Christian Living Liberalism Politics the Church

THE SECULARISATION OF THE UK CHURCH – EN

This months Evangelicals Now column. 

THE SECULARISATION OF THE UK CHURCH

It’s a familiar secularist cry – ‘we want freedom for religion, but we also want freedom from religion’. It sounds good and it sounds nice. But like so many soundbites the devil is in the detail. What do they mean?

CommentDavid Robertson
Figure Image
image: iStock

In reality freedom ‘from’ religion means freedom from any form of religion (but especially biblical Christianity) in the public square. Militant secularists are as happy as Chinese Communists to have crosses in the public square pulled down. They want Christianity out of the public arena altogether. A ‘secular’ society is for them a ‘godless one’. We don’t ‘do God’ in education, health care, work, politics and media. They are happy for the church to be reduced to the equivalent of a line-dancing club or a Trekkie society. Do it in private – and don’t scare the horses!

Sadly, it seems to me as though the militant secularists are getting their way – aided and abetted by much of the church in the UK. We don’t need them to persecute us – we are in danger of secularising ourselves out of existence. The Spectator has a ‘religious’ podcast called Holy Smoke – which is largely a Catholic/High Anglican perspective on the state of the church. A few weeks ago they had a fascinating edition entitled ‘Suicide by Secularisation’. Although I largely come from a different perspective, I found myself in agreement with much of what was said. Damian Thompson accused both Anglican and Catholic bishops of forgetting spiritual power and instead seeking to exercise secular power. He suggested that there has been an intellectual decline in the quality of Christian leadership which has resulted in leaders virtue signalling that they are on board with the secular programme. ‘You can’t mitigate secularism by becoming secular’.

This is seen in different ways. For example, the Church of England bishops were loud in their condemnation of Dominic Cummings, even threatening to withdraw their co-operation from the government. Yet they uttered not a word when that same government imposed abortion on Northern Ireland. Plenty of bishops could be found to rightly condemn racism, but none to speak up against the slaughter of the unborn. Shamefully, 19 of them abstained when the issue was voted on in the House of Lords. If there is a Woke cause, the church will be right there. If there is a cause which is biblical, yet does not fit with the culture of the society – then the silence is deafening.

This secularisation of the church – whereby the church shares the beliefs and speaks with the same voice as the secular culture – is happening in the evangelical church too. On the one hand there are those Christians who confuse conservative theology with conservative politics – and long for the return of Christendom. On the other there are those who confuse biblical theology with progressive politics and think that Jesus would sign up for every progressive cause available.

Despite the BLM movement being a pseudo-Marxist organisation, opposing the nuclear family, seeking to destroy capitalism and promote transgenderism, there are evangelical leaders who have signed up to it hook, line and sinker. They think that by signing up to BLM marches they are ‘changing history’ and demonstrating ‘the radical grace of God that offers love, mercy and compassion to all’. It’s clichéd nonsense. Progressive politics baptised into evangelical language but ultimately meaningless.

Is it Heresy for a Christian to Question Black Lives Matter?

I have watched as the church has become more and more polarised on political issues. People defriend you because you don’t like President Trump, or because you don’t dislike him enough. Others are happy to call you a racist and ‘unfriend’ you (the equivalent of disfellowshipping from the cyberworld) because you don’t accept that by being white you are automatically a racist and need to ‘take the knee’ to show repentance for the unconscious racism which they are conscious you have!

The politicisation of the church is perhaps the most obvious form of its secularisation. But there are other more subtle ways. For example, the turning of churches into social clubs or corporate charities which function more like business machines than family fellowships or the body of Christ is in my view just as dangerous. John Piper’s cry, ‘Brothers we are not professionals,’ needs to be echoed: ‘Churches, we are not businesses.’ Far too often, just as we seem to be importing the American-style politicization of the church, so we are importing the business methodology – particularly the doctrine that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. How often has church or interdenominational policy been set by the ‘men in suits’ who tell us what they will or will not fund? You can’t upset ‘so and so’ because they will no longer fund us. You can’t have that person speak on your show, at your church, or in your seminary – or they will withdraw funding.

