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Sacred vs. Secular

Sacred vs. Secular

By Ben Rushlo
For all of us, our past shapes our present. And I am no different.

I was born and raised in a "grace-based legalistic church". Grace was applied to those areas the church leadership felt were appropriate such as the moment of conversion, dress (we wore shorts to church) and the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, what we could read, watch or whether we could have a Christmas tree were defined by convoluted legalistic rules. We were saved by grace and trying to grow under law.

Looking back I am puzzled as to how we decided that grace applied to wearing shorts to church but did not to body piercing, secular education or reading books by Catholics.

Only recently has God brought freedom to my life by destroying the man-made curtain that divided the sacred and the secular. This essay is written out of that experience and a deep desire to help others find freedom from similar pasts. I don't have all the answers. This is just my attempt to put in words what God has graciously shown me through people like Mark Driscoll, the folks at the Highway Community (my church) and others in the emerging church movement.

Separate Realms

The early church was faced with the false doctrine of Gnosticism shortly after the ascension of Christ. The doctrine taught the separation of spirit and matter, or the body. The spirit was sacred and matter was secular. This false doctrine finds its roots in the dualistic philosophy that the Greek philosopher Plato introduced to Western thought.

Gnosticism has come and gone and is no longer a threat to modern Christianity. However, the underlying philosophy of dualism is just as much alive and well in Western Christianity as it was in the early church. Many of us have separated our lives into two distinct realms: the sacred and the secular.

In the secular realm, we work, pay our bills, go to school and participate in popular culture to some extent. In the sacred, we pray, talk to God and find spiritual meaning. The more we can remove ourselves from the distractions or pollution of the secular the more "spiritual" we believe we are.

What most of us find is an extreme disconnection and tension between the two realms. We live in the secular world during the majority of our day and feel a little guilty that we are so "worldly". Or we develop an intense fear and distrust of anything secular, longing to be free from the world.

Christian Subculture

What is the solution to this tension? For many, it has been to expand the sacred world. Create a sacred subculture that has all the same features as the secular world but has a Christian stamp of approval.

Create our own clubs where everyone believes the same things, listens to the same music and knows the secret handshake. What safety! Everything within our club is neatly defined and we all know where everyone else stands based on their ability to keep the club rules.

We will stamp "Christian" on music, movies, education, careers and friends. We will retreat into our subculture and limit our contact with the secular culture as much as possible. We will be safe in our newly created sacred world. We create extra biblical rules that, like a teacher's checklist, help us quickly critique an individual's "Godliness".

Of course there is not a single subculture for all of Christendom. For one group, the criteria for sacred music is hymn style and for another, Christian punk might be okay. What specifically is sacred and secular is not important but rather the fact the distinction exists at all. In most cases the rules are defined by church leadership who have special knowledge about what is "pleasing" to God and usually are rather convoluted (as with my past).

But one thing that seems to be common: few members of the subculture ever examine or question its existence. Few look at its place in relationship to the gospel.

Christian Subculture and The Gospel

The Bible is clear that Jesus came to set captives free and to proclaim the favor of God. If we are to be about that same mission we must be willing to examine the current Christian subculture in light of the gospel mission.

Some observations I've made about how the Christian subculture affects our ability to carry out that mission of the gospel:

1. We lose our ability to relate to unbelievers. As we retreat into the Christian subculture we lose the ability to speak the same language and to understand the context that the gospel needs to be presented. Secular culture is nothing more than the values, beliefs, hopes and dreams of the people we are trying to reach. When we totally remove ourselves from it, we miss out on the greatest tool that we have to understand those who need Christ.

2. The communication of the gospel is hindered. The Christian subculture has its own "Christianized" language and it becomes very difficult to communicate effectively with those outside that subculture. Effective communication is based on understanding the context and the symbols associated with the culture

If we have nothing in common, don't understand their world, and can't speak their language, how can we hope to reach them?

3. We limit our contact with and move in separate realms than those we are called to love and reach. Any good relationship, which is the foundation of evangelism, must begin with personal contact. By removing ourselves from the secular world we minimize this contact. I know many Christians who can't think of one friend that is an unbeliever.

4. Christians never learn how to think about Christianity in the "real world". I had friends in college who once exposed to the "real world" of secular education began to question what they had always believed. Their Christian subculture had no room for tension, doubt or free thought and subsequently their faith crumbled under pressure. Isolation might protect us in the short-term, but we will reap the long-term consequences.

5. Christian subculture helps support a Pharisaical culture of rules designed to keep people conformed to the "image" of Christianity. The more we congregate in the subculture, the stronger the "rules" of the subculture (legitimate or not) get. i.e. drinking, smoking and tattoos are clearly wrong, but why? Does anybody know? And why do we care so much? All this congregating in the subculture alone puts our eyes on one another, rather than the world that so desperately needs to be reached.

