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Spring 2022 · Vol. 51 No. 1 · pp. 44–58 

The Dangers of Secularism

David Ewert

Introduction to David Ewert’s
“The Dangers of Secularism”

Vic Froese

David Ewert was born in South Russia in 1922, in the chaos of Russia’s post-Revolution years. In 1926 his parents took him and his siblings to Canada where they eventually settled in the heavily Mennonite Brethren town of Coaldale, Alberta. Ewert would attend Coaldale Bible School, Winkler Bible Institute in Manitoba, and Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta. A love of learning led him to continue his education at the University of British Columbia, Central Baptist Seminary (Toronto), Wheaton College (Illinois), Luther Theological Seminary (Minnesota) and, ultimately, McGill University in Montreal where he earned a PhD in New Testament in 1969.

By the time he was awarded his doctorate, Ewert had already been part of the faculty of Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC) for sixteen years. He was the editor of The Voice for ten of those years (1955-1964), later saying it was “a duty which I carried out with joy.” 1 When the journal ended its run in 1971, Ewert had contributed more than seventy articles, book reviews, editorials, and eulogies. When The Voice and The Journal of Church and Society merged to form Direction in 1972, Ewert continued to write for the new journal, until 1999. 2

“The Dangers of Secularism,” was published in The Voice in 1954. 3 It addresses what was a growing concern among North American Christians of all stripes. For the Mennonites who arrived from Russia in the 1920s, Western secularism did not pose the imminent threat to their physical welfare that atheistic communism had in the Soviet Union, but the ultimate result looked to be the same: the dissolution of Christian churches and their faith in Jesus Christ. The urgent tone of Ewert’s article indicates his awareness that the secular “octopus” had quietly extended its tentacles into all aspects of daily life and was increasingly undercutting the Mennonite Brethren church. {45}

Ewert understood that awareness of the presence and the dangers of “worldliness”—a term Ewert uses as a synonym for secularism—was a first step toward effective resistance. Defective parenting, says Ewert, is one important cause of the spread of secularism: “Parents often idealize secular professions and so create in the minds of their children an interest to enter these. On the other hand, spiritual service, such as Sunday School teaching, the ministry, mission-work, and the like, often receive little appreciation in the home-conversations.”

“Christian” schools too had introduced secular concerns to justify their existence: “Rather than becoming recruiting centers for God’s great spiritual army, we are content to equip young people sufficiently so that they may get a ‘good job’ and get along in this life and bring to the tollbar of death a lot of luggage that must be left behind.”

Ewert also faults church members’ “prevailing ignorance about the nature and function of the Church of Jesus Christ.” While he avoided the term “liberal” as a label for the ecclesiology of a growing number of MBs, he hinted at it when he wrote, “The Church is not here to solve the economic, social, and political problems of this world.” The church abdicates its principal mission—evangelization of the world—when the world’s sundry problems are placed at the top of its agenda.

Ewert’s answer to secularism is to recover the zeal for evangelism of an earlier time when self-denial and self-sacrifice were understood to be integral components of spiritual maturity. For Ewert, these characteristics were best exemplified by missionaries who sacrificed everything to save the lost in foreign lands. They were heroes of the faith over whom secular enticements no longer held sway.

Today, evangelization and missions have taken a beating for their association with colonialism and the erasure of Indigenous cultures, making missionaries look much less saintly than in Ewert’s day. But his general argument that North American Christians have let themselves be compromised by values in tension with those of Christian faith remains compelling. The article still has the power to disturb the Christian conscience. Let the reader beware!


  1. David Ewert, A Journey of Faith: An Autobiography (Winnipeg, MB: Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and Kindred Press, 1993), 150.
  2. During the same span of years, Ewert also wrote six books. For good measure, he wrote another six between 1999 and his death in 2010. For a bibliography of Ewert’s publications up to his retirement, see Herb Giesbrecht’s “Bibliography {46} of Books and Articles by Dr. David Ewert 1953–1987,” in The Bible and the Church: Essays in Honour of Dr. David Ewert, ed. Abe J. Dueck, Herbert Giesbrecht, and V. George Shillington (Winnipeg, MB; Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Press, 1988), 251–74.
  3. David Ewert, “The Dangers of Secularism [1],” The Voice 3, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1954): 16–19; “The Dangers of Secularism [2],” The Voice 3, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1954): 17–20.

