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Call it a pet peeve…

…but the statement “There is no difference between the secular and the sacred” is driving me nuts. So is its second cousin, “Every bush is a burning bush.” (With, um, all due respect to the original speaker, of course. Absolutely.)

I understand that we can glorify God even by eating or drinking. I get it. But no difference?

How do you figure?

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14 Responses

  1. Once. Just ONCE, I want to hear someone say, “Now I don’t agree with everything Bob Jones Sr. said, but . . .”

  2. Oh. Is he the one who said that? I had no idea.

  3. Yes, Chris, it was Dr. Bob Sr. who said that. I think I’ve heard enough references to it here at BJU that I can tell you how it’s applied, at least. We need to seek excellence in whatever we do, so even in the “non-religious” aspects our lives, we need to do our best as well – keeping up the appearance of our home, doing our best in the secular workplace, and so on.

  4. I check in here routinely, but don’t often comment. This one, however, prompts me to say that the maxim under consideration is, I think, one root of the mediocrity of most forms of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

    You see this in church architecture all the time. One of my friends (a PCA Presbyterian) was recently showing me his new church building under construction. It was an all-too-typical multi-purpose box, which was obviously designed to be used as a banquet hall and a basketball court as well as a “worship space.” I pointed out to him how powerful a message he was drumming into his flock every week of the year: that God and His worship were functionally equivalent to a recreational sports venue. And, yet, he’ll rail against people who equate church and the Superbowl and choose the latter if it suits their fancy. After all, that’s what football and worship are supposed to do — to suit our fancy — right?

    The Medieval artisans and those who were their patrons had it right: those cathedrals were for God and the glory of Christ. Even if you say they amounted to a competition with other Medieval metropolitan centers (“my cathedral is more glorious than yours!”) it was a competition for who could give Christ the greater glory, a worthy competition for Christians.

    God took Very Elaborate pains to drill into His people the notions of the holy and the profane (speed read Leviticus to get this point). We can and should handle profane things (eating, drinking, latrine building, lawn mowing, house painting) in ways that adorn the doctrine we profess. But, even if we do so, those are still profane things, because they are not done expressly and exclusively for God and His worship.

    Do we wish to “make a statement” about our worship being holy? Well, then, we should do it so that it cannot be confused with anything else at all. And, this goes to the setting, the implements, the dress, the music, the order, and so forth and so on.

    When evangelicals and fundamentalists recover holy worship — when their worship CANNOT be confused with the Jay Leno show, or a seminary classroom with a hymn tacked onto the front and back — then maybe, just maybe, they will show the world that there’s something more to church than entertainment, or a self-improvement psycho-therapeutic service industry.

  5. Glad you said this, Chris.

  6. Rob, I actually knew that. I was joking. And I understand how it was intended, I think. Keeping the flowers at a place like BJU can be and should be done for the glory of God. And I agree. But the statement itself has been used—and really allows for this by its lack of precision—to justify all kinds of nonsense.

    * Giving announcements is as much a part of worship as singing hymns, after all, “there is no difference…”

    * BJU is criticized for inviting an unsaved political speaker to speak at an assembly about politics because it is equated with having him preach in worship service. After all, “there is no difference…”

    * Singing light-hearted Christmas songs is really no different from singing Christmas hymns, after all, “there is no difference…”

    I’m not opposed to flowers, announcements, politics, or Frosty, but there most certainly is a difference.

    Now, Fr. Bill, I’ve pastored a church that has met in a high school or community center for over 9 years. We’re working hard at getting into our own building, and we’ll not be creating an architectural wonder. We’ll be building a relatively attractive but very functional box. That’s just reality for us. I’d love to have a box right now. Now, it won’t be crass, and we won’t have a basketball hoop behind the pulpit. But it will be very simple. And I honestly believe it won’t hinder our genuine spiritual worship at all. It will be a building in which the real church gathers. After all… :)

  7. ” … a high school or community center for over 9 years.”

    Well, the earliest Christians met in homes. And, later, in catacombs. That was part of their reality, a reality that didn’t afford them much in the way of options. But, I trust we’re not talking here about what reality presents (or fails to present) as options. When the options are limited, you do the best you can, even if it means congregating in the midst of what God’s Law taught were thoroughly unclean things: corpses.

    The “box” in which one worships and plays basketball results from choices which might have been in another direction altogether. And, that’s what’s on the table here — what we choose, and why we choose it.

