Seeing God in All Things: Why the Sacred-Secular Dichotomy is Heresy

by Rick Love

"Pastors are spiritual. Businessmen aren’t. Prayer is spiritual. Work isn’t. The physical world is bad. The unseen heavenly realm is good." This sacred-secular dichotomy has plagued the church from the beginning.

This dualistic view of life is heresy (yes heresy!) and it takes a toll on us. It keeps us from enjoying God’s good gifts, robs us from finding satisfaction in our work, and makes us feel like second class citizens in the kingdom of God. This viewpoint keeps followers of Christ from fruitfully engaging people in the workplace. It hinders the fulfillment of the great commission. This is bad news!

So why do so many Christians persist in embracing this false and crippling worldview?

One reason for this kind of split-spirituality is a distorted, unbiblical view of the created world. God pronounces the physical world, His creation, as good (Genesis1:4,10,12,18, 21,25,31). To deny the goodness of God’s creation is to deny the goodness of the creator. This earthly existence is God’s heavenly plan! We should see God in all things.

God also demonstrates his profound commitment to this earthly existence in the Incarnation. God became flesh in Jesus (John 1:1,14). Even in its fallen state, God sends Jesus into the world not to deliver us from the physical world, but to reconcile, heal and restore all of creation. We will see God in all things.

Paul teaches against a sacred-secular dualism.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).

Note the stark contrast between these two verses (sentences). First Paul addresses how the church ministers to “one another” through mutual sharing. No clergy. No hierarchy. Full participation (It is easier to do this in house churches – which is where they gathered in Colossae). This is the supposed “sacred” part of life. This is the church service (the pronoun “you” in verse 16 is plural). This is where we get spiritual.

But then in the very next verse Paul goes on to talk about the supposed “secular” part of life. Whatever you do in word or deed (which includes work!), do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. All of life counts for Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just want to reign over your devotions or your church services. He wants it all.

Elsewhere, Paul says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do itall for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul affirms that all of life can glorify God. The issue for Paul is not sacred vs secular. The issue is Lordship and motivation. Will we submit all that we do to Christ? Will we seek to live with him and for him in all things?

As followers of Christ we embrace a holistic view of life, work, and ministry. All of life is “sacred,” all of life is devoted to Jesus. There is no such thing as “secular” from a biblical perspective. Whether as businessmen, educators, mothers, fathers, relief and development workers, or whatever we do, we do it heartily to the Lord, for His honor. Wherever we live and whatever our occupation, our work is witness and we witness at work. We see God in all things.

The sacred-secular dichotomy denies God’s good creation, it denies Christ’s Lordship over all of life and it denies the Holy Spirit’s pervasive work in all spheres of life. That is heresy!