Monday, February 24, 2014

Secular Sam

[Can a Christian be secular at heart? This isn't an issue of politics or of education. It's a question of desire, of motivation. Can a Christian be motivated exclusively, or even just primarily, by the concerns of this life even if those include things like earthly peace, justice and development? Ptr. Mark Dever answers this question with the following illustration.]

Taken from
Every couple of years, I find occasion to mention my friend Secular Sam. I wonder if you know him. Sam is successful. He has a good job, a nice girlfriend, and a beautiful apartment. His car is new, and his health is fine. He is humorous, good with people, and intelligent.
Secular Sam is also a Christian. That is, he affirms the things we believe as Christians. And he is quite active! Young Life, Campus Crusade, and InterVarsity are all in his background. Long ago, of course, he left some of the more embarassing and immature bits behind. He is not a theological liberal. He affirms the authority of Scripture. But he is not a stereotypical, ghettoized fundamentalist. He has recovered the cultural mandate in Scripture. He understands Genesis, the great story of creation, and what God calls us to do. He understands that all of life should come under the scrutiny of Scripture: not just religion, but business, philosophy, ethics, economics, politics, law, and the arts. He has a thoughtful and refined appreciation for how Scripture gives the most satisfying explanation for all kinds of phenomena in our world—certainly the origin and meaning of life. Sam knows Scripture's awesome explanatory power. It has a first principle—God—who, by definition, needs no previous cause. Sam can honestly examine human foibles with his understanding of human sinfulness. He can confute his skeptical friends by the historical evidence for the resurrection. He seems to have a moral bearing that is the envy of many of his more thoughtful friends.

But Sam is profoundly secular in this: he expects to wake up in his bed tomorrow morning. Sam has never even heard of what his grandparents' generation called “the blessed hope.” No, his concerns, even about his own spiritual life, are all contained in this age, or saeculum, to use the Latin root. For Sam assures that tomorrow will be just like today. In a strange way, Sam's hope has all been collapsed into the now, the present, the visible, and the feel-able.

… We stop waiting in a number of ways. Our faith in the next life slips into faith in this one. Striving for spiritual health is replaced by striving for good stewardship of our physical bodies. Visions of God are replaced by visions of our earthly future, or our children's future. The hope of heaven is replaced by the hope for the good life. Desire for our Creator God is replaced by desires for creatures.

… This brand of secularism has grown in our society. And it has grown in our churches, as our churches do more and more to help us cope with this life and do less and less to prepare us for the next.

… What if you found out that he [Jesus] was never coming back? Would your life look any different at all? My fear is, for many of us, it would make no difference at all.
Some have asked me if Secular Sam is just a made-up character. I wish he were. I fear he is not.

… Dear friend, is everything you hold dear found in the small compass of this life? If so, then I know one thing you do not have—you do not have Christ.

Are you waiting for anything beyond this life? Christians are.

[Excerpt from Mark Dever, The Message of the New Testament.]

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