Jesus' Response

There was a religious subculture that is very similar to what we see today during the life of Christ. The Pharisees mastered external holiness and had well defined rules what it meant to be "Godly". Their name means "separated ones". Jesus makes it clear that they had missed the point. God didn't want them to retreat into a separate subculture. Rather He wanted their heart; he wanted to use them as His instruments of love to His people.

Jesus had no illusion of a sacred and secular world. He lived in the "world" without conforming to it. His extensive use of parables illustrates His command of the local culture and His ability to use that understanding to speak truth.

What Now?

I believe and I hope have communicated that the worldview that creates a separation between the secular and sacred is not God's intent. Retreating from the world into a Christian subculture creates a small and weak God, ties up His people with legalism and hinders the good news from being lived out where it is needed the most.

Part 2 of this essay examines how we can use popular culture to teach us more about God and help us reach the lost and respond to the argument that I am promoting "worldliness" or watered-down Christianity.

- written By Ben Rushlo

I have to agree with the essence of the message, the church is so guilty of being preoccupied with introducing this world to a culture, instead of to Christ. As one author put it so simply, "man loves the way to God, more than he loves God."

Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Joh 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil... Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Coconut said:
Sacred vs. Secular
Jesus had no illusion of a sacred and secular world. He lived in the "world" without conforming to it.
There lies the key. We are not to be conformed to this world. The church conforms too much to the world, instead of being the other way round.

Romans 12:2 "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Good post coconut it seem to me that we end up macking loads of rules on how to behave righteously just like the pharesee which then bring us into condemnation. when the simple truth is that the blood of jesus was shed so we could be who we are. now every single person is an individual there is not two alike i want tobe myself that is why jesus dide to set us free to be what he made us. iv got five children each one is different wev all got weekness and strenth and in different proportions i like tea my wife likes coffee i smoke she dosnt how many differant perfumes are there? and if you begin to blend them the combinations are endless. we all have differant taste its left to each to choose my hope is that the Holy Spirit will set us free to be what we have been made to be Gods blessing to one anouther for God is All in All through the Holy Spirit amen
I have a strong aversion to the word 'secular' or more percisely teaching that that there is a secular vs sacred. God did not make a sacred and a secular, everything to God was God's. In God's universe there is no such separation, all is unified as glorifying to God. There is not one thing that was created that did not glorify God. (depends on wether we take God at His Word or man, Col 1:16... all things were created by him, and for him: )

In 1John 2:16 "worldly" is defined as "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" and again in Romans 8:7 where it says the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God:

The issue then is always with the flesh, not with the 'secular' so called.

In James 4:4 this oft misinterrupted phrase " know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" as read in context and 'world' correctly defined is again warning against the lust of the flesh.

Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
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"Now all the tax collectors and the sinners kept drawing near to Jesus to hear him.

"Consequently both the Parisees and the scribes kept muttering, saying: 'This man WELCOMES SINNERS AND EATS WITH THEM.'"

Luke 15:1-2 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

"Next, while passing along from there, Jesus caught sight of a man named Matthew seated at the tax office, and he said to him: 'Be my follower.' Thereupon he did rise up and follow him.

"Later, while he was reclining at the table in the house, look! many tax collectors AND SINNERS came and began reclinging WITH JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES.

"But on seeing this the Pharisees began to say to his disciples: 'Why is it that your teacher EATS WITH TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS?'

"Hearing them, he said: 'Persons in health do not need a physicain, but the ailing do.


Matthew 9:9-13 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

"Now we know that the Law is fine provided one handles it lawfully

"in the knowledge of this fact, that law is promulgated, NOT FOR A RIGHTEOUS MAN, but for persons lawless and unruly, ungodly and sinners, lacking loving-kindness, and profane, murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, manslayers,

"fornicators, men who lie with males, kidnappers, liars, false swearers, and whatever other thing is in opposition to the healthful teaching

"according to the glorious good news of the happy God, with which I was entrusted.

"I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who imparted power to me, because he considered me faithful by assigning me to a ministry,

"although FORMERLY I WAS A BLASPHEMER AND A PERSECUTOR AND AN INSOLENT MAN. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith.

"But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus.

"Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS. Of these I am foremost.

"Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to REST THEIR FAITH ON HIM FOR EVERLASTING LIFE."

1st Timothy 1:8-16 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

"Jesus spoke these things, and, raising his eyes to heaven, he said: 'Father,...

'I reauest you, NOT TO TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.

