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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Scandal of Secularism

The Scandal of Secularism

In recent years, Christianity Today has run several articles about restrictions against Christians on college campuses, including Tish Harrison Warren's striking essay about being "the wrong kind of Christian" at Vanderbilt and the news of ministry groups fighting for a place at California schools.
I took these cases as a frustrating pattern, but for a while failed to see how incompatible Christian convictions can be with a strictly secular worldview.
I'm sure many Christian leaders, now and throughout history, have explored the philosophies of belief and unbelief, but it was a seven-hour marathon of old Tim Keller sermons that made me see this controversy in new light. (I listened during a long travel day for a reporting trip to Puerto Rico—you can read that story in the next issue of CT!)
Like in Reason for God, Keller recognizes that critics of Christianity's absolutism and exclusive truth claims haven't scrutinized the basis for their own assertions or their logical conclusion. As he repeats, even a claim that there is no absolute truth is itself an absolute truth claim.
Claremont Graduate University professor Mary Poplin talked with CT Women about the struggle for Christian views to find their welcome amid this attitude in academic settings.
"The university used to think of itself as the free open marketplace of ideas, especially after it left its Christian origins," Poplin said. "But it's the free marketplace of certain ideas and the closed marketplace of other ideas."
Christian students and educators—and onlookers like me—have to be aware of how secularism excludes in order to better secure their place and their fields of study, she argues. She told CT Women editor Andrea Palpant Dilley:
Secularism defines itself by what it is not; it has no agreed-upon moral compass, so it's an umbrella for anything from the far right to the far left and everything in between—as long as it's not religious. As Stanley Fish says, secularism has survived by pretending to be neutral, but it's anything but neutral.
Even as circumstances and strategies evolve, our beliefs are never doomed. Our case for Christ becomes no less true, and the Spirit that changes hearts no less powerful. In fact, Keller repeats that the result of the seemingly restrictive nature is freedom in Christ.
This is good news, whether in the competitive, intellectual world of the academy or the tiring, guilt-laden years of motherhood.
Kate Shellnutt
Kate Shellnutt
Editor, CT Women

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