***Please reply to student 1 and Student 2…. The question red is

***Please reply to student 1 and Student 2…. The question red is what they had to answer, please reply positive. ****

Student 1

How has the process of societal secularization benefited Christianity in the West? Why? 

Though it may seem strange to state, the secularization of society has benefited Christianity in the West. The cultural power of the church weakened during the nineteenth century, as the church was no longer seen as the “arbiter of truth” in the modern world.[1] This reduction in power forced a change in methods by which the church approached its interactions with the people, as handing down doctrine almost as government hands down laws was not long permissible in a world when individuals and their happiness were valued more highly than faith.[2] This separation of church and state was supported by Soren Kierkegaard,[3] a Christian philosopher, who believed that “Christianity was ultimately a life to be lived rather than a set of dogmas to affirm.”[4] Though Kiekegaard’s perspective was not necessarily the driving force, the understanding that moving beyond government sponsored or primarily intellectualized forms was necessary for Christianity to expand.

The evangelism that sprung up because of this aforementioned shift is perhaps the greatest benefit of secularization. The secularization of the modern world, the movement away from faith, became a sort of opponent for evangelists. They responded to this foe with a focus on experience rather than doctrine. This took the form of “circuit riding, camp meetings, [and] revivals in churches.”[5] Another arm of response was the development of Christian social outreach. Christian leaders battled slavery, child labor, inhumanity in prisons, and women’s rights.[6]

In Nik Ripkin’s The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected, there are numerous stories of persecution leading to the growth of Christian faith, from the vast persecutions that were part of the USSR before its dissolution to the more modern actions of the Chinese government.[7] These stories are perhaps a more extreme example than the process of secularization during the nineteenth century, but they provide similar opportunities for the expansion of faith. The opponent, in this case secularization, provides a force acting against Christianity. The evangelists of the nineteenth century reacted to this force with a dramatic quest for revival and renewal. They moved the focus of the church beyond the preaching of doctrine to an authentic, living Christian experience. It allowed for a differentiation between the government and the church, which gave rise to strongly beneficial social movements, and redefined what Christianity looks like in the West.

 

Bibliography

Noll, Mark A. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

Ripkin, Nik. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2013.

Walton, Robert C. Chronological and Background Charts of Church History. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.

Weaver, C. Douglas and Rady Roldán-Figueroa, Eds. Exploring Christian Heritage: A Reader in History and Theology, Second Edition. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017.

 

Student 2

How has the process of societal secularization benefited Christianity in the West? Why?

The process of societal secularization has benefited Christianity in a number of ways. It has provided avenues for missionary work into countries that were virtually inaccessible for Christians due to religious restrictions, it has created conditions within certain nations where individuals must choose Christ over culture and comfort, and it also set the stage for advancement of the Gospel outside the Western world.  

            Secularism can create opportunities for proselytization in countries that were previously inaccessible or restrictive. Predominantly Muslim nations like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar all previously had restrictive laws upon Christian practice and severe laws against proselytization. Secularization has opened these countries to greater allowances toward freedom of religion. Although laws still exist that favor Islamic tradition and also punish failed compliance with religious rules and etiquette, overt Christianity will no longer result in immediate imprisonment or direct persecution. Just as secularization opened many formerly Christian Western nations to the false god of reason and revolution, it also created access to Eastern nations that would have never opened their doors to Christian truth.1 Opportunities now abound within these nations for Western missionaries.

The effects of secularization are also dependent upon the type of secularism that takes hold. Within a restrictive communist regime, like China or North Korea, prioritization or worship of anything above the government is considered a threat. Martyrdom and persecution have played a large role in church growth, to include the conversion of prominent early church apologists.2 The underground church in China is one of the fastest growing in the world, despite being under the suspicious eye of an increasingly powerful authoritarian state. This creates the extreme situation of having to choose Christ before comfort, before culture, and before one’s own life. This is exactly what believers are called to do, and an oppressive, hostile government provides fertile ground for the growth of truly dedicated followers of Christ.

            As secularism spread throughout the Western world, new philosophies focused on human reason and scientific achievement began to dominate academic circles. At the same time, doors began to open for revival movements encompassing the salvation of souls, social improvements, missionary movements, and apologetic activities stemming from within nations that turned away from God.3 Revivals throughout the United States took root in areas where some of the greatest idolatry once took place. Similarly, in Europe, revivals occurred within Protestant and Catholic congregations. Each revival movement had its own focus, but the leaders, conditions, and resulting social change that occurred around each revival event was also unique. As secularism continues to maintain a hold within the Western world, it will continually provide more opportunities for believers to show the contrast of God’s light and love to the darkness that is man’s best attempts at righteousness under his own power.

 

1 Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Links to an external site.), Third Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 243.

2 Introduction in Tertullian and Marcus Minucius Felix, Tertullian Apologetical Works and Minucius Felix Octavius, translated by Rudolphus Arbesmann, Emily Joseph Daly, and Edwin A. Quain (Washington, D.C: Catholic University of America Press, 2008), viii.

3 Noll, Turning Points, 252.