'THEY ARE NO PART OF THE WORLD, just as I am no part of the world.

'Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.


John 17:1a and 15-18 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

Once, I was a sinner and I was indulging in the sins of the world but when the Good News of the Gospel was preached to me, I repented of my sins and became a Christian.

Now, I am still in the world but I no longer indulge in/practice its sins; nonetheless, I still eat and drink with sinners and I still talk with them that I may be able to preach the Good News of the Gospel to them that they may come to repent and become a Christian, too.

"In my letter I wrote you to quit mixing in company with fornicators,


"BUT now I am writing you to QUIT MIXING IN COMPANY WITH ANYONE CALLED A BROTHER THAT IS a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, NOT EVEN EATING WITH SUCH A MAN.

"For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do you not JUDGE THOSE INSIDE,

"while GOD JUDGES THOSE OUTSIDE? 'Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.'"

1st corinthians 5:9-13 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

Sinners are expected to indulge in/pracice/to make lifestyles of sin but Christians are expected to live as Christ did, in the power of the Holy Spirit, not indulging in/practicing/making lifestyles of sin.

God will judge us all but right now he expects his followers to take care of the insiders of the church while He takes care of the outsiders of it.

He does not want us to judge sinners because they are not ours to judge.

Christians are to keep order in the church and not be given to offenses. If a brother or sisiter claims to know God and yet lives a lifestyle of sin - they are going to become a stumbling block to many, to those weak in the faith and to those who are outside looking in.

Look at all the priests and pastors who have fallen into divers temptations and have been exposed of secret faults. It makes weak believers leave the church and it makes unbelievers not want to have anything to do with God.

That's why God wants His children to judge those who are claiming to be of the truth.

Outsiders, though, are expected to be living in sin so God is the only one who has the right to judge them.

We just need to make sure that we are able to distinguish between the two and are admonishing one another in brotherly love, being careful that we, ourselves, do not get contaminated and end up falling into the same sin(s).

But if we do, we have an advocate - Jesus Christ the Lord.
I agree with you Ben.
The reality is that the division of sacred and secular has resulted from the same man for which the church is in contention with, the Adamic mind.

I read the following text and realized some key things:

Leviticus 24:10-23 - Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp.

The nature of our contention can be found in the Leviticus account. Here we find a man dwelling in the midst of Israel with a nature that harbours two extremes in contention. The bible is specific to record the root of the man’s life (Israelite and Egyptian) so as to communicate the nature contending with God in the midst of Israel.

As the present truth of God was made manifest, the true nature of the man was revealed. Evidently the dispute that bought forth much hostility came about as a direct result of a conflict. A contention between two men, the one nature bound to the kingdom and another of duplicity at war within itself. This man in his nature harbours a contention within himself of two opposing forces, religious and worldly (sacred and secular philosophies), these are diametrically opposed. And yes this is in just one man! These philosophies satisfy his own conscience until the Lords will begins to be revealed in the camp. These two opposing forces in one man are fuelled by the extremes of each other. As a result the whole nature is in conflict and unstable.

The man in the midst is a typical example of the state of the first Adam. As the first Adam sinned and sought to rectify his sin by coverings. So this man who in his nature is a sinner covers himself with religion and remains in turmoil. An unstable man in all ways and manifestations of life. His coverings prove to further destabilize his condition, as they do not deal with the root of the contention, rebellion and transgression against God.

Verse 11,12 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. Then they put him in custody that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.

The results of this nature is blasphemous, the extremities serve no good purpose in God’s will, rather its influences cause greater division and strife in the midst of the assembly.

The Leviticus account provides ample bases for Paul’s revelation and instruction to us on how to clearly bind the nature of duplicity in our midst.

Verse 3 – 6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

Whilst we may dwell in the body, we must be careful not to war according to the dictates of the war faring carnality in the body. The fact that there is such a reality as warring according to the flesh implies that like the man with a nature of duplicity, there is an ongoing carnal war existing in all men in the first Adam. Paul does not necessarily imply primarily a physical exertion but the inner turmoil of a nature bound in two volatile extremes (worldliness and religiousness) that manifests in violence against fellow man.

Paul continues;

Romans 7:21-24 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Hence Paul then begins to communicate the carnal war waging on the inside of him as a result of the Mosaic covenant. The war between the extreme opposing forces existing in the one adamic nature. Worldliness and religion. Paul highlights that he identifies another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind. This law is bringing him into the captivity of the sin existing in his members. Hence there is no other law that produces such results but the law of sin and death, the carnal law. For it is this law that reveals spiritual impotency. The inability to lay a hold of and conquer sin at work in the nature of men. It is the carnal law that highlights sin and inadequacy so as to reveal to man the truth state of his condition.

