We’re about to Make a Big Mistake – Reflections on Rebecca McLaughlin’s “The Secular Creed”
In describing the big mistake our culture is making, I’m going to point you to 2 resources. One is meant to make you say, “Eh.” (This first resource is not going to be super engaging—but hang on, because it makes an important point.) The other is meant to make you say, depending on where you’re located, something to the effect of, “Yeah!” or “Yeehaw!” or “Yee-uh!” or “Yeah, you betcha!” (In other words, I hope to make you excited about the second resource.)
Here’s the “eh” resource: a. comic strip called “Hagar the Horrible,” which I read periodically in the newspapers as a kid. It never really made me laugh, but at least it was more entertaining at the time than reading the news or doing the crossword puzzle. The particular episode I want to recount is when the Hagar the Viking arrives home after pillaging. He opens his bag and shows his wife a disconnected faucet he took off a castle wall. When he lifts the handle and nothing comes out, he says, “Well, it worked when it was attached to the wall.”
That’s foolish, not funny, you say as you roll your eyes. Exactly! I respond. This scenario is a picture of what our culture has decided to do, and it’s no laughing matter. Our culture has decided to pursue life-giving things like justice and love, but the way they are pursuing these things is by disconnecting them from their source. It’s a scenario described in the C.S. Lewis line from The Abolition of Man, “We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
How is our culture disconnecting the faucet in pursuit of water?
We’re doing it by trading a God-centered worldview for a secular one. In the name of pursuing things like love, justice, human rights, and the value of life, we are severing ourselves from their source.
If you are curious about how we ourselves can avoid this awful transaction (and how we can dissuade people who are at the cashier’s counter pulling out their wallets), then I want to point your attention to a brand new resource which made me, as a Midwesterner, read it and say, “Yeah, you betcha!”
A few days ago, I purchased The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims. The author is Cambridge-educated Rebecca McLaughlin, a thoughtful Christian who has chosen to follow Jesus rather than giving in to her same-sex attraction. I enjoyed the book, learned a lot, and heartily recommend it.
The “secular creed” which McLaughlin discusses in her book is five-fold:
- Black lives matter.
- Love is love.
- Gay rights are civil rights.
- Women’s rights are human rights.
- Transgender women are women.
The phrase “secular creed” is well-chosen.
By it, McLaughlin makes the point that a new religion is arising. “Creed” comes from the Latin word for “I believe,” and, for many people, these five beliefs have taken on the seriousness of core religious beliefs. Although we can spot some overlap between some of these beliefs and Christian views (for example, the conviction that black lives matter is actually profoundly Christian), the emerging religion is a secular religion. It tosses God out and puts humans in the center as creator, lawgiver, and judge.
Many in our culture have decided to exchange a biblically based set of “I believe’s” for a secular set which expels God from the conversation. How’s that going to work out for them? The tragic result will be disappointment and devastation. In disconnecting their creed from God, they will lose the very things they are pursuing.
This is where McLaughlin’s book is so helpful. She shows how, when we toss God out, we lose the actual basis for human rights. When we usurp God’s place as creator of men and women, we end up losing “woman” as a meaningful category. When we pursue racial justice without the conviction that all humans are made in God’s image, we trade the possibility of reconciliation for ever-escalating revenge. As McLaughlin puts it, “Without Christianity, belief in human rights, in racial equality, and in the responsibility of the powerful toward the victimized becomes blind faith.”
Yet this is no mere, “The church is right; the culture is wrong” series of arguments.
McLaughlin calls the church to break the cultural narrative not by affirming our rightness but by encouraging serious repentance. Now, let’s be clear: this isn’t a matter of repenting of our biblical convictions about gender, sexuality, and human rights. Instead, it’s a matter of repenting of our failures to fully live out those convictions.
For example, truly living out biblical convictions means affirming our fundamental maleness and femaleness and treating transgender people with gentleness and dignity. As another example, if we are using the Bible’s teachings about the wrongness of homosexuality as a way of excusing our general dislike and mistrust of homosexuals themselves, then, as McLaughlin puts it, we “need to repent of our prejudice. But we shouldn’t repent of our theology.”
So, I want to recommend a couple takeaways.
First, I encourage you to check out the book. This short but powerful book masterfully articulates how the way of Jesus is truly the best way to help the people whom the secular creed claims to help. Second, I encourage you to engage the issues of racism, homosexuality, abortion, and transgenderism the way the book engages them. Yes, that means challenging secularists to look at the facts—but it also means challenging Christians to live out the truth.
The culture is on the brink of a gigantic mistake. It would be an even bigger mistake for the church to respond to their choice passively or pugnaciously. Rather, let’s respond persuasively—which means we must speak truth as a community of grace.
The best way to avoid any of these mistakes is to know where to dig for water. Hence, the warning God sent through the prophet Jeremiah: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).