01
MAY
2014

Well-run Countries Gone Secular

Response to “Religion Declines in Well-run, Trusting Societies” in Vancouver Sun

churchstateAs a biblical scholar who believes in the unequivocal importance of religion as it is rooted in a faith in Jesus Christ and the word of God’s story as left for us to use in matters of faith and life. The article points out for us that well functioning secular countries no longer have a need for religion. This is hardly surprising. If the entire disposition of a human being is to live in independence then it is no wonder that when a person attains wealth or security from a social system that he or she would lose sight of God. In this scenario, money or wealth becomes a person’s god; a very narrow and muted view of God, mind you. Interestingly Jesus had some very insightful thoughts about this, when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he or she will hate the one and love the other, or he or she will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Continuing on, Jesus said, “where your treasure is there your heart is also”. It seems a lot of the issue here has to do with allegiance, faith and love. What you love and put your faith and hope in, you will serve and embrace. God won’t be an adulterer.

Jesus had a very keen insight into the human soul when he said, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Was Jesus not concerned about these things? Certainly he was just as his followers are today.

But it appears that having our essentials cared for is not all that there is to life. It is a matter of priorities. God first and then everything else. Christians have always been concerned about looking after the needs of others, before their own, based on the paradigm of Jesus who gave up his own security and wealth in heaven in order to embrace the poverty and brokenness on earth. Jesus certainly wanted to raise the standard of living for all people but this was to be done through a posture of humility, repentance, forgiveness, love and hope in him.

Western countries like Sweden and Canada had their education and health systems started by Christians. When they were taken over by their respective governments, God was replaced by a political system. And no political system has a heart or soul. I wonder what social system or Big God system, the researcher envisions taking care of people when they die? I’m glad and content knowing that when I die, my trust and hope will not be in a well-functioning secular country but a living loving God waiting to embrace me with open arms. With that as my hope I can live with a whole lot less than any social system can provide.

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Rev. Craig Smith BComm, MDiv, ThM, PhD
Professor of Biblical Studies
Carey Theological College
UBC Vancouver, BC
Craig Smith
I teach Biblical Studies at Carey and my faith in Christ is core to who I am and foundational for everything I do. I love playing hockey and I coach soccer.
  1. Jonathan Wilson
    Jonathan Wilson Reply
    What do we say to the study reported in Douglas Todd’s recent column? Since I am a theologian not a sociologist, my response is theological. That is, I want to know what we can learn from this report and Todd’s column. What can we learn about God’s work in the world in light of the coming of the redemption of all creation in Jesus Christ. The most important thing to say is that the good news of Jesus Christ announces the defeat of death not the improvement of living conditions while we wait happily to die. Death is the great enemy of life. Yes, death seems to rule today through disease, evil, violence, injustice, and more. Death has not yet been destroyed, but it has been defeated, and its allies have been disarmed. The control that death exercises in our lives today depends on “The Great Lie”: that death is the final word. Death is not the last word; it is not the greatest power. God in Jesus is the final and everlasting word. The good news of Jesus invites us to a new life that is everlasting, not an improved life that has an expiry date. Another thing to say is that the “decline” of religion is a mixed process. If the gospel is understood as I described it above, then discipleship to Jesus is not necessarily religious. Indeed, the earliest followers of Jesus were often denounced as atheists because they did not believe in the “big gods” of their time in history. Perhaps the “decline of religion” is an opportunity for the Spirit of God to bring new conviction to the world and new life to followers of Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified, raised from the dead, and invites us today out of the rule of death and into the rule of life. Jonathan R. Wilson Carey Theological College

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