Joel Belz: The line between secular and religious


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 22nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Where is the line between secular and religious? WORLD Founder Joel Belz has been thinking about this.

JOEL BELZ, COMMENTATOR: As my wife and I prepared for a recent yard sale, we found a box labeled “UNANSWERED MAIL.”

In it I discovered a 25-year-old letter from a WORLD reader in rural Texas. I could tell I had discounted it partly because it was anonymous. But I couldn’t totally ignore it, either. That’s why it survived in the box.

The writer urged us to leave behind our “preoccu­pation with all those secular things” and get back to the “simple gospel of Jesus.”

The letter was blunt. Quoting now—“If you’d spend more time urging people to turn to Jesus, you might not feel so sophisticated, but you’d do a lot more good. I get the impression you’re trying to skip what Paul called ‘the foolishness of preaching.’”

So let me say plainly: I do not dismiss that criticism as the naïve protest of a narrow-minded fundamentalist. Jesus repeatedly called his listeners back to basics—another word for fundamentals. Jesus told one of his most learned and sophisticated questioners that he simply had to be born again.

Right at the core of that process of being born again is to reject our habit of self-dependence. To be born again is to admit that we are profoundly weak and broken and sinful, and to confess that God is powerful and whole and perfect.

Such is the beginning of the gospel. But just because the gospel starts there doesn’t mean it ends there.

The implications of this thing we call Christ’s “gospel” are profound and far-reaching. God says to us, in effect: “If you expect to trust me for the details of your invis­ible, long-term existence, you might as well get used to that process by trusting me also for the visible, short term as well.

So the gospel has implications for morality and education, for politics and civil justice, for art and music and entertainment, for business and finance.

In all areas of life, God calls his children to new perspectives. They may seem foolish at first. But the more we keep exploring them, the more he makes sense to us.

That’s one way of describing what we call a “Christian worldview.”

To go exploring in all these nitty-gritty areas of life is never a denial of the basic gospel where we all must start. It is rather a logical extension of that magnificent journey.

I hope WORLD’s news coverage will help you in your determination to trust God more fervently in all those—quote unquote—“secular” facets of life.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(Photo/Creative Commons)

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