The church’s adoption of secular politics, secular methods and secular media styles mean that the militant secularists don’t really need to attack us. We are doing their job for them. We have bought into their methodologies, principles and ethos. Maybe it’s time for us to repent and to realise that we are supposed to be those who turn the world upside down, not those who try to keep it ‘the right way up’? We are not here to win the world’s approval for ourselves, but rather to win the world for Christ. A secular church is a saltless church which does not shine light into the darkness.

David Robertson is the Director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com

The PC (Post-Covid) Church – Evangelicals Now

19 comments

  1. Great article, David! May many Christians previously unaware of the extend to which we have been secularised, have their eyes open to this reality.

  2. Yes, David and this is, is it not a case of history repeating itself?

    “Do it in private – and don’t scare the horses!” Amusing as that is – there is an element of truth in that joke. In Marxist-Leninist Russia the fear the authorities had, did they not, was that religion posed a threat – so wheak – off to the gulags you go. Or like Richard Wurmbrant in communist Romania 14 years in prison where the communists kindly provide musical instruments for you in the form of chains that you can use to accompany your singing and giving praises to God?

    ‘Suicide by Secularisation’. ‘Churches, we are not businesses.’ And this is, is it not a modern version of what happened in Nazi Germany with the swastika being placed alongside the cross and Mein Kampf alongside the bible with both former items usurping both latter?

    So whether on the left or the right politically there are things to be guarded against – the roaring lion is more obvious but sometimes evil can come in the form of a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    Thankfully “the armour of God” is more than a match for either. It will be interesting to see to what degree the church steps up to it’s calling. For example Richard Wurmbrant said in 1989 that with persecution in China church population had gone form 3 million to 50 million in evangelical churches alone.

    Perhaps in some mysterious way the things you talk of David will herald a time of revival, not of mass conversions in stadiums but with persecution, there being an answer coming that many in churches have been praying for, for a a while.

    Persecution – the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church? Christ doesn’t give an option. Following him means sharing in his sufferings. Which is why is is important to weigh up the cost.

  3. “Far too often, just as we seem to be importing the American-style politicization of the church, so we are importing the business methodology – particularly the doctrine that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.”

    In all honesty, is this truly an American phenomena? Can you truly blame America for politicization of the church, or usury in the church? How is America to blame? This has been an issue throughout church history, most of which happened in Europe. So again, I ask how is this an “American-style” politicization? Easy scapegoat I guess.

    1. I normally don’t publish anonymous comments – so next time feel free to share your name. Of course it is not a uniquely American phenomena – no one said it was. But there is in my view a particular type of ecclesiology which reflects the culture in the US – much of which is good. But some of which is more indicative of materialist consumerism than it is of biblical ecclesiology. He who pays the piper called the tune. It’s nothing to do with being an ‘easy scapegoat’…>I don’t go in for that.

  4. Hi David, have you been able to listen to the latest edition of Holy Smoke where they discuss the appointment of Stephen Cottrell as the new Archbishop of York? I thought Gavin Ashenden gave an astute critique of his inability or unwillingness to communicate basic Christian teaching to our society. I don’t know whether it is lack of theological knowledge, conviction or courage but the Church of England has some troubling times ahead.

  5. ‘Despite the BLM movement being a pseudo-Marxist organisation, opposing the nuclear family, seeking to destroy capitalism and promote transgenderism’

    Do you think these are good or bad qualities?

    1. Interesting question. BLM, is surely primarily concerned with one thing – Black Lives Matter. Of course, there are people who will use it as a platform and opportunity to highlight unfair treatment of other groups – such as the transgender community. But, with Mike, I am interested in the labels used here.

      pseudo-Marxist organisation – First, BLM is not an organisation, it is a movement. Secondly, I do not understand the ‘pseudo-Marxist’ claim. David, please could you expand.

