Last night I went to my church’s teacher’s class. The class was about Judges 17-18, which talks about Micaia and his mom (using the Spanish name, cause I’m too lazy to look it up in English) and how far did they drift from Jehovah by incorporating pagan stuff. The concept that was used to describe this was religious syncretism. At one point of the class, the class talked about how religious syncretism was manifested in today’s church. The issues discussed were the use of club lighting in church worship and how churches put more weight on secular knowledge than the Bible and theology. The conclusion that was agreed upon by the others was that using secular knowledge (philosophy and psychology) in church was to be frowned upon.
As an INTJ who always have had the paradigm of incorporating what I learned in biblical teaching, I was uncomfortable with this idea. This is one of those moments in teacher’s class where the beliefs of adults with low levels of education were dominant and there was really no space to explore opposite viewpoints. I think that a more critical approach should’ve been taken.
I read in the book “Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling” that since God created everything that we see then everything has God’s fingerprints; that the professionals who have contributed to the increased knowledge, that have tried to take God out of the production of knowledge, can’t accomplish this ideal because God’s fingerprints is embedded in everything they discover. The author of this book advocated for a critical viewpoint for secular knowledge and the careful and conscious adoption of secular knowledge in Christian counseling. The idea expressed was that Scripture should be respected as an authority and as a external standard of truth, but that Christian counselors shouldn’t completely disregard secular knowledge because it also has God’s fingerprints embedded in it. It also can’t be disregarded completely because of a counselor’s professional obligations.
The class spoke against counseling ministries in churches because of the fault of placing counseling techniques over scripture. I understand the dangers that were talked about, but I also know the value of professional help in a place that is deemed a hospital for the spiritually broken. I also know how difficult it is to incorporate psychology theory into Christian counseling and vice versa without the proper training, something that they don’t get. This discussion to me is their reinforcement of the idea that one should not use secular knowledge in ministry and in the church is establishing the idea that what one is professionally has to be separate from God’s purpose in their life. I think that is crap.
Christians that disregard secular knowledge as not from God are stating that there are things that God didn’t create, that knowledge can have a source that is not in God. I think that Christians forget that everything emanated from God and that the real sin of the “creators” secular knowledge is the attempt to establish that what they are learning is not sourced from God’s strategic planning and theoretical framework. What is discovered in itself is always something that has God’s fingerprints in it. How is that discovery interpreted is almost always full of other fingerprints that try to cover God’s.
I think that our task as educated Christians is not to detach from secular knowledge as if it was something to build a wall for. Our task as Christians that are learning from secular knowledge is to find God’s fingerprints and to differentiate it from human and worldly fingerprints. It is to use secular knowledge as a way to complement Scripture with a full understanding that secular knowledge does not go above Scripture.
When I started my college education, I decided to allow God to have access to the data gained and to use it in my spiritual development. God never told me in my personal life to build a wall to fight against incoming knowledge. Instead, God honored my prayer and, using what I learned in those years, he taught me things about myself, the world around me, and Himself. God used what I learned both formally and informally to better my spiritual and personal life. When I was getting my Master’s degree education, God did 3 things. First, He showed me that what I was learning could be seen in His Word. Second, He showed me how applicable was what I was learning in church activities and ministry. Finally, God showed me how He used the theoretical framework of planning, implementing, and evaluating Health Education programs on a global scale through what was written on the Bible: I learned interesting ways in which God operates and thinks.
My paradigm was always to give everything that I had to God. That includes what I know and what I was trained for. As long as Jesus is the center of everything learned and applied, there shouldn’t be a problem. But fear of an imaginary falling out from God and the Word of God seems to be a big motivator to prevent a potentially beneficial application of secular knowledge in church. That’s a shame.