    It’s also beside the point that your “relatively attractive” box is also functional. Functional to what pupose? Worship of the living God? Bake sales that will ehance ministry (cf. Jesus and the sellers of doves). Basketball? Basketball is fine. Indeed, selling doves served a compelling religious purpose. But, in the Temple? I think I’d want to ponder Jesus’ words and actions here before fielding a Christmas Flea Market in your very attractive and functional box.

    Actually, as I look at that box, I see any number of deliberate salutes to the ethos of Church architecture, even the cathedrals! Good for you, and your flock. No one is going to confuse your meeting house for the Christian Bargain Barn. I expect, from other things I’ve read here on this blog, that as folks consider how you deploy that asset when you acquire it, your use of it won’t be a cause for the confusion weekly perpetrated by my Presbyterian friend upon his flock.

  8. Boy, do I feel snookered! Chris, do right till the stars fall!

  9. Just to clarify for those who may not be able to follow the link above (I understand that blogspot is blocked by some filters by default) – and for posterity in case this thread survives and my post does not – the call to separate mentioned above is a joke. Since the only part that showed up over here is “Chris has committed a grevious sin”, I thought I should clarify so that nobody takes this and runs with it and because I would not want to do anything to damage Pastor Anderson’s fine reputation.

    I know most people will have already figured that out or will follow the link to find out, but I have seen enough stupidity related to things on the web that I thought I should clarify just in case.

    I did not plan for it to come over into this thread – especially not in this way (but if I had, I could not have planned it better :) ).

    In Christ,

    Pastor Frank Sansone

  10. Frank, it’s a good thing you clarified, or else someone would have been talking lawsuits… (see Greg’s comment section for allusion…)

    Chris, I think there are two issues with the various chapel sayings, or maybe three.

    One is that in revering a great man of the past, such sayings can be almost elevated to the level of Scripture. No right thinking Christian wants to go there.

    On the other hand, the chapel sayings ought to be considered for what they are, which is “wisdom literature”, a saying that is generally true, or true in a certain context, from which wise counsel can be gleaned. They are a sort of short-hand for more elaborate Scriptural principles and if used as such can be helpful.

    The third possible issue is the abuse of chapel sayings by immature college students. I won’t mention any names, but back in the day someone started a new concept by slightly altering the chapel sayings to gain new insight into appropriate behaviour. The collation of sayings began ‘do right until the stars come out, then turn left and park…’ You can probably think of how the rest of it might go…

    And finally, for the record, I don’t justify announcements as worship on the basis of chapel sayings. I do so on the basis of the concept of the body in the New Testament. FWIW.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  11. Hi, Don.

    Of course, I’m not opposed to quoting catchy and truthful statements of Dr. Bob Sr. The Lord used him in a tremendous way. The fact that he’s quoted decades after his death reflects that. It’s fine.

    There are times, however, when well-known men are quoted as though their statement somehow carries the day. Of course, it doesn’t.

    I understand what is meant by Dr. Bob’s “sacred & secular” statement, and I’ve heard similar things regarding worship in all of life from Piper and others. I understand, I think. But I do think this particular saying is especially prone to abuse. It’s become playdough that is twisted to justify all kinds of silliness.

    Finally, I interrupted our service this week (which was flowing beautifully) to make a whole bunch of announcements. You would have been proud.

  12. Ben–I said something like that just the other day about another quotation. And I teach at BJU. Nothing happened either, in case you’re wondering. Nor did I experience any particular sense of glee that I expect some people might. The event was strangely unemotional, quite frankly…

    Chris, if your pet peeve is with how easily this (and almost any) pithy statement can be misused, I’m in your corner.

    Of course, the statement is pointing out one half of a “two-sided truth.” So if you use it to affirm that a business person can serve God with his life just as a pastor can, you would be correct. But if you use it to denigrate the call to the ministry, making a calling to be a pastor (or missionary) simply one occupation among many, you would be misusing the intention of the statement.

    It was intended to raise the minds of those involved in “secular” occupations, not to lower the perspective of those involved in “sacred” work.

    But Fr. Bill has definitely addressed American Christianity’s problems with the lowering of the sacred already…no need to repeat the painful truth.

    In terms of a calling to the ministry (as opposed to being a business person), perhaps we could borrow the phrase primus inter pares?

  13. Actually, it just occurred to me today that Dr. Bob’s statement is not “there is no difference…” What he said was “For the Christian, life is not divided into the secular and the sacred. To him all ground is holy ground, every bush a burning bush, and every place a temple of worship.”

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