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The secular world-view

July 2002 | by Geoff Thomas

Most would agree that ‘secularism’ is a ubiquitous feature of our age. But what exactly is it? It is a world-view, I suggest, that says four things.

First of all it claims to describe what exists. It is a study of being. It claims to tell us what reality is like – reality concerning people, the world, and everything else. Secularism wants to tell us how we are to understand and approach reality.

Secondly, the secularist believes specifically that what exists is only material. Matter and energy are all that there is. Reality is to be understood in purely material terms. All that matters is matter!

Thirdly, and consequently, secularism holds that there can be no reality in religion, morality, or aesthetics. There is no real mind, soul or feeling. None of these words have any real meaning because the things they describe do not exist.

Thus love can be shrunk to a chemical reaction, and thought to an electrical discharge.

Fourthly, the secularist tells us how to do this reducing act: ‘Ask the scientists’, he says, ‘if you want to know anything. They are the only ones who can understand and control matter’.

Implications

What are the implications of this secular philosophy? The secularist has reduced everything to matter and motion – the sunset, music, love, Van Gogh, the life of the mind, moral objectives, and Jesus Christ.

‘The brain secretes sensations as the liver secretes bile,’ says J. J. C. Smart, a well-known secularist.

This belief system (for such it is) rules the thinking of many medical professionals. Doctors are taught to think of themselves as sophisticated mechanics, repairing machines called ‘people’. They apply their tools to germs, cancers, plague, and chemical imbalances.

Psychology has also been invaded by secularism. For years psychology has held that it is impossible to know anything about spiritual reality, absolute truth, or the meaning of life.

Many psychologists believe that, because behaviour is mechanically determined, we will soon be able to explain and control all human thoughts, feelings and actions.

All we need is to learn more about how the body/mind ‘machine’ works.

One woman told her counsellor: ‘My doctor really did not want to hear about my feelings. As soon as I said I was depressed he cut me off, grabbed his prescription pad and wrote the name of an antidepressant.

‘He told me to take one pill each night. Then he walked out on me. I felt like a machine.’

Due recognition

This woman had sought psychological help because she didn’t want her problems to be treated as if they were nothing but chemical anomalies. Many patients are saying they do not want pills for their depression.

You can easily judge whether your physician is a secularist or not. Does he have a broad enough view of your total health needs?

Does your doctor take the time to talk with you and to listen to your concerns? Does he show interest in your marriage, your family, your work, and the impact of various life-factors on you?

Does the doctor suggest that you use health aids like exercise, vacations, listening to music, or healthy socialising? Or does he prescribe a drug for every complaint?

Is your physician interested in your spiritual life, giving due recognition to the fact that church attendance, prayer, and other spiritual practices are important?

If you are not satisfied that this person is willing to take spiritual realities seriously, and to respect your beliefs and your feelings, you may want to find someone who does.

Weaknesses

Professor Stuart Hampshire has said: ‘Secularism is wrong because it does not do justice to the mental life, in terms of imagination, belief, and memory, and to its social implications’.

To demonstrate the weakness of the secularist view, American philosopher Paul Ziff reduced the idea that man is just a machine to its basic elements. He found differences and wrote:

‘A machine uses power, but a man eats prepared meals.
‘A machine can take; but a man can borrow.
‘A machine can kill, but a man can murder.
‘A machine can calculate, but a man can be calculating.
‘A machine can break down, but a man can have a breakdown.’

Then he concludes that if my neighbour’s wife is nothing more than a robot, and I covet my neighbour’s wife, it is no different from coveting his car.

My neighbour, however, even if he is a secularist, might disagree!

Spiritual realities

A follower of Jesus Christ would tell the secularist that Christianity does not diminish or despise the material world. For us, matter is not at all evil. Rather, it is God’s creation. He sustains it and it belongs to him.

Though it remains in a corrupted state, the creation still displays the power, glory and tenderness of God.

When we speak of a non-material world, where God, sin, righteousness, accountability, atonement and salvation are the great realities, we are not escaping from the world but seeking to be its salt and light.

By living in the strength Christ gives us, we demonstrate that spiritual realities are meaningful, powerful and objective. They do not simply motivate – they are true!

We ask the secularist to examine, in the self-same Gospel of Matthew, the words of the Sermon on the Mount and the narrative of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.