This war seeks to bring him into captivity. The knowledge of what is good and right, but also the knowledge of complete impotency to accomplish it. Here he reveals the nature of duplicity. A nature bound by the turmoil of possessing knowledge that it cannot accomplish, because it is fraught with corrupt inadequacies. The knowledge of purity and holiness without the nature acquired, without the revelation but by reason of the scriptures. Remember that the Law of Moses came to him by direct revelation, but was shared with men in their carnal intellect. As a result they were not able to keep the stewardship of the covenant that they had with God. Thus the Mosaic Law was handed to men who were spiritually impotent, God stating, “If you obey”. Hence the powers of obedience to the spiritual laws were installed in the impotency of carnal men.

Oh wretched man that I am!

This consciousness arises out of the man who has come to realise the condition stated above. A man who has fought in the carnal war and sought to accomplish the law, only to find himself impotent. He believed once that he could obey all that God had laid out for him, and was bound by the knowledge of life to the impotency of death. This is a wretched state. To have knowledge of a life, but not have the sufficient nature to experience its tangibility’s. Hence this man who has exhausted all strength in the war according to the flesh. Calls out. But what does he call out for? Not for more knowledge? Not for better interpretation? Nor counsel from others in his affinity? But cries out for the one who was never bound to his condition, and yet would be willing to enter his world to free him from bondage.

Who will deliver me from this body of death? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Hence like the people apprehending the man of a dualistic nature and bringing him into custody to the man Moses their deliverer. We must bring this warfaring nature that we have identified in us into the custody of the resurrected man Jesus.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God”

Paul states that we cannot conquer in the carnal warfare of the dualistic nature. We cannot warfare thinking the religious extreme has the power to win over the worldly. We cannot conquer having knowledge of what is right, or holy. Only through God’s might can such a stronghold of duplicity be governed.

Note: Such as we see through the life of Jacob, who wrestled with God throughout the night, so that his dualistic nature would be sufficiently conquered that he might possess the fulfilment of the will of God in him and through him. He would not let go until the power of God lay a hold of this nature that was displeasing to God and bought bitterness to his own soul, he held on to God to apprehend him and remove him from the midst of the man. Hence Esau’s coming was also in contention with Jacobs’s internal warfare, hence we see in Jacob and in Esau both the worldly and religious contending. Only the might of God can bring the peace that resolved the brother’s extreme differences.

Genesis 32:28 – And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

The change of name comes out of the change of nature; the change of nature is drawn out of the might and power God has shared. This power is not a dominating power to Lord over men, but the power of peace that a man consciously has with God and so this peace he also gives to men.

Verse 30 – And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

“Hence the place affords the name describing the encounter “Peniel” (seen God face to face) This is the bases on which the strength and might of God is shared, no other imprint can change or relieve a man from the carnal war, but the indelible print of the God's image in his being” Hence Jacob’s states my life is preserved, salvaged, saved restored.

Note that only in God can the extreme natures be conquered because it rises up against God. Hence this dualistic nature exists as a result of its origins having no other ambition but to exalt itself against God. Hence the “I wills” of Lucifer are founded within this nature. This nature violently rebels (worldliness) to take the place of the one who created it (religiousness).

The reality that Christ set for us is the conciousness of dominion over sin and death. He states with authority that He is the first and the last, the one who died but now is alive, and lives forever more. He has prevailed in all realms, and then commanded us to go and also prevail in the realms he has claimed with an outstretched arm. To state there is such a thing as sacred and secular is to bring a great divide in which all that is left for the church is a holy huddle.
Ok...I have just one question...who is Ben? :embarasse

Very interesting commentaries ....thank you all...I will be back later when I have more time to mull...(and the choir shouts uh-oh)
I think he was referring to the Ben Rushlo who wrote the article ( I think he thought you where Ben ) Hey why not ? I'm a Bobbie.
John 17:13-26 (LITV)

"And now I come to You, and I speak these things in the world, that they may have My joy being fulfilled in them.
I have given them Your Word, and the world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
I do not pray that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them in Your Truth; Your Word is Truth.

"As You have sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world,
and I sanctify Myself for them, that they also may be sanctified in Truth.
And I do not pray concerning these only, but also concerning those who will believe in Me through their word;
that all may be one, as You are in Me, Father, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
And I have given them the glory which You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are One:
I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in one; and that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them, even as You loved Me.

"Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me, that where I am, they may be with Me also, that they may behold My glory which You gave Me, because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, indeed the world did not know You, but I knew You; and these have known that You sent Me.
And I made known to them Your name, and will make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

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