At a Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Dr. George Hunter, professor of evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, gave the following explanation of secularism and meaning for the church today.
Throughout the Middle Ages the church exercised control or heavy influence over all of Western culture.
At the height of her power, the church owned about half of all the land of Germany, half of France and between a third and a quarter of Great Britain. When ambitious princes with military power began to seize the church’s property, the property was said to be secularized.
How have people changed because of secularization? Great numbers now live and make their decisions without conscious regard for the Christian faith. People are now influenced by many religions, philosophies, life-styles and assumptions, not just by Christianity.
That has affected our vocabulary. Most people do not know the meaning of the basic Christian terms, like redemption, justification and sanctification.
One thing that has not changed about secular people is that they are still religious beings. We have American Civil Religion, in which the symbols of Christianity have been maintained but have taken on pagan meanings and are used for non-Christian ends.
People are religious in many different ways. Every person wants his life and history to make sense. People yearn to contact and be right with whatever it is that is Ultimate.
Human beings long for self-understanding and justification and seem to sense they are dependent upon being right with Reality.
But church is no longer the only religious option open to people. They now reach out in increasing numbers, in many religious and quasi-religious directions from astrology to civil religion to witchcraft to Zen Buddhism.
Forty to fifty million people per day in this country read their horoscope. There is extensive interest in the occult.
Our generation has seen the rise of new kinds of religions, para-religions and even strange religions. People worship just about anything these days.
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