The Dangers of Secularism*

David Ewert

Edited by Vic Froese

As citizens of another world, God’s children ought to be known by those spiritual goals and heavenly aspirations which led the pagan world of Apostolic times to call God’s “little flock” the “third race.” “Their conduct,” as Dr. A. J. Gordon has said, “filled their heathen neighbors with the strangest perplexity; they were so careless of life, so careful of conscience, so prodigal of their own blood, so confident of the overcoming power of the blood of the Lamb, so unsubdued to the custom of the country in which they sojourned, so mindful of the manners of that country from which they came.” 1 Paul clearly points out the heavenly mindedness that should characterize every saint when he tells the Corinthians that “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

Secularism represents a spirit of thought that stands diametrically opposed to such a heavenly and spiritual outlook. Secularism is just another term for what the Bible calls “worldliness.” It stands for the present in contrast to that which lies beyond; it grasps for the temporal and lets the eternal slip through its fingers; it strives for material values and thinks little of spiritual verities. J. C. Wenger in his preface to his Introduction to Theology says: “The awful blight of our day is secularism; not Russia, but the secularism in the heart of the western world.” 2 We {48} are, of course, aware of the fact that such a trend in the thinking of fallen mankind has been quite general since Eden, but in each generation, and today more than ever, it comes as a shock to those who like David Brainerd “love to live on the brink of eternity.” 3 For not only is the world in general secularistic in outlook, but even in the ranks of the Christians do we find such who are in the grips of this octopus. Ter Steegen has characterized these earthly minded in contrast to those who seek “the things which are above”:

Man, earthy of the earth, an-hungered feeds

On earth’s dark poison tree—

Wild gourds, and deadly roots, and bitter weeds;

And as his food is he.

And hungry souls there are, that find and eat

God’s manna day by day—

And glad they are, their life is fresh and sweet,

For as their food are they. 4

One needs to be no great prophet to realize how the spirit of worldliness and secularistic thinking are making criminal inroads into our schools and churches, and so we ought to examine ourselves again and again to see where we stand. In asking for the reasons of this downward trend we notice very quickly that subtle and intangible forces are at play, endangering our spiritual heritage. Perhaps I could suggest a few.


The first reason I would suggest is that our children are being exposed to a value-system that savors of this world. Often, sad to say, this happens even in Christian homes. When the subjects of conversation are consistently chosen from the realm of the secular, and so seldom from the areas of the spiritual life, the child inevitably comes to the conclusion that spiritual things do not count, they are of little import; for they are so seldom spoken of. If father and mother are willing to pay large sums of money for the sake of physical comfort and well-being but have so little money to give for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom, the child’s value scale will of course be accordingly. Parents often idealize secular professions and so create in the minds of their children an interest to {49} enter these. On the other hand, spiritual service, such as: Sunday School teaching, the ministry, mission-work, and the like, often receive little appreciation in the home-conversations; perhaps they are even criticized in a destructive manner. It was with deep regret that Carey, the “Father of Modern Missions,” learned that his son Felix, rather than following in his father’s footsteps, had accepted a government position. Only a godly mother would answer in the way a certain mother did, when she received the news of how her son was advancing in the world. She asked with deep concern: “Which world?” When three of John Eliot’s five missionary sons died, he said: “It was my desire that they should have served God on earth; but if God chose rather that they would serve Him in heaven, I have nothing to object to it.” 5 Numerous other witnesses could be called in of parents who had but one burning desire for their children, and that was that they should be engaged in a work that had eternal values.

Of course, the home is not the only institution that helps to shape and form the values of the child, and very often the conflict and confusion begins when other institutions, and I am thinking especially of our schools, upset the value system of a godly home. There was a time when the schools of America made it their chief aim to instill pious thinking into the minds of the children. C. H. Benson in his History of Christian Education gives a brief statement on the aims of King’s College as they were given in a New York paper, years ago: “The chief thing that is arrived at in this College is to teach and engage children to know God in Christ Jesus, and to love and serve Him in all sobriety, godliness, and richness of life with a pure heart and willing mind, and to train them up in all virtuous habits and all such useful knowledge as may render creditable to their families and friends, ornaments to their country and useful to the public weal in our generation.” 6 These aims are a thing of the past, as far as our public schools are concerned. Today God is left out, and that is atheism, for as Clark puts it in his Christian Philosophy of Education, “A school system that ignores God teaches pupils to ignore God . . . this . . . is the worst form of antagonism, for it judges God to be unimportant and irrelevant in human affairs.” 7 We are, of course, fully aware of the difficulties that would arise if the Scriptures were given a {50} place in our public educational system, but it still does not change the fact that the child must come to the conclusion that the things of the Spirit are to be relegated to the realm of the unimportant. John Wesley once warned parents not to let the child get such a wrong impression of spiritual things and suggested that the child should hear about God, in some relationship, at least once every day. When both home and school and nearly every area of society has been pervaded by a secularistic spirit, we do not wonder that a child, as it grows up into manhood and womanhood, fails to fix its mind and its interests on the world above.

