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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

Exploring the Sacred and Secular: A Christian Perspective

For Christians, sacred and secular concepts hold significant meaning. They shape our beliefs, practices, and perspectives on the world. Understanding the distinctions and intersections between these terms provides insight into how Christians navigate faith and engage with the world around us.



I want to preface the remainder of this post by telling you what inspired me to write it. As I listened to a recent sermon, I was struck by these words from the pulpit, "There is no distinction between the sacred and the secular." 


This comment shocked me. It was the psychological equivalent of being sucker punched by a friend. How could anyone say there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular? 


So, like the proverbial dog with a bone, I started digging to see what the "Word" and the "world" had to say about sacred and secular. 


Like a good retired professor, I started with simple definitions. First, does the world, as reflected in the Oxford Dictionary, make a distinction between the two? 



The Oxford Dictionary makes a clear distinction between sacred and secular. What if we continue digging for an operational definition of the two?


Operational Definition of Sacred and Secular


Sacred: At its core, the sacred encompasses everything set apart, holy, and connected to the Divine. In Christianity, the sacred comprises elements such as Scripture, sacraments, worship, prayer, and the presence of God Himself. It reflects the transcendent nature of God and His redemptive work in the world.


Secular: Conversely, the secular pertains to the temporal, earthly realm distinct from the spiritual or religious domain. It encompasses human existence, culture, politics, education, and societal structures independently of religious authority or influence.


So, for me, the "world" clearly separates sacred and secular into two discrete categories. The world's worldview is that they do not overlap. 

From the worldly perspective, I wholeheartedly agree. 


For example, if I showed 100 random people two books, one the "Holy Bible" by God and the other "Civilization and Its Discontents" by Sigmund Freud, most would agree that one is sacred and the other secular.  


Or what about the church in your neighborhood and the downtown bar/saloon? Is there a distinction between meaning and purpose from one to the other? Most reasonable, prudent people would say yes. 


From our worldly worldview, there IS a distinction between sacred and secular. So what does God have to say in His Word, The Bible?   


Biblical Perspectives on the Sacred and the Secular


The Bible offers insights into the sacred and the secular, illuminating the relationship between the spiritual and earthly realms.


The Apostle Paul writes,


"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

This verse underscores the Christian perspective that all aspects of life, whether sacred or secular, are to be lived out in alignment with God's will and for His glory.


Similarly, Jesus' teachings emphasize integrating faith into everyday life. Jesus instructs His followers,


"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 ).

This passage highlights the transformative power of living out one's faith in the secular realm as a witness to God's love and truth.


Navigating the Intersection of the Sacred and the Secular


Let's think about driving in a large, densely populated city as we navigate the intersection of the sacred and secular.


As with driving, laws inform our behavior and how we approach each intersection. Some "laws" transcend others. For example, if the "law" says we have the right to proceed, but the other driver cuts us off, the "law" of common sense transcends the law of the road. We stop.


Similarly, Christians must navigate the intersection of the sacred and the secular. This involves discerning how to live faithfully in a world often presenting conflicting values and priorities. It requires wisdom and judgment to prioritize honoring God's commandments while engaging with the complexities of contemporary society.


Many Christians today have forgotten that God's rules of the road (sacred) supersede the world's rules (secular). Many have become complacent as they merge onto the superhighway of life, staying up-to-speed with the world and forgetting about the dangers of being "of the world."


Adopting a mindset that aligns too much with the world leads one to a non-Biblical, secular worldview. We'll talk more about non-Biblical worldviews in another post. However, suffice it to say that Christians who try to "balance" the sacred and secular place themselves on the fast track to lukewarm Christianity.


Finally, I used to live by scholarly articles and their usefulness in my profession. However, Christians would do well to question scholarly articles from theological journals. I certainly do.

While many offer valuable insights into how Christians can approach sacred and secular issues, they are only sometimes written from a Biblical worldview. For example, many are written from historical and sociocultural perspectives, including ethics and social justice, cultural engagement, and religious pluralism. These perspectives are characteristic of the secular, not the sacred.


Concluding Thoughts: Embracing the Sacred in the Secular


In conclusion, the sacred and the secular are integral aspects of Christian faith and practice. While the sacred encompasses the divine and transcendent, the secular includes the temporal and earthly. As Christians, we are called to integrate our faith into every aspect of life, allowing the sacred to permeate the secular and reflecting God's love and truth in all that we do.


By embracing the sacred in the secular, Christians can cultivate a Biblical understanding of their faith, engaging with the world with wisdom, discernment, and compassion. As we navigate the complexities of contemporary society, may we seek to honor God in both the sacred and secular spheres of life, bearing witness to His transformative power and grace.





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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a Missile Launch Officer with I.C.B.M's during the Cold War (1980's). Today, I'm an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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