How Secularization has benefited Christianity in the West

Adam Johns
6 min readJul 2, 2021

A Liberty U Discussion Thread: The Church and Missionary Expansion 1600 — Present

Quick note up front: I have 2 Medium accounts, and I was kicking around the idea of sharing this on the other one because this one is used to follow crypto currency projects, but just to give it a shot on here real quick and see what this looks like, here’s a post I wrote for my Church History 501 course, so that anyone out there in the world wide web can see what I wrote and not just my classmates! I’ll start with the assignment and then cut and paste my post — along with my response to someone else’s post on this

Choose 1 question/item, write a thread and include source citations.

  • How has the process of societal secularization benefited Christianity in the West? Why?
  • Where do you think Christian missions will focus their efforts in the coming decades of the twenty-first century? Why?
  • From what countries do you think future missionaries will be coming by mid-century? Why?

All three of these questions made me think, but since I grew up hearing that “secular music is bad” the idea of secularization being a benefit to Christianity piqued my interest, so I’ll attempt to point out some of the good even though, as I see the word “secular” usually defined as “worldly” I must say I’m inclined to believe society becoming more focused on things of the flesh as pretty much a bad thing.

I’ll start with the dictionary definition of what it means to secularize society though, and once I read the 2 definitions I found, some of the benefits came to mind:

“Noun: 1) separation from the religious or spiritual connection or influences: “The secularization of America can be seen in politics, legal decisions, and educational institutions, as well as in the arts and the media.” | 2) the transfer of property from ecclesiastical to civil possession or use: “There continues to be a debate about the secularization of religious art objects now exhibited in museum settings.” [1]

The first example sentence was also helpful to add context, and though my initial thought was of modern-day America with respect to this question, I can see how the process of separating religious and spiritual influences from society began centuries ago in Europe but only several decades ago in America — well, at least if you’re from the south, that is. In our text, we read Noll discusses the writings of a British Anglican priest and author saying, “Another way of describing the secularization Chadwick writes of is to call it the end of Christendom, or the end of that lengthy period of European history when the interests of church and society were thought to be the same and where it was almost universally assumed that Christian spiritual realities were more fundamental than realities of the temporal world.”[2] So I read that, and think to myself, how can that be a good thing? Well, for one, the government isn’t partnering with the Catholic church to send the military out to fight a holy war! At least, before George W. Bush launched the “War on Terror,” I suppose — please pardon my cynicism there, I went to Iraq and Afganistan and deployed many other times and a much more libertarian in my views now regarding global military engagement… [3]

On a more serious note, the separation of church and state has been a very good thing for Christianity; and that is how Kevin M. Schultz describes Institutional Secularization in his essay stating, “Secularization’s first widely accepted meaning was essentially the process of separation of church and state.” [4] Unfortunately, I think the modern-day redefinition of the founding father’s principles has led to a widely held view which primarily desires to prohibit church involvement in state affairs rather than the other way around. In short, because Christianity was intended to be spread through evangelism and discipleship rather than by institutions and under compulsion, the fact that society became more focused on temporal earthly matters rather than spiritual and eternal things gave Christians an opportunity to as Paul wrote: “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor 6:17), and by our example, transform not culture, but people watching us live lives of love.[5]

I recall something my mother told me a while back about how multi-faceted God is because He meets every single person right where they are, and we are all very different. The reason that comes to mind and is worth sharing is that once society became more secular instead of shaped by an over-arching religious structure, people from various walks of life began having very personal and very real experiences with their Creator. One could argue that the First and Second Great Awakenings were brought about by the societal shift to secular ideals and the Spiritual move of God waking them up to a greater reality. Though secularization of society might have benefited Christianity, the secularization of the church has not, so I’ll stop short of assessing how it’s going today, except to say I believe we are due for another great awakening, and that’s what I’m praying for!





[1] definition of “Secularization” —

[2] Mark A Noll. “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity,” 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2012. (2018). (p. 246) [Retrieved from]

[3] Apologies in advance for the reference here, but I was looking for the line from one of Bush’s speeches stating freedom is God’s gift to humanity and democracy is America’s gift to the world, but I could only find a different version of that which didn’t seem so intertwined with a church-state goal. However, I did find an article by Democracy Now, which is a very far left publication, and 16 years ago they characterized his 2nd inaugural address very negatively, which I think illustrates my point on how the military can be used to push a religious ideology, so I’ll leave that here: — I will add that currently, the military seems to be covertly pushing cultural Marxist ideologies which are also religious. We live in interesting times, and have great opportunities to engage with the secular culture to reveal spiritual realities to them!

[4] Kevin M. Schultz. “Secularization: A BibliographicEssay,” The Hedgehog Review / SPRING & SUMMER 06. Pg. 172 accessed at

[5] Just thought I’d also include a good article from one of my go-to’s for commentary on verses which is in line with what I’m getting at in that sentence:


Part of my 2nd Post:

I’d like to unpack the ides of secularism being the antithesis of Gnosticism and how that is good for Christianity as well. I say this because Gnosticism is generally the rejection of the physical realities and pursuit of special knowledge of mystic spirituality, and a society that embraces secularism would most likely roll its eyes and flatly reject many of those ideas. It seems to me that the dangers of secularism are very apparent to anyone who is paying attention, on the other hand, Gnosticism can be a lot more subtle, and the more hidden the danger, the more likely people will fall into it and suffer harm. Though some write about a “new Gnosticism,” whether it be that of ethnic gnosticism of the social justice movement or conspiracy theories that have gripped many, I still think the impact of secularism is far more reaching than those fringe ideals.[4] Of course there are many dangerous in this world for Christians to face as we earnestly contend for the faith; but I think the more noticeable the danger, the more likely we will guard against them, and thus secularism displacing Gnosticism could be a good thing.

[4] This blog I found in my research, which was posted last August, unpacks those 2 ideas much further, and though I don’t completely agree with his characterizations and would have additional recommendations to offer, I think overall it’s helpful to understand the current state of affairs in many churches where people debate these polarizing ideals.