The Church in Society




‘The Druids buried each other in long wheelbarrows and called it agriculture; they burned each other alive and called it religion.’


1 Minute Daily Word is back and we are happy to report that Pastor Mark’s wife, Linda, is doing well. They thank you for your many prayers and other expressions of concern.


I came across the quote above recently (I don’t know where it’s from) and it got me thinking about  the relationship between religion, reason and society.

Throughout all of its history, the Church has had to face the questions which arise from its place in society, no matter what expression that society has taken.

Today, in America, the Christian Church finds itself functioning within a system variously described as a democracy and constitutional republic. Our society permits a wide-ranging expression of religious points of view. In historical terms this societal tolerance of religion is an exception. At the same time, this tolerance reflects a set of societal assumptions that the Church can only live with uneasily. Our society was the product of the Enlightenment and many of its assumptions were instrumental in the formation of our society. Here are a few:

Critical, human reason and autonomy is the source of all truth and knowledge. Critical, experimental, dialogical reason is the way you find things out. No divine revelation is necessary. Religion is not a source of truth or knowledge to any degree that matters. The fact of religious pluralism means that no ultimate claim is possible. Disgust with the devastating religious wars of Europe led to the demise of the established Church. Toleration of many denominations, sects and religions means that none of them can run the show.

If there is a God who created an orderly world we can discover its laws. God is irrelevant to the day to day conduct of life. He is an absentee deity at best.

Optimism is possible because history is essentially progressive. This progress is not automatic but it is inevitable. There is no sin and no need for salvation. Humanity will achieve its own goals as it pursues the change, the new, the novel. The old is bad, the new is good.

One does not go to church for knowledge. The church exists for emotional comfort and socially correct moral instruction.

It is obvious, at least to me, that the Church cannot give an unqualified ‘yes’ to these societal assumptions. It is also apparent that they are very much a part of the current landscape of American society and other parts of the world as well. What is the role of the Church within this kind of social context? Tomorrow we will look at that question.


“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”