Material Prosperity

Another reason that might be suggested for the trend which we are here discussing is our material prosperity. We know that material goods come from God’s hand and must certainly be looked upon as a blessing. As a matter of fact, when God is honored in daily life, it frequently leads to affluence. Thrift and frugality are certainly Christian principles. Rather than wasting time in sinful indulgences and exhausting hard-earned savings on spending sprees, the Christian economizes, so that he may have both to live and to give. But when God blesses the labor of our hands, we are inclined to forget that the gifts of God are not to be indulged in and consumed by our selfish lusts. There have always been men of God who had enormous incomes, but who lived rather frugally and channeled the material gifts of God back into His kingdom. It is usually when we have abundance that the greater test comes to us as to whether we are willing to give to God in proportion as He gives to us. There is perhaps little piety to be found in the absence of a Persian rug on our floors when we have not the money to buy one; but when we refuse to have one, even though we have the money, just because we feel it is not actually necessary, and because we can then give so much more to the cause of Christ, that flavors of true piety. David Livingstone certainly expressed a great spiritual secret when he said: “I will put no value on anything I possess, only as it is related to God’s kingdom.” 8 The exhortation of F. B. Meyer is quite in place today: “Oh for more of the tent life amongst God’s people! But it is only possible when they catch sight and keep sight of ‘the city which hath foundations.’ When that city is a city of tradition or dream, men will begin to dig the foundations of {51} permanent houses and ample fortunes.” 9 Therefore, if God has blessed you with material goods, it was not to bind you to this earth, but to direct you to the Source of all blessing, and to a blessing to others by properly handling them. Let us not ask God a silly question as Israel of old did: “Wherein have we robbed thee?”, for probably God would answer in the same way as He answered them: “In tithes and offerings” (Mal 3:8).

We realize that some of our readers will violently disagree on this point, and that they will charge us with confusing cause and effect, and with laying the fault at the wrong door. To be sure, there are spiritual currents that underlie the misappropriation of material benefits, and yet we feel that Dr. Wilbur Smith is quite right in saying: “Material contentment often makes for spiritual indifference” and that “such preoccupations (with material things) is the snuffing out, as it were, of spiritual thoughts, or turning away from spiritual values.” 10 When material blessings lead us to become so fascinated by those things that lie on the horizontal plane, need we wonder then that those of the vertical are excluded?

Ignorance of the Nature of the Church

A third reason for the growth of secularistic thinking in Christian circles, I would suggest, is the prevailing ignorance about the nature and function of the Church of Jesus Christ. Once the primary aims and purposes of the Church are realized by all members that make up this great spiritual organism, secularism loses its grip on Christians. True, the Church is in the world and exists for the benefit of the world, but it is not of this world. Every member of this spiritual body has been born from above and therefore has his mind set on the things which are from above. In its desire to establish and further God’s kingdom, the church will inevitably influence the economic, social, and political spheres of life, but as Dr. Lindsell in his [A Christian] Philosophy of Missions points out, “Whatever the Church does in this sphere is but an expression of the Church’s power and does not constitute a part of its basic nature nor does it stand central in its essential program.” 11 The Church is not here to solve the economic, social, and political problems of this world. To {52} quote Dr. Lindsell once more: “It is not even the function of the Church to establish and maintain schools and hospitals, fine as they may be in helping the peoples of the world materially, socially, economically, and physically.” 12 These may all be means and methods that serve the one major function of the Church, namely world evangelization. We are so inclined to make methods, which the Church uses to fulfill her duty, ends in themselves. Education and medicine are wonderful methods to achieve the salvation of men and women, but they must never become goals in themselves. Dr. Lindsell says quite correctly, “The moment a medical missionary ceases to have for his central goal the spread of the gospel and the conversion of men, that soon he has ceased to be a missionary and is only a doctor. He might as well return to the land he left . . .” 13

It will not do for us to say that the Church has this primary goal, but we must become very personal and realize that the Church of Jesus Christ is made of individual members, and each member must identify itself with this main function of the Church. This alone will lead to sacrificial giving; this will lead to the denial of many comforts of life in order that the gospel might be sent out to others. For the sake of the millions without the gospel a less-expensive suit of clothing would perhaps serve us just as well. If spiritual goals become the all-consuming passion of the individual members of Christ’s body it will never be said of them what J. C. Wenger in his book Separated unto God says: “People today are living largely for ease and luxury, and for free and undisciplined satisfaction of all their physical desires. They wish to hear nothing of self-denial for the sake of the kingdom of God.” 14 It was the realization that as Christians we had but one duty, and that a spiritual one, as far as purpose is concerned, that drove brilliant scholars such as Henry Martyn and François Coillard to spend their lives and die in distant lands. 15 It {53} was this heavenly outlook that led men such as C. T. Studd, 16 to become poor so that others through their poverty might become rich. Missions and secularism are bitter enemies. As secularism increases the Church becomes more and more a social service agency. Only by keeping our minds on our heavenly goals can we stem the tide of secularism and fulfil our function here on this earth.

