Solving The Problem of Secularization

incarnational_apologetics_JR_Miller-120x120Having defined 4 key epistemologies  in my previous video posts on RationalismAgnosticismExperientialism, and Pragmatism. It is a good time to  remind new readers that the focus of this series is to develop a healthy Incarnational Apologetic which I define as follows.

Incarnational Apologetics is not to convince others that the Church is “relevant” NOR to persuade them of the truth.

Incarnational Apologetics is our Divine-mission to remove false-shelters that keep God’s Lost children from a personal encounter with the Spirit of Jesus Christ and knowing Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life!

For those of us living in the West, this Incarnational Apologetic must thrive in a culture that has shifted to a decidedly postmodern worldview. To explore this, I will take the next few posts to examine the 4 essential problems:

  1. Secularization
  2. Pluralization
  3. Privatization
  4. Polarization

First, what is secularization?

Secularization is the process through which ideologies, institutions, faiths, feelings, reason, and individuals are stripped of their foundational core resulting in the loss of identity, value, social, and moral meaning.

In considering the problem of secularization, Bruce Shelly in his book “Church History in Plain Language” gives this concise analysis.

Secularization has, in effect, undercut any reasonable Christian definition, and the man or woman on the street is left with a religious faith defined by inner feelings.

The following  video outlines both this problem of secularization and how we, as incarnational apologists, can remove the roof of deception that shields the unbeliever from the light and life of Jesus Christ.

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Dr. J.R. Miller

Dr. J.R. Miller is an adjunct professor living in San Diego, California with his wife and three sons. Joe has a diverse educational background; B.A.E from Pennsylvania State University, M.Div. from Oral Roberts University, and D.Min. from Biola University. He is an author of 7 books, an avid blogger at www.MoreThanCake.org, & host of a weekly radio show at www.ChristianLeadershipRadio.com.

  • James Hayes

    Just watched the video “the problem of secularization”. What is the figure drawing on right side of chalkboard and what does it represent?

    • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

      Hi James, the image represents what Francis Schaeffer describes as “removing the roof” and exposing the person, naked of their beliefs, to the reality of the world around us. In part, it is an Adam and Eve figure reflective of Renaissance art.

  • Ryan Lidster

    Where did you come up with that definition of secularization? There was no citation, and I know of no dictionary or scholarly organization–secular or otherwise–that endorses anything like that definition. In fact, there would be quite a few scholars that would take issue with how many presumptions go into that definition. As it is, it seems like you’ve set up some straw-man argument to take down.

    • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

      Hi Ryan, I suppose anyone can find sources to disagree with anything.. so that does not concern me too much.

      My sources get more exposure in the academic setting when I teach this course to my undergraduate and graduate students, but to keep 3 hour lectures to 10 minutes means something has to be excluded.

      However, if you want to know some of my sources that inspired the definition, check out the second video post in this series. http://www.christianapologeticsalliance.com/2013/03/28/important-words-for-incarnational-apologetics/

      • Andrew Ryan

        I think by ‘source’ he means who actually said that quote. Given this is an article rather than a lecture, surely there’d be no problem in simply crediting the author of the quote. If there IS no source – in other words, if the definition is simply your own words, why box it out? It looks like you’re quoting somebody, an ‘official’ definition perhaps.

        Wiki’s definition fits what most people would understand by the term: “secularisation is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious (or irreligious) values and secular institutions.”

        You can say that your quote describes what you think is the RESULT of secularisation, but it doesn’t describe what it actually is. If someone had no idea what it was, your definition would leave them none the wiser.

        • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

          Hi Andrew, I appreciate the detailed explanation. I can see how some folks might be confused.. but yes, the definition is my own. And I box it out for emphasis as I did in the first part of the post when I defined “Incarnational Apologetics”.

          There are actually 2 parts to the definition. In part 1 I define the action, “Secularization is the PROCESS through which ideologies, institutions, faiths, feelings, reason, and individuals are stripped of their foundational core…”

          In part 2 I define the EFFECT, “…resulting in the loss of identity, value, social, and moral meaning.”

          Secularization is an oft debated word that has, itself, gone through some change. If you want to read a good discussion about its use, try this PDF http://iasc-culture.org/THR/archives/AfterSecularization/8.12CCasanova.pdf

          • Andrew Ryan

            OK then. But even given the three definitions in the link you supply there (none of which I particularly disagree with) the process you describe still seems to be what you think the EFFECT is. In common parlance, a secular state is not A) “one where faith has been stripped of its foundational core”, it’s simply B) a state that doesn’t promote one faith over another, one where religion is allowed to continue quite happily but without forming public policy, or having influence in schools, or having members of its clergy afforded an automatic role in governance (I’d say most Muslims would say that that pretty much describes Islam in America, but does that mean it has been stripped of its foundational core in the country?).

            Of course, you may believe (I don’t) that the former (A) will result from the latter (B). You may believe that the RESULT of secularism is to strip a person of their foundational core (again I disagree profoundly, but that’s by-the-by), but that is still what you believe the EFFECT of secularism to be.

