Mangal – Does God made a distinction between the sacred and the secular? We know that the early church got hung up on the issue of meat sacrified to idols. Remember that verse, “To the pure all things are pure …”? To those that had been a Christian longer, they saw no harm in eating the meat, but they were asked not to put a stumbling block in their brother’s way as he came to terms with Christianity for him. Think about it this way:
Although the sizes of the categories — Sacred, Secular and Sinful — are approximate, the Secular category is by far the largest. Many religious groups like to expand the Sinful category to include more of the Universe, shrinking the other two categories accordingly. The system is commonly applied along these lines:
In professions: Preaching is Sacred, prostitution is Sinful, and computer programming is merely Secular.
In money matters: The Sunday collection is Sacred, the Vegas jackpot is Sinful, and the money in your pocket is merely Secular.
In eating: Unleavened bread is Sacred, spiked rum cake is Sinful and a spreadable liverwurst is merely Secular.
In art: A tract cover illustration is Sacred, a nude is Sinful, and landscape life is merely Secular.
In music appreciation: The Antioch Christian College A Cappella Choir is Sacred, the Dismembered Death Decrepits (punk rock group) is Sinful, and the Beach Boys are merely Secular… and so on.
Note that distinct dividing lines exist between the three categories. Although people argue in a few cases about where to draw them, there is remarkable agreement that such dividing lines do exist. When everything is analyzed like this, the Secular category is the largest. Do you begin to see a problem?
Fortunately, we have two strategies to deal with the problem:
This approach restricts diet to the limited Sacred fare by denying foods from the Secular menu. This is the ascetic approach favored by the monks of all generations. Medieval monks vowed celibacy, poverty, and social withdrawal in an effort to cut off all involvement with the Secular. Modern “monks” are somewhat more tepid — instead of renouncing all pleasures of the senses, for example, the may be content to renounce merely a few, such as dancing, mixed swimming, etc.- but they employ the same basic strategy.
This approach attempts to conquer the Secular with the Sacred, not by denying the Secular, but by expanding the Sacred to crowd it out. This is the preferred approach of our present age, which regards Sacred Isolation as being old fashioned and quaintly masochistic. As a result, options grow: instead of “socializing” or “mingling” (Secular), one may be “fellowshipping” (Sacred); instead of taking a family vacation (Secular) one may go on to a Church Family Retreat (Sacred); instead of paying a nursing home to care for Great Grandma (Secular), one may give to the Christian Retirement Home Ministry Fund (Sacred); and so on. Organized religion hopes to offer its conscience – stricken customers an alternative for every Secular item on the shelf. It’s a lot like Weight Watchers.
The real problem is that the system was off the track at the outset. The solution comes easily, we must recognize three simple facts:
- 1. The Sacred is real 2. The Sinful is real 3. The “Secular” does not exist.
There are no inherently Sinful objects. All objects in the Universe are still Sacred in that they have a Sacred origin in God. However, they are corruptible – “moths and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal” as a consequence of Sin. For its raw material, Sin has only God’s created things to work with. All sin really consists of is turning something God made toward a godless end.
So now we have a Sacred/Sinful world. All of it belongs to God: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalms 24:1). God will eventually burn off the Sinful corruption, restoring the Universe in a new incarnation that will once again be Sacred only:
“Let both the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First, collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matt. 13:30).”