The secular/sacred divide is the idea that our lives as people are divided into two parts: secular and sacred. The secular part consists of academics, so-called “neutral” facts and information, school, work, and education, whereas the sacred part consists of the view that religion is privatized, taught by the church, and lived out in the privacy of one's home, not actively interacting with the public, secular sphere. This concept of the secular/sacred divide has impacted both the worldview of today's Christian adults and their children in their approach to learning, their ability to effectively communicate their beliefs to others, and in their beliefs about the future.
Christian adults have been impacted by their own education, possibly in ways they do not even realize. As they make choices about their own children's education, they will possibly find that their approach to learning supports the neutrality of ideas – they may find themselves thinking that many ideas and facts are neutral. However, there really is no neutrality of ideas - everything right and true in the world belongs to God. All truth belongs to Him. All creation declares His glory, and all nature shows forth His handiwork. As children grow and are taught about the world, they learn to read and write, mathematic principles, and the laws of science and nature that can be clearly seen and proven. One plus one will always equal two. In these subject areas are true and real facts and principles that are absolute. Even by simply being absolute, they reflect the glory of God. Christian parents who have a worldview that separates life into either a secular realm that gives church (and possibly the home) the responsibility for teaching children about religion, and that gives school the responsibility for teaching “neutral” facts, will probably make choices out of that worldview to send their children to a school that will give them a solidly secular education. This leaves God out of the picture, and risks teaching students that God is only important when making religious decisions – that He is limited to the religious part of life but that He is unimportant in the academic, factual part of life. This also teaches students implicitly that God is not factual – which does not prepare them for a life lived for Christ in view of eternity.
In terms of Christian witness, Christian adults who view their religious life as separate from their secular life (work, vacation, etc.) may find that they are not living out an example of being salt and light. Glen Schultz pointed out that as children see their parents and other Christian adults in their lives living out what it means to be salt and light, they will be prepared to live this way when they are out on their own. Being salt and light as a Christian is an uphill battle, but Christ has won the war. If Christians have a worldview that includes God into every part of their lives, they will be able to pass that worldview on to their children or their students as they are living examples of what it means to be salt and light to a world in darkness and without hope. Students will see how the faith of Christian adults is active in other spheres besides church, and how that faith influences decisions about vacations, work, purpose in life, helping others, and sharing about the gospel. They will see God's glory in all parts of life. As students have examples of parents, teachers, and mentors who are able to identify false teaching and empty philosophies and effectively counter them with the truth of God's word, they themselves will grow into mature, biblically literate Christian adults who have an active faith in all parts of life, not divided into a secular sphere and a sacred sphere.
Another idea brought up by this week's DVD (Session 11) was the idea that one purpose of education is to prepare children for the future, and it is important to prepare them fully for the future. Having a worldview that separates God from learning teaches children, either by example or by direct instruction, that God is irrelevant to the knowledge and tasks of daily life (Kingdom Education DVD Session 11). This is simply not true and does not prepare them for a life of Christian service, witness, or truly knowing God in all aspects of their lives. Their eternal future is also at stake – one day they will need to be prepared to meet a holy God. Education is not simply about preparing them for the rigors of daily life, but also about giving to them the certainty of the gospel as they experience God in all aspects of their daily lives. There is no comparison for being prepared for eternity. Biblical literacy that equips students for a lifelong walk with the Lord is the most important thing we can give them.
For many children, they learn about God on Sunday mornings as they go to church, and they learn about mathematics, science, history, language, health, and art as they go to school, and never the two shall meet. Or worse, God is pushed to the sidelines while secular philosophies of humanism and relativism are integrated very well into a secular curriculum. This leads to a division not only in education, but leads to a divided worldview as well. God's relevance in all of life should be clearly taught. As a Christian adult who grew up mostly in public school, I can say in agreement with Glen Schultz that I didn't “survive” public school; praise God that He gave me the opportunity to renew my mind with His truth. Every day I seem to see more and more how there is no middle ground of neutral information – it either draws us close to God as we see and teach His glory in it, or it pushes us away from Him and His truth. All truth is God's truth, and apart from Him there is not anything that is true. It is not a matter of figuring out how God fits into the secular sphere, but of teaching everything from the standpoint of glorifying God as we learn about Him and how everything true comes from Him.
by Rachel Sivalia
Presented in Partial Fulfillment of
Kingdom Education FDS
Dr. Milt Uecker
Columbia International University
Posted with author's permission
Sacred and Secular: An Educational Dichotomy
Christian education is faced with a never ending conflict between the sacred and the secular. Many Christian educators struggle with how much secular material to allow in their class. The use of textbooks, multi-media, novels, lesson plans, and activities that come from widely secular sources are issues that educators in Christian schools must grapple with. There are those educators who, as a result of real and legitimate concern, have made decisions to only use sacred materials in their classes. This division between sacred and secular in some Christian schools is often most evident in the arts where only sacred music is performed. Intentionally or unintentionally, the largest Christian school organization in the world, the Association of Christian Schools International only allows patriotic or sacred musical selections to be performed at their Music Festival (ACSI Southeast, 2012). This is only one example of the dichotomy that can exist between the sacred and secular in Christian schooling.
The dichotomy between sacred and secular, when practiced in life, has had some negative results on society at large. A NEWSWEEK poll conducted in 2009 found a troubling shift in how Americans think about religion (Stone, 2009). A majority of Americans do not think that faith helps to answer the nation’s problems. Sixty-eight percent of Americans indicated that religion is losing influence on how life is lived in America. Also in decline is what the NEWSWEEK poll calls, “old-fashioned values about family and marriage” (Stone, 2009, p. 2).