      ‘Opposing the nuclear family’ Again, David, please could you expand here. I am unsure how this is substantiated.

      ‘Seeking to destroy capitalism’ Same again please, David. Lots could be written about this and has been said. My current understanding is not that BLM is seeking to destroy capitalism. Obviously there are examples of looting and violence. The BLM movement seeks to highlight that capitalism, which we all uphold as a paradigm, was built on the back of slaves and fortunes were written in blood. Those sins must be corrected. This does not equate to the destruction of capitalism, but surely be need to rework it?

      ‘Promote transgenderism’ We’ve touched on this. If BLM branches out to offer a voice to people abused – is that not a good thing?

      From my first reading of the article, it seemed that these erroneous claims, have been used to undermine the importance of the BLM movement.

      Would appreciate your thoughts.

      1. Black Lives Matter is a movement. It has a charity number, an organisation and a manifesto. I suggest you look it up and read it. That would answer the rest of your questions. Pseudo-Marxist is simple enough to grasp. Their manifesto specifically opposes the nuclear family. I’m not sure where you get your ‘current understanding’ of BLM not seeking to destroy capitalism…again I suggest you read what they actually write and say.

        Promoting transgenderism is not ‘offering a voice’ to those who are abused….it is promoting the abuse.

        The claims are not erroneous. I realise that there are many who want BLM to be something other than it is = but I suggest finding out about them before speaking out in favour of them.

  6. 🙂 perhaps ‘SH’ is pointing to the gap between the issue, which you sometime disagree with, and the registered organisation – which cannot encompasses it all.

    I would suggest the same to you. Reading the text, not just the words – the meaning. Disrupting the prescription of the nuclear family – but with something bigger and something that sounds more like Jesus’ example of what the Church should and could be. Come on! That’s a great thing. I think we are supposed to be compassionate which is a challenge to enclude people who I do not understand. Even if I don’t understand their gender.

    1. So we are going full post-modern here. Reading the meaning…not just the words. The ‘meaning’ you know -w without words! The notion that BLM want to replace the nuclear family with something more like Jesus is bizarre. Its not compassionate to accept a surreal and mad view of gender which does enormous harm and is abusive to women and children. We can be compassionate towards people without accepting their ideology. I would hope that you would be compassionate to racists – without accepting their view…

  7. I agree with you david. You have given words to what I have struggled to articulate. The Church needs to stick to God’s work. We should not get involved in divisive and dangerous issues like BLM and all it stands for.

    But I do think ‘disrupting the presciption of the nuclear family’ is a bad thing. My own family had challenges that I will not bore you with – it was only because of the support of a wider community and family that I have been able to survive. My own situation didnt fit with the picture of the nuclear family and I felt like an outsider for it, and was also bullied for it. That is the one bit of BLM I agree with. I also think that the very richest people should share some of thier wealth with the poorest but I am not a Marxist.

  8. @scott You do, or you do not agree with disrupting the prescription of the nuclear family? I think you have a typo. You have perfectly illustrated how we have normalised a very narrow view of famiky at the cost of our wider community and offend our own wellbeing.

    I am not convinced BLM are against the nuclear family, nor am I – but I am against the prescription of it. There are many forms of the family unit, the nuclear family is just one. It is also one of the most isolated and insecure. The normalisation of it also seems, to Scott’s point, create prejudice against other cultures, families, and individuals.

    1. Ben – if you read BLM’s manifesto they state explicitly they are opposed to the nuclear family. What else would convince you?!

      They are opposed to the biblical understanding of what the family is – they are deny the biblical teaching about not only the family – but also male and female, abortion and sex. As a non-Christian you are welcome to support their Godless and wicked philosophy. If you profess to follow Christ you can’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: