Pumping Their Own Gas and Stuff

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There are two kinds of secularism. Well, at least two — or at least two that I am willing to talk about this morning.

We are more accustomed to one of these, the one that refers to the functional godlessness of our public affairs. The secular state for us is that which has enshrined agnosticism as the official faith of the nation, and which fights off every attempt to ground our public affairs in any transcendent realities. Not only is this infidelity, but it is also incoherent.

But there is another use of the word secular. In the Roman Catholic communion, the secular clergy are those who (as opposed to the regular clergy) have not taken monastic vows. They live out in the world (saeculum), pumping their own gas and stuff. Regular clergy place themselves under a monastic rule (regulum), and take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. But obviously, the distinction here is not between those clergy who believe in God and those who do not. The distinction has to do with what is dedicated to God in this way, as opposed to that which is dedicated to God in another way. I am not here defending Roman monasticism, obviously, but am simply talking about what the word secular can mean. It need not mean godless agnosticism.

And so if we were to reason by analogy, this use of the word secular to describe our civil affairs is fully appropriate. The secular world is the non-ecclesiastical world. But you don’t have to be in church to believe in God and trust in Christ. A man who is a minister holds ecclesiastical office. A man who is an alderman or a senator holds a secular office. Should the secular world acknowledge who Jesus is? Well, of course. We don’t believe that all Christians need to be ministers. But we do believe that all people should be Christians.



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