It is not just society alone that is suffering from the dichotomy of the sacred and secular. There is also a significant impact on the modern church. According to Barna (2011), there is a relatively small portion of Christians who hold to their faith long enough to “become mature Christ-followers and world changers that they are meant to be” (p. 1). Even though a great majority of self-identified Christians say they believe spirituality is very important, only eighteen percent are totally committed to spiritual development. More concerning is that only three percent of self-identified Christians say they have submitted their life to the will of God and devoted themselves to loving and serving others. An over-whelming majority of those surveyed also failed to recognize the importance of being connected to a community of believers in order to grow spiritually.
One conclusion of the Barna (2011) study is, “that people often fail to realize that the end game of spiritual development is godly character, not worldly accomplishment” (p. 2). This is because the result of viewing our sacred lives as separate from our secular lives is failing to recognize that godly character should actually be exposed in the life of the believer outside the church, not just in it. Matthew 5:16 says that believers are to let their faith shine through the way they live their life in the real world.
Education is no different. Colossians 2:8 warns against the influence of worldly thinking, but it never speaks to the isolation of the believer from the secular world. Christian education must be viewed as a training ground for the next generation of image bearers, eager to let the light of Christ shine through their lives. This does not call for an avoidance of the secular in sacred education. Instead, it requires that the young are taught to see Christ in all truth, even that which is considered secular. There is no truth apart from Christ, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16). Concerning false teaching, Christian education should expose students to it in the safe confines of the godly community, training students how to recognize and deal with falsehood in a manner that exposes the Glory of God.
Historically, Christian education has often been an escape from the world and the false ideals of the world. This unfortunate approach to educating a child in truth will result in two things. First, students will never learn how to own their own faith, likely wilting under the bright light of worldly philosophies. More so, this approach actually trains students to view their secular life as separate from their spiritual life. The end result then becomes adults who fail miserably to glorify God before a world in desperate need of a savior because their two worlds should never meet. Because education must be viewed as an eternal process (Schultz, 2011), compartmentalizing truth, knowledge, and learning as sacred or secular creates a generation of Christians who live two lives, one in church and another the remainder of the week. The ability of believers to share Christ in a spiritually dying world is at stake and the church and Christian school has the answer: the Christ of all truth, knowledge and wisdom.
John M. Furrow
Presented in Partial Fulfillment of
Kingdom Education FDS
Dr. Milt Uecker
Columbia International University
Posted with author's permission
Barna, G. (2011). Self-described Christian dominate America but wrestle with four aspects of
spiritual depth. Retrieved: November 5, 2012 from www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/524
Schultz, G. (2011). Kingdom education. DVD series
Stone, D. (2009). One nation under God? The Daily Beast. April 6, 2009. From: www.the
Author: Kristen Trace
Posted with author’s permission
"Discuss the concept of the secular/sacred divide and how that has impacted the worldview of today's Christian adults and their children."
The secular/sacred dichotomy that exists in our postmodern world is not supported by a Biblical worldview. Christian adults need to be careful that they do not label sacred and secular things based on personal opinion but that of the Word of God. Colossians 1:13-16 reminds us that all things were created through the eternal Son of God. "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." If all things were created through the power of an invisible God who reigns in a kingdom not on Earth, then what is secular? 1 John 2:16 reminds that things in and of themselves are not secular but that the root is our flesh. "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world." Therefore, as Christian adults educating the next generation when we communicate ideas through our actions and words, we need to be careful to close the dichotomy between the secular and sacred.
In session 11, Dr. Schultz discusses the impact the beliefs and thoughts of a teacher has on the next generation. Using statistics Dr. Schultz pointed out that the teacher is not only the Christian parents and the church, but also the media and secular school systems. Dr. Schultz confessed his personal struggles to work through old thought patterns established from a non-Biblically based education. We are continuously bombarded with false ideas to satisfy our flesh and the desires of our eyes. As Christians we need to recognize these secular thoughts and take them captive to Biblical truths. We need to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves. Unfortunately, it is not easy to recognize the subtle influences when we too have been raised in and learned from a culture that holds self-achievement and privatization of our faith in opposition to dependence and honest accountability. In a culture that values busyness over rest, personal Bible study and meditation on God's Word is often put off or less valued than random information or social networking. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." (Hosea 4:6) Without personal meditation on God's Word we will continue to create a larger dichotomy between secular and sacred. If we separate the Gospel from our work, financial decisions, relationships, and other aspects of life, so will our children.
In addition to recognizing false philosophies of our culture, Christians need to hold a correct view of the future. Alvin Toffler concluded that, "All education springs from some image of the future. If the image of the future held by society is inaccurate, its education system will betray its youth." This quote reminds us of our ultimate goal in education being to prepare our students for the future. Often the education system stops with the things of this world being the future. Knowledge and skills that will help the student become a moral citizen and have high achievement on standardized tests become the aim of the education system. Whether it is due to legal restraint in public schools or lack of Biblical education, often subjects are taught as secularly neutral. When academic material is separated from God, it teaches that God is irrelevant and reinforces the secular/sacred dichotomy.
On the other hand, all Christians regardless of their role in a child's life are helping him/her form a foundation of faith, not just teaching students how to be a successful earthly citizen. As Nancy Percy states in her book Total Truth, " We have to insist on presenting Christianity as a comprehensive, unified worldview that addresses all of life and reality. It is not just religious truth but total truth." It is crucial that we remind our children that the ultimate goal of education is to grow in wisdom and understanding of the Gospel. If all things are created for God's purposes and redemptive plan for his children, then we must tie all academic matter back to a Biblical worldview. Other times as teachers we use moments when a student is struggling to help our students surrender and depend on the Lord rather than self. Whichever the role the adult has in a child's life, it is important to help them see how God is using all things organically for the purpose of their redemption.