secular vs profane

August 28, 2005 | 5 Comments

In my church history class this past week, the newness of the idea that something could be secular came up several times. The word secular essentially means something that is not at all connected with religion, spirituality, or God. This is really a 20th century concept, and an utterly false one at that.

Through a movement away from religion in the modern world, the idea that something could be secular was popularized. Of course, I think the church enjoyed the definition just as much. We have always found it easier to create a black-white/us-them kind of mentality.

We would be much better off if we completely removed the idea from our thinking and returned to how the church viewed things before the 20th century. Prior to the term secular, the more common idea was the word “profane”. When something was profane, it was a corrupted version of what God had originally created. This makes so much more sense. How much better off would followers of Jesus be if we saw that everything is profane to a degree, and the work of Jesus through the church is to redeem it?

Sex.
Music.
Money.
Food.
People.
Movies.
Desires.
The church.

Just think how it would reshape our thinking if we looked at these things not as secular or Christian, but as corrupted versions of what God orignally created. The great task before followers of Jesus is not to define what is of this world and what isn’t, but to redeem that which has been corrupted.

  • Yes, the task of redeeming, and all the things that go with that such as encouragement, love, grace, understanding, and patience; would be a much higher goal for all the Church then labeling, with just seems to produce fear, ignorance, and judgement. Good thoughts, sir.

  • I think that explains why we have labels for media… We need to think critically about sacred and profane–how often they are mixed, how to identify the differences.

  • Jamie,
    I think we can’t really draw lines of difference. Things that were created by God are sacred to a degree, but everything has been corrupted to a degree as well. It is a matter of looking at everything around us case by case and determining how it can be moved back toward redemption and the original purpose that God created it for.

    I think, which I probably should have mentioned earlier as well, that there are some things that are just neutral. I think money would fit in this category. It is a manmade tool, and thus it is neither sacred nor corrupt, but can be used for either.

  • Throw an odd question in here regarding the quote:

    “It is a matter of looking at everything around us case by case and determining how it can be moved back toward redemption and the original purpose that God created it for.”

    I see this point and I like this point, but how does it work? Should we actually try to redeem *things*, or try to redeem the people who are creating the things? And I assume this is done in a graceful, understanding discipleship, not a crusade-esque adventure of course. Or are we simple trying to redeem and redirect the things that the people create, rather the people or spiritual or not?

    So is this trying to convert culture, basically? Redeem culture? I know these thoughts are all over the place — but I’m basically trying to get a more solid grasp on this concept.

  • I think you have a good point. I think God created all, and all has fallen and been corrupted. However, the first priority should be to redeem people I think. They are the main shapers and users of the rest of it.