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The Great Unchallenged Assumption

How much longer will we abide by the great unchallenged assumption of our day?

Consistent Christians must ask themselves how much longer they will be willing to abide by the great unchallenged assumption of our society.

Reading through the recent issue of The Hedgehog Review (Fall 2010), I was struck by the easy way each writer on the primary theme fell back on one assumption. The theme for this issue develops the question, "Does Religious Pluralism Require Secularism?" The common assumption of each contributor is that secularism is the settled and necessary state of things in democratic societies and, thus, the only constant that must figure in every debate about the role of religion in society.

Put another way, the great assumption binding public policy in America is that religious views must not be allowed to influence the secular order. Instead, religious views must come into line with the primary values of secularism, that is, if they wish to make a contribution to the prosperity of the secular state.

But how Christian can any moral, social, cultural, political, or other contribution be that is based on assumptions other than those derived from Christian faith?

Anyway, who said the prosperity of the secular state should be the highest value? And why should the assumption that secularism is the settled and necessary precondition for democratic society go unchallenged by those whose highest value in life is supposed to be seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?

Ever since Christian leaders have become aware of how pervasive secular thinking has become in our society, they have sounded the alarm against it in a wide variety of ways. At the same time, however, when it comes to matters of public policy, as well as to many of the ways we try to build the Church, our leaders have too often defaulted to secular assumptions and methodologies, setting their deepest convictions aside and foregoing many divinely-appointed means.

But why should secular assumptions be the determining factor in how Christians seek to do public policy? Whatever happened to "Thus saith the Lord"? Our leaders will tell us that our secular counterparts won't allow such evocations of divine authority. Why not? Because they have determined that only human - specifically, their - authority should guide all matters of public policy and moral debate? And do we think to persuade them with lots of "good reasons why" as the best way of achieving a more Biblical (our leaders would say "traditional") moral and cultural consensus?

Why not simply challenge this great assumption with a simple, "Who says?" The Bible is the Word of God, and it instructs us in God's good and perfect plan for human wellbeing. It teaches that even those who reject the blessing of redemption in Jesus Christ can still know the benefits that flow out of the obedience of the redeemed (Ps. 81.15; Jn. 7.37-39), and that society as a whole is better off when God's Word provides the blueprint, rather than the best ideas of self-centered men (Deut. 4.1-8; Mic. 4.1-5; Prov. 14.12).

Christians need to challenge this great and false assumption. We do this by our lives and by the things we talk about with our neighbors. Why should it be impolite to engage conversations in which the loveliness, majesty, infinte goodness, wisdom, and beauty of our exalted King provide the common thread? Why should we have to dance around the false facade of secular finality when we know the wizard-behind-the-curtain is mere bluster and pyrotechnics?

Come on, brothers and sisters! Make bold for Jesus! Speak the truth in love and love your neighbors in truth. Let's expose the nakedness of Caesar Secularum and carve out a little more space for seeking the Kingdom, shall we?

Additional related texts: John 19.33-38; Psalm 53; Philippians 3.1-16 (esp. v. 16)

A conversation starter: "It seems to me that 'separation of Church and State' has become a kind of religious mantra in our day. I wonder why we should believe that this is a workable religion?"

T. M. Moore

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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