Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fixation on Secularism?

Post 44--: August 30 2011

Tim's Complaint

Tim is a good friend of mine and a long-time lecturer in theology. Under most other circumstances, what with his doctorate and many years of experience, he should have attained professorial status. As it is, he is teaching in a theological college in Nigeria that does not have provision for such rankings, though its academic level is fully equal to that of Nigeria’s public universities, if not higher. Tim recently commented to me that I seem to have a fixation on secularism. According to him, whenever I write, it is about something related to secularism. Whenever I open my mouth, the term “secularism” or some derivative comes out. A slight exaggeration, Tim, but only slight!

Complaint Accepted

Yes, I am deeply concerned about secularism. Putting his comment in a broader context and as I myself once remarked in a seminary chapel speech, we Kuyperian Calvinists seem to find a secularist or dualist behind every tree. Tim is thus not far off the mark. No matter what I write about or in what context, whether an entire 8-volume 2700+- page series on Christian-Muslim relations, magazine article, blog or public lecture, I just about always bring in the topic of secularism and often identify it as the main or basic culprit of whatever problem I may be writing or speaking about. And now you have this whole new blog with “secular” in its very name!

How This Works Out in Practice

Of course, I could counter Tim’s remark with the observation that, no matter what he writes or lectures about, it is almost sure to be about theology. It is not that Tim knows nothing but theology or I nothing but secularism, but Tim, for reasons of his own, has decided to specialize in theology, while I have picked on secularism as a major issue in many social problems that I write about. I may write an article or a blog without a singular overt reference to secularism, but you may find it lurking just around the corner—and usually seen from a negative perspective.I usually write about the general negatives or refer you to other discussions of mine on the subject in past or future posts.

Pre-Emption No. 1

But before I proceed with that, I want to pre-empt a couple of questions or objections to my negative stance towards secularism. I am not suggesting that all secularists are (potentially) bad or evil people, except in the general sense of being members of a fallen human race, of a race of creatures that somewhere in early distant history broke its covenant with God and since then is partially crippled in spirit, mind and body and thus potentially capable of every kind of evil. Even the generally humanistically inclined columnists in the Vancouver Sun, the people with whom I often respond to in my blogs, in response to the recent Vancouver hockey riots and to the Norwegian home-grown terrorist attack, are admitting that, given the right circumstances or stimuli, most of us, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular, can turn vicious, violent and downright evil. You don’t have to look far for examples; history is full of them.

My Secular Friends

But most of us also have the potential for good, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular. Though I regret their secularism, I have some very good secular friends for whom I have the highest respect and in whose company I delight. They are the finest humanists you can possibly find: decent, kind, compassionate, cultured, tolerant and a whole lot more positives. But as much as I appreciate them and delight in their company, there is always a deep chasm between us that we have agreed to acknowledge and accept. This covenant makes for challenging discussions of which we seldom tire. I thank them for this unique opportunity of rich human experience and sharing. Thus, when in these blogs and other writings I strongly disagree with secularism and its adherents and, not infrequently, become somewhat harsh, let these friends remember that, though they adhere to the worldview I attack repeatedly, I am also aware that not all secularists are proud and antagonistic to the worldview I represent in these blogs. One of them has often referred to me as an exceptionally tolerant Christian, but not quite. My tolerance is not so exceptional; it is typical of many Kuyperian Christians with our strong sense of pluralism. And from what they tell me about the reaction of their fellow Humanists to our joint project, I deduct that these friends are exceptional among their peers.

The second pre-emption will be featured in Post 45.

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