it was to find people for government positions who were committed Christians and at the same time outstanding professionals. The problem, he told me, is that most Christians don’t have a biblical sense of calling in their jobs and thus they fail to treat it as frontline work for the Kingdom……

Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work, and so on, are the Church’s front-line troops in her engagement with the world, wrote Lesslie Newbigin. Imagine how our churches would be transformed if we truly regarded laypeople as frontline troops in the spiritual battle. Are we taking seriously our duty to support them in their warfare? Newbigin asked. Have we ever done anything seriously to strengthen their Christian witness, to help them in facing the very difficult ethical problems which they have to meet every day, to give them the assurance that the whole fellowship is behind them in their daily spiritual warfare? 4 The church is nothing less than a training ground for sending out laypeople who are equipped to speak the gospel to the world.

In a sense, Christians need to learn how to be bilingual, translating the perspective of the gospel into language understood by our culture. On one hand, we all learn to use the language of the world: If we’ve gone through the public education system, “we have been trained to use a language which claims to make sense of the world without the hypothesis of God, as Newbigin puts it. But then, “for an hour or two a week, we use the other language, the language of the Bible. 5We are like immigrants like my own grandparents, who came to America from Sweden. During the Lutheran church service on Sunday, they spoke their familiar mother tongue; but for the rest of their lives they had to employ the strange-sounding English of the land where they had settled. Yet Christians are not called to be only like immigrants, simply preserving

a few customs and phrases from the old country. Instead, we are to be like missionaries, actively translating the language of faith into the language of the culture around us.

The uncomfortable truth is that we don’t seem to be doing very well as linguists…..

most Christian students simply don’t know how to express their faith perspective in

language suitable for the public square. Like immigrants who have not yet mastered

the grammar of their new country,they are self-conscious. In private, they speak to

one another in the mother tongue of their religion, but in class they are uncertain

how to express their religious perspective in the accents of the academic world…….

The mentality of Indian Christians is that of course religion permeates all of life. The same is true of African Christians. In most human cultures, religion is not a separate activity set apart from the rest of life, Newbigin explains. In these cultures, “what we call religion is a whole worldview, a way of understanding the whole of human experience.

On a global scale, then, the secular/sacred dichotomy is an anomaly a distinctive of Western culture alone. The sharp line which modern Western culture has drawn between religious affairs and secular affairs is itself one of the most significant peculiarities of our culture, and would be incomprehensible to the vast majority of people. 12 In order to communicate the gospel in the West, we face a unique challenge: We need to learn how to liberate it from the private sphere and present it in its glorious fullness as the truth about all reality.

I should have paid more attention to Jollyblogger earlier this year when he quoted her from page 86 as follows

In eternity, we will continue to fulfill the Cultural Mandate – though without sin, creating things that are beautiful and beneficial out of the raw materials of God’s renewed creation.

This means that every valid vocation has its counterpart in the new heavens and new earth, which gives our work eternal significance. We cannot know exactly what life will be like in eternity, but the fact that Scripture calls it a new “earth,” and tells us we will live there with glorified physical bodies, means that it will not be a negation of the life we have known here on the old earth. Instead it will be an enhancement, an intensification, a glorification of this life. In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis pictures the afterlife as recongizably similar to this world, yet a place where every blade of grass seems somehow more real, more solid, than anything experienced here on earth.

In our work we not only participate in God’s providential activity today, we also foreshadow the tasks we will take up in cultivating a new earth at the end of time. God’s command to Adam and Even to partner with Him in developing the beauty and goodness of creation revealed His purpose for all of human life. And after He has dealt with sin once for all, we will joyfully take up that task once again, as redeemed people in a renewed world.

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