The Evangelical in the Secular World -- By: Hudson T. Armerding

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 127:506 (Apr 1970)
Article: The Evangelical in the Secular World
Author: Hudson T. Armerding


The Evangelical in the Secular World

Hudson T. Armerding

[Hudson T. Armerding, President, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.]

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to acknowledge that this article was previously copyrighted by The National Association of Evangelicals.]

The people of God throughout history have by their very nature provided an antithesis to the secular world. Perhaps the eloquent enunciation of this is Augustine’s City of God, but the demonstration of this distinction proceeds today in every place where the redeemed community stands in juxtaposition to the pagan or unbelieving society.

This antithesis is profound, for it not only affects the individual’s relationship to God but also determines his convictions with respect to the essential character of man and nature, of culture and values, or to put it another way, the focus of his attention is either primarily upon man or upon God. The result is that the members of the one society are redemptive and outreaching, as it were, because of a spiritually centrifugal force, while the members of the other are introverted toward man, sometimes in a generic but far more often in a personal sense. There is, therefore, a qualitative as well as a procedural distinction between the two communities, but because they are both dynamic rather than static in nature, the tendency is ever to blur this distinction.

This dialectic, moving as it does toward synthesis, presents the people of God with a persistent issue. How may the secular world be confronted, without the probability of an accommodation that eventually will produce capitulation?

Historically some assumed, perhaps naively, that precisely the opposite result would be achieved. The City of God would gradually interpenetrate the city of earth and ultimately bring about the diffusion of Christianity throughout the whole world. The record of the past, however, gives little cause for such

optimism. Viewed from the perspective of the centuries, the Roman Empire, by way of illustration, left far more of an impress upon the church than vice versa. And while the medieval church certainly was a dominant institution, it is at least debatable whether the essence of Christianity or merely its ceremonial forms really prevailed in ecclesiastical life. Furthermore, when the renaissance came to Europe, the capitulation of the organized church was, with few exceptions, so complete as to produce popes such as Alexander VI and Sixtus IV.

Even the reformation, spiritually virile at the outset, soon came to terms with the nascent nationalism of Europe, and the phrase, “Whose reign, his religion,” ult...

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