The Secular Christian
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2016 Jan 28
Imagine a country where literally no Christians believed that God had a hand in creating the Earth.
No, it’s not an imaginary tale of a parallel universe, but the results of an actual survey taken of young adults in Iceland. Exactly zero percent of respondents said they believe that God created the Earth.
Yes, Icelanders have been part of the Western slide into secularism. A mere 20 years ago, nearly 90 percent of all Icelanders were religious believers. Today, less than 50 percent are.
Now here’s what’s fascinating:
Despite the trend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is still the country's declared state church. In an interview with the Washington Post, Solveig Anna Boasdottir, a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, notes that scientific progress has changed religious attitudes in the country. But she said that about 40 percent of the country's younger generation still consider themselves Christian – but none of them believe that God created the Earth. "Theories of science are broadly accepted among both young and old. That does not necessarily affect people’s faith in God," she said.
Result? A science-based sense of belief.
This is a key insight into our day. A growing number of people who espouse Christianity do so only through the lens of a settled secularism and the presuppositions of naturalistic science. In other words, they use secular values and dispositions as the filters through which they embrace their faith. Whatever comes out on the other side – approved and accepted by those filters – is what they embrace as “Christianity.”
Rather than revelation standing over and above knowledge, perceived human knowledge stands over and above revelation. So Christianity becomes whatever secularism will accept, whatever naturalistic science that excludes any sense of God-involvement will allow.
So yes, these Icelanders and their kindred spirits around the world would say, “I am a Christian. But of course I do not believe in a Creator God.” This despite the clearest declaration of the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created….” No, it doesn’t say how, but it does say that.
But never mind. Forget the thoughtful blends of science and faith that uphold the Scriptures, such as the idea of intelligent design, the implied Instigator behind the Big Bang, or even theistic evolution. Those are not ideas to be entertained in a secular worldview. God must be excluded from creation altogether. In other words, we are to believe about God what a secular worldview and a naturalistic approach to science gives us permission to believe about God.
Which, as it turns out, is not belief in the God of the Bible at all.
James Emery White
Rick Noack, “In this country, literally no young Christians believe that God created the Earth,” The Washington Post, January 23, 2016, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. You can also find out more about the 2016 Church and Culture Conference. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.