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This article by our minister was published in the NZ Herald 'Perspectives on Monday 1st August.. in response to an article by Lloyd Geering the previous week about our secular society.

How can we understand the growth of secular belief and values in Western and NZ society? It is a fact that Christian observance is declining in the West, and this is nowhere more clearly seen than in NZ society. Many churches are struggling with lack of support, and even Christians are getting drawn into a busy and worldly lifestyle that leaves little room for their previous involvement in Christian service.

Lloyd Geering (NZ Herald Perspectives July 26th) would have us believe that humanism, naturalism and our secular society are an outgrowth of Christianity itself, and worthy successors of it. He argues that just as Christianity emerged out of Judaism, so also secularism has arisen out of Christianity. He promotes a ‘religion without God’ and claims that a ‘supernatural, controlling, personal being’ is fading from human consciousness. It takes a lot of twisted logic to come to this conclusion.

Secularism has been an outgrowth of Christianity only in the sense that Christian faith has won for us freedom of belief and given us the basis for scientific enquiry. The 16th century European Reformation won for society new freedoms for individual belief. The rise of science in the 18th century that was strongly fostered by Christian scientists, has won new freedoms to understand and use the resources God has given us on earth. But if science and technology and the rise of a prosperous society has led people to leave God out, then surely our secularism is merely a new idolatry of bondage to material things and to our own needs.

Humanism that puts ourselves at the centre of all things instead of God, is a subtle and dangerous bondage, because we did not create this world. We are not God! If there is no personal God who created us and who gives us our purpose, then all we are is a chance collection of chemicals who therefore don’t matter in any ultimate scheme of things. There are no human rights if there is no ultimate source of what is right and wrong in the universe. Neither, if we live in a purely naturalistic world, are there any ultimate freedoms we can claim because logically in a closed universe the laws of nature will determine our behaviour. Humanism and secularism are a terrible form of slavery.

Christianity in contrast to secular belief sees that humans are valuable and have freedom and human rights solely because we are created to share God’s nature and purposes in this world. God has given himself totally in this world as Jesus Christ to share all of that freedom and purpose with us. We have personality because God who made us has personality. We have ultimate freedom because God has given us freedom to have a relationship with him. The challenge that faces our secular society is to find better ways to encourage us to grow in that freedom by choosing to follow God and his purposes in this world, instead of blindly following what we ourselves have produced like the idolatry of past ages.

I am glad that through the church I share with many people who are experiencing a fulfilling life and who are learning to relate their faith to the world we live in. It is great to be able to put God first in our busy week, recognising that we are spiritual beings who need to share the spiritual dimension of our life with each other. Denying our highest spiritual calling for a limited secular version of life is a form of slavery of the worst kind.

- Rev Brian Brandon
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