Light Brings Salt


Volume 3, Issue 35                                                                        September 11, 2005

Iron Range Bible Church

Dedicated to the Systematic Exposition of the Word of God


The Secularization of American Culture

By Ron Merryman


American Culture in the last half of the Twentieth Century could be described as the move to "GET GOD OUT." Get Him out of our special holidays, out of our courts, our military academies, our worldview, any and all of our public facilities and institutions, out of our daily lives. Above all, keep Him isolated and at arms length from our high schools, colleges, and grad schools: i.e., all centers of learning.

How ironic! How paradoxical! The very educational system founded for the indoctrination and perpetuation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel has succeeded in shutting Him out!  Our schools have God just where they want Him: locked up in the churches.

Colleges in the U. S. Owe Their Origin to the Gospel

Harvard College was founded by Congregational Churches in 1636 "to supply the publicke with fit instruments principally for the work of ministry" (spelling as in the original charter). Included in the "Rules and Precepts to be observed in the Colledge" were:

"Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ at the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.

"Everyone shall so exercise himselfe in the reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein... "

The slightest hint of anything like this at Harvard today would make you the laughing stock of Boston.

The College of William and Mary, the nations second, was founded in 1693 by Anglicans primarily for the training of ministers. All teachers were required to adhere to the 39 Articles of the Church of England, the basic Anglican doctrinal statement of that era.

Harvard's early trend toward liberalism stimulated Congregational Churches to found Yale College in 1701. The administration and faculty were responsible for prayers and Bible readings each morning and evening and for worship services on Sunday, attendance at which was mandatory.

The First Great Awakening (ca. 1726-1744) gave rise to other pre-revolutionary colleges, all under church auspices: Princeton in 1746 (Presbyterian), King's in 1754, later called Columbia (Anglican), Log Cabin in 1755, later called The University of Pennsylvania (multi-denominational), Brown in 1764 (Baptist), Rutgers in 1766 (Reformed), and Dartmouth in 1773 (Congregational).

Most if not all of these schools at their inceptions were Bible-believing in the evangelical tradition.


The Slide to Hostile Secularism

But in the Twentieth Century, these campuses slowly embraced secularism, even to the point of hostility toward traditional belief.

This did not happen overnight.  After the Civil War, the majority of campuses in the U.S. were remarkably evangelical and led by clergymen who taught courses defending biblical Christianity. Even a century ago, almost all state universities conducted compulsory chapel services, and some required Sunday church attendance.

Campus chapels began to rapidly erode after World War II. This coincided with the rise of influential liberal Protestantism and its promotion of liberal religion that included toleration and secularization. Authentic intellectual contributions of conservative evangelicals became the only things not tolerated.

Though religion departments abound in many of our schools today, they obviously do not hold to biblical Christianity, in fact, they undermine it.

Unbelief has supplanted Christian truth as the only acceptable perspective in our educational system. Are your children aware of this historical perspective? Are they prepared for the anti-Christian onslaught they will experience this year in college?

I suggest that you have them read The Soul of the American University: from Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief by George Marsden, Oxford University Press, 1995 (available in paperback).

Marsden does a credible job explaining how major universities that have dominated American intellectual life have gone from belief to non-belief (he avoids the word unbelief) to anti-belief.

Once leaders in Christian education, these institutions are now promoters of the secularized state.


What Lies Beneath
Stuart McAllister

Have you ever purchased a book or attended a costly seminar on how to stop spending money? Problems tend to multiply themselves, don't they?

With wry insight, author Mercer Schuchardt observes how we work our way into odd circles of behavior. He writes, "When you finally realize you hate the city, you move to the suburbs—far from work, shopping, and friends—and so you have to drive everywhere. Then you have to jog through your suburb to lose all the weight you gained sitting in your car and office. By having engines on your lawnmowers, saws, and any other work-replacing tools, you condemn yourself to purchasing exercise machines to give yourself a 'workout.' You take your cell phone on dates, stop in the middle…to answer it, take your laptop on vacation, and become so bored, numb, and despairing in the process that you spend your free time watching someone else's more interesting though completely imaginary life on TV."

We are confronted daily with a paradox that is easily overlooked. In one sense we are encouraged to acquire as much as possible and as soon as possible to reel in the "good life." Yet, the glut of goods and soft-living create consequences we don't like. So we find more pricey remedies for the very things that we were encouraged to purchase in the first place!

It's easy to get into frantic cycles of purchase upon purchase to bring a sense of stability to life, but the repercussions of such a method are often empty and exhausting. Perhaps the growing interest in simplicity, in downsizing, and in various forms of spirituality is a growing sign of the inadequacy of hyper-consumption to meet our deepest hungers.

Let me also add that much of what we buy depends on what we value, and this gets at the worldview that lies under our decisions. As Jesus observed long before cell phones and credit cards, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).

Moreover, the philosophy of life to which we hold will also shape the expectations we attach to the goods we purchase. Where our heart is dictates the hope we have in our treasures. We should ask ourselves: What do our habits of consumption reveal about us? And if we see problems with what lies beneath, can it really be that another string of purchases will be the solution?

Consider taking root in something deeper, something lasting, something that takes commitment yet is free of charge.  Jim Elliot who gave his life to bring good news to a secluded people said it well: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."