8 Questions That Change How Christians Culturally Engage a Secular World

By Dr. Bob Martin III
Published 3 years ago

As a Christian, you want to culturally engage non-Christians.

Some people may have pushed back. They may have told you that Christianity has no place in public arenas. For example, in education, workplaces, politics, art, and entertainment. Instead, you’ve been asked to practice your faith privately or in church. 

What should you do? Thankfully, eight questions will change how you culturally engage in a secular world.

 

8 Questions for Cultural Engagement What is Secularism? Is Secularism a Faith Commitment? What If I’m Nervous? Isn't Secularism Contradictory? How Do I Engage With a Relativist? How Do I Engage With a Pluralist? How Do I Respond to, “Stop Imposing Your Beliefs On Others”? How Do I Respond to “Christians are Intolerant and Narrow-minded”?

 

I.   What is Secularism?

First, to culturally engage others in the public arena, we must understand “secularism.” 

Secularism differs from “secular”. Secular means “worldly” things. Things that are not associated with religion, things that aren’t spiritual or sacred. 

But secularism is a worldview that holds several beliefs: 

  • First, it is an atheistic faith commitment. 
  • Second, it contrarily claims that no one religion is superior to the others. 
  • Third, tolerance for all beliefs is necessary. This view assumes all religions are equally valid (pluralism). 
  • Fourth, secularism embraces religious skepticism. Religious skepticism believes there is no one absolute, knowable, exclusive truth. Instead, either a person, situation, or culture determines truth (relativism).

 

II.   Is Secularism a Faith Commitment? 

To get our bearings on the issue of truth, Christianity believes that truth:

  • Can be known.
  • Is “absolute” applying to everyone, everywhere, and in all situations.
  • Excludes any other worldview that disagrees with it.

Specifically, Christianity is a worldview that claims:

  • God is the source of all truth (John 14:6)
  • The Bible contains God’s laws
  • These laws apply to everyone, everywhere, and at all times (i.e., knowable and absolute truth)
  • And every other worldview that disagrees with Christianity is wrong (exclusive)

On the other hand, secularism is an atheistic faith commitment. And without God as the ultimate standard of truth, secularists must adopt pluralism and relativism as ways to determine truth.

But accepting pluralism and relativism leads to contradictions. For example:

  • Both pluralism and relativism deny absolute truth, yet they expect their views to apply universally (absolute truth)
  • Further, they claim all competing worldviews (e.g., Christianity) that disagree with them are wrong. But that is exclusivism

 

III.   What If I’m Nervous?

Maybe you want to culturally engage a secularist but are nervous or worried.

  • What if they ask me a question I don’t know? 
  • What if they get upset with me?
  • How should I behave?

 

You don’t need to feel intimidated. But by the same token, there are three pieces of helpful advice: 

  • First, how you say things is as important as what you say. Respond kindly and graciously without being argumentative.
  • Second, try to start by finding some point of agreement. 
  • Third, ask questions. Questions are the best way for people to see their mistakes in thinking. 

 

Image of two people talking, text of 3 tips for spiritual conversations

 

IV.   Isn’t Secularism Contradictory? 

Secularists contradict themselves by criticizing Christians for being “narrow-minded and intolerant to believe that only one religion is true.” But they are narrow-minded and intolerant of Christians because they believe only secularism is true!

Additionally, they insist that Christians stop imposing their views on others. And yet they impose their beliefs on others. And further demand everyone agrees with it!

 

V.   How Do I Culturally Engage Secularists Who Believe in Relativism?

Secularism believes in relativism. That means that there is no absolute truth. Instead, truth is determined by some person, culture, or situation. 

But relativists make a fundamental mistake. They believe relativism should apply universally to everyone everywhere. But that is the definition of “absolute” truth! 

To help them see their mistake, ask them, “Do you believe secularism only applies to you or everyone? 

If they say everyone, they believe secularism is an absolute truth. Therefore secularism’s belief in relativism is wrong. 

 

VI.   How Do I Culturally Engage Secularists Who Believe in Pluralism? 

Secularism believes that all worldviews are equally valid. This belief is called pluralism and is wrong. 

  • Firstly, secularists do not accept all religions as equally valid. Especially Christianity 
  • Secondly, pluralism violates a fundamental law of logic. This law is the Law of Noncontradiction (LON) 

 

The Law of Noncontradiction says, “the opposite of true is false.” So if I say, “I am married today.” The opposite, “I am not married today,” is false.

Essentially you use the LON anytime you say something is true or false. But pluralism believes that all opposing beliefs and views are equally true, meaning the opposite of true is true!

To show the mistake in secularism, ask, “Is secularism true and Christianity false?”

When they say “yes.” They have contradicted their belief. Thus pluralism is wrong.

 

VII.   How Do I Culturally Engage Secularists Who Demand, “Stop Imposing Your Beliefs On Others”?

A common secularist complaint is that we stop imposing our views on others. 

In response, we ask, “Aren’t you doing the same thing by imposing secularism on us?” 

If they don’t immediately see their faulty logic, you can ask: 

  • If you really believed what you say, wouldn’t you keep your views to yourself? 

 

VIII.   How Do I Culturally Engage Critics Who Claim “Christians are Intolerant and Narrow-minded”?

Two other secular complaints are intolerance and narrow-mindedness. These charges are because Christianity claims to be the only valid worldview. 

Two questions sort out the problem: 

  • First, “Aren’t you being intolerant of Christianity’s beliefs?”
  • Second, “Isn’t it narrow-minded to believe secularism is the only true belief system?”

 

But as shown above, the secularist also believes their view is the only correct belief system. So they exclude other worldviews. And by their own definition are narrow-minded and intolerant! 

 

IX.   Now It’s Your Turn!

The Biblical case for cultural engagement means that you are a change agent in culture.

It can be challenging to understand and then refute secularist’s arguments. But you are now better prepared than before to culturally engage others. 

This week why not spend some time preparing to talk about your faith with a non-Christian, particularly if they believe in secularism. Remember to pray and stay in God’s Word. 

As you interact, thoughtfully ask questions. And avoid being argumentative or judgmental. 

Even if we don’t sway our secularist friend or coworker, you never know who else may be listening. You may be planting a seed that will reap a spiritual harvest someday. 

 

Further Resources

What is Cultural Engagement? by Dr. Bob Martin III

Christian Cultural Engagement: 4 Terrible Responses to Secular Society by Dr. Bob Martin III

Binmin Podcast Ep. 7a: “What is Cultural Engagement?” Part 1 of 2

Binmin Podcast Ep. 7b: “What is Cultural Engagement?” Part 2 of 2

 

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