During a recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. discussed evangelical support of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Many of Cooper’s questions centered on the divide between Trump’s behavior and Biblical values. Recently, Trump has referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and criticized Secretary Hillary Clinton as a “lowlife,” with countless other examples of personal attacks against people across the political spectrum.
In response to these inquisitions, Falwell compared the “game” of politics to Liberty football contests. He explained that before a game, everyone could be friends. However, when the whistle blew and the game started, it was “every man for himself.”
Yet this method of reasoning is the same that fosters an unbiblical sacred/secular worldview divide.
Nonetheless, this type of thinking is not uncommon in church history. In the Roman Catholic dominated Middle Ages, the priesthood was viewed as a “sacred” calling, separated from the church laymen who worked “secular” professions. It was not until the Protestant Reformation, headed by Martin Luther, that the wall between the sacred and secular would be torn down.
“The entire world is full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of the townsfolk and farmers.” – Martin Luther
The American idea of a sacred/secular divide is often argued in response to Thomas Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” letter to the Danbury Baptists. While his words are often misunderstood, it has led many to believe that faith and government should have no influence upon the other.
This logic has quietly worked its way into the modern American evangelical church. While few evangelicals would argue that faith should have no influence upon government, a natural tendency to view some occupations as sacred and others as secular prevails in their minds. The fruits of this idea are evident in the shrugging off of immoral behavior as “that’s just politics” or “just business.”
Fortunately, many influential Christian figures are working to break down this false wall of separation.
Lecrae, a Grammy winning Christian rapper who has made appearances on late night television shows such as Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, preaches against the modern divide of faith from cultural issues as a whole. He has stated that “there is a sacred-secular divide that hinders us from impacting culture.”
He exhorts believers that “Christianity is the whole truth about everything. It’s how we deal with politics. It’s how we deal with science. It’s how we deal with TV and art. We can’t leave people to their own devices.”
A.W. Tozer, influential Christian author, writes of the fake sacred/secular divide in The Pursuit of God:
“This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims of the two worlds. They try to walk the tight rope between two kingdoms and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.”
Although the book was written in 1948, Tozer’s words are prophetic for today. The attempts by many to water down the Christian Gospel and divide it from culture may very well explain the withering influence of the church in American society.
This is by no means to say that Jerry Falwell, Jr. actually believes that there is or should be a sacred/secular divide between faith and culture. Indeed, as a recent Liberty University graduate myself, I am thankful for the real world biblical applications I was able to learn through all of my class work. Liberty University does an incredible job of instruction in unwavering biblical truth in light of a hostile world that opposes those teachings.
At the same time, it is vital that our thinking not be tainted by small compromises that gradually grow through a slippery slope.
In God’s view, all things are sacred, including the professions of politics and business. There are no moral justifications for unethical actions in these spheres, even if it is “just politics” or “just business.” God calls the believer to be “holy” – which literally means to be “set apart.” A person cannot be set apart from the world when they justify the very actions they are called to be set apart from.