            My foundational core isn’t stripped by secularism, and I can’t really see how yours would be either. And one could easily strip “ideologies, institutions, faiths, feelings, reason, and individuals of their foundational core” WITHOUT secularism taking place.

            But I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

              Andrew, you write like one of my students who does not take the time to study the materials, but still gives their opinion. My guess is since you are talking about a “Secular” vs. “Religious” state that you did not take the time to actually watch the video. Had you done so, you would see that none of the issues you bring up come close to what I discuss. You seem to have come to the table with preconceived ideas and foisted them upon my argument. That is not really a good foundation for dialogue… but thanks for sharing your opinion.

              • Andrew Ryan

                Thanks to you too, JR. A teacher can still learn something from their students. I’d hope that perhaps you might take on board at least that it may be worth changing the definite article to ‘a’ in your definition, so it reads “Secularization is a process…” rather than “Secularization is THE process by which” etc.

                • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

                  I always do learn from my students… so thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

          • Andrew Ryan

            If it helps, imagine this. We’re looking at a Muslim country and someone says: “It needs to be more secular, how should we go about that?”.

            What would be a more useful reply?

            1) “Well first we need to strip ideologies, institutions, faiths, feelings, reason, and individuals of their foundational core resulting in the loss of identity, value, social, and moral meaning”

            2) “We could start by not having Imans automatically having governing power, stop religious figures preventing schools teaching subjects they consider ‘un-Islamic’, update the legal system so it use ancient as their basis.” etc

        • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

          BTW, you do recognize that the article is only meant as a stand-aline, but as a lead-in to the video? Did you watch the video? If not, that would explain some of your confusion in not understanding that I am the source for the definition.

          • Andrew Ryan

            Yes, I did watch the video. You quote the daycare example at the start, and that basically seems to amount to this: you don’t get public schools teaching kids the significance of their parents’ religious symbols. If you want kids learning about that, teach them at home or in your church.

            You quote no other examples; you move from there to quoting many stats and you claim Secularization as the cause. You don’t back up that claim. I was teaching someone myself this morning – correlation does not equal causation.

            Many European countries are less secular than the US – prayer in schools, national religions, clergy automatically given positions in the UK House of Lords etc. Yet religiosity tends to be lower in Europe than in the US.

            At any rate, you rejected my critique of your definition of ‘Secularization’ by saying I hadn’t watched the video, and the video makes the source if the definition clear. I HAVE watched the video, and it makes no difference to my point that you’re simply describing what you claim to be an effect of Secularization. It’s not a definition or even a description of what the term means.

            • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

              I do appreciate you taking the time to clarify and I am glad you took the time to watch before commenting. It was not clear, but I do see your point. It is tough to boil down a 3 hour lecture into 10 minutes… so something has to give in terms of sources including textbooks along with my other research shared with my students.

              I wish I could do more to meet your needs in this online format, but time is just too limited to present all the research here.

              If you are interested, I do have a lengthy article titled, Practicing Missional In The Face of Postmodernity: How to Hit the Target When the Target Does Not Exist @ Third Millennium Africa Journal | Volume 1 Issue 1, Spring 2013 pg. 1 – 31

              The link to that is here http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1481298372/mtkblog-20

              • Andrew Ryan

                Thanks for the link, Dr Miller, and thanks for taking the time to respond to my posts.

                All the best.

                • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

                  Glad for the discussion Andrew. God bless.

  • john collins

    Dr Miller, What the poster was asking for is a real legitimate reference. You cannot reference either yourself or something associated with this site. Its wrong and you know it. You cannot use the fact that the Koran states it is true as proof that the Koran is true can you? Same with bible, same with you. Or else Harry potter books can prove Harry potter is real. Please provide a legitimate reference. Thank you

    • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

      Mr. Collins, since the definition is my own and which is the product of research and study, there is no one source, but a collection of sources each contributing something to my understanding of the nature of Secularization. If you want one source, however, that supports my definition, then I suggest Ravi Zacharias who has written extensively on the topic and you can listen to him here http://www.rzim.org/just-a-thought-broadcasts/secularization-and-apologetics/

  • tildeb

    So, to paraphrase the Good Doctor of Theology, secularization means only what I wish it to mean in as negative a way as I wish it to be and my criticism of what I wish it to mean stands on its own merit (and on my ‘academic’ credentials in theology and not political science) because I am telling you that secularization and my negative description of it are really synonyms. When challenged on this bold assertion with compelling contrary evidence from our shared political reality, I will divert attention from having to admit I may- in fact – be mistaken or deal in any way with this compelling contrary evidence by ‘suggesting’ that those who bring this evidence forth must now go hither and yonder on a journey I select of watching these videos here and reading those papers there that I assert will supposedly answer these compelling challenges successfully. But thanks for your participation. I’m far, far too busy to deal with such droll and less educated trivialities raised against my august pronouncements that ‘find’ secularization a Very Bad Thing. Now scoot.