  1. A. J. Gordon, Ecce Venit (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1889), 90. This footnote and the others in part 1 are the editor’s.
  2. J. C. Wenger, Introduction to Theology: A Brief Introduction to the Doctrinal Content of Scripture Written in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Tradition (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1954), vi.
  3. David Brainerd (1718–1747) was a New England Presbyterian minister and missionary to the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.
  4. Gerhardt Ter Steegen, “Bread That Strengtheneth Man’s Heart,” in Hymns of Ter Steegen: And Others, trans. Frances Bevan (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1897).
  5. W. Pakenham Walsh, Early Heroes of the Mission Field (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1900), 200. John Eliot (1604–1690) was a Puritan missionary to the Native Americans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  6. Clarence H. Benson, A History of Christian Education (Chicago: Moody Press, 1943), 106-7.
  7. Gordon H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946), 80.
  8. The original wording differs slightly: “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.” David Livingstone, Some Letters from Livingstone, 1840–1872, ed. David Chamberlin (London: Oxford University Press, 1940), Letter 48n1.
  9. Frederick B. Meyer, Tried by Fire: Expositions of the First Epistle of Peter (New York: F. H. Revell, 1867), 12.
  10. Wilbur M. Smith, Therefore Stand: A Plea for a Vigorous Apologetic in the Present Crisis of Evangelical Christianity (Chicago: Moody Press, 1945), 160.
  11. Ewert has “Dr. Carnell” and “Philosophy of Missions,” but the comment he quotes is clearly from Harold Lindsell, A Christian Philosophy of Missions (Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1949), 131.
  12. Lindsell, Christian Philosophy of Missions, 131.
  13. Lindsell, Christian Philosophy of Missions, 138.
  14. J. C. Wenger, Separated unto God: A Plea for Christian Simplicity of Life and for a Scriptural Non-Conformity to the World (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1951), 279.
  15. Henry Martyn (1781–1812) died in Tokat in Turkey. He was an Anglican priest and missionary to the peoples of India and Persia. François Coillard (1834–1904), a French missionary who worked for the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in southern Africa, died in Lealui, Barotseland, Northern Rhodesia.
  16. Charles Thomas Studd (1860–1931) was a British Anglican missionary to China who established the Heart of Africa Mission, later known as the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade (now WEC International).

The Dangers of Secularism
(pt. 2)

In the last issue of The Voice we tried to suggest some of the causes for the secularistic tendencies which are becoming so evident among the ranks of the believers in our churches. “. . . we do not yet see any turn of the tide. The forces that make for the secularization at the moment seem to be deep currents.” 1 The question that naturally arises is how the subtle movements of this chameleon may be recognized. How easily Satan is mistaken for an angel of light! Unwittingly we may be ensnared by his sinister schemes and become exposed to his lethal purposes. In trying to point out some of the manifestations of this secularistic spirit that is evident among us we humbly confess with T. B. Maston in his A World in Travail: “It is difficult for us to know what is going on and even more difficult for us to interpret objectively and accurately what we observe.” 2 At any rate we should try to nettle and irritate people into self-examination.


The first manifestation of this evil that we should like to mention is the overemphasis on material values. Not that we would belittle the material things of life, for Christianity is not an opiate that lulls people into senseless satisfaction with misery (although piety does make for happy contentment), but neither does Christianity condone the selfish enjoyment of material goods. The possession of the material things {54} of life is nowhere forbidden in the Scriptures, much rather are those people who possess this boon in a position to use earthly goods as an instrument to lay hold of “life that is life indeed” (1 Tim 6:19). From this Scripture and many others it is evident that material values must remain subservient to those of the Spirit.

We are all fully aware of the fact that our life in all its phases will be subordinate to the integrating center of our being. Should this center be a materialistic one, it carries within itself the seeds for ultimate ruin. That Christians are at present encountering a crisis in their system of values cannot be denied. It seems at times as if gadgets are considered to be of more importance than God. J. C. Wenger writes: “Christians today are living in a world of materialism . . . To be a success means to have accumulated much wealth in life. A good job is one which pays a high wage . . . Men are not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness but are living for money and for the luxury and power which money brings with it.” 3 When Christ and His kingdom no longer serve as the integrating center of our life, then “the means of life tend to become the ends for which men live.” 4

Someone has defined secularism as “an evasive, often unconscious, philosophy which does not deny but ignores the presence and ethical influence of a living God.” 5 How carefully we guard our doctrinal principles! But probably A. J. Gordon was right when he said that our problem was not an unorthodox creed but an orthodox greed. To have an evangelical, fundamental confession of faith and yet not permit God to rule every area of our life is practical atheism. When the things of life rather than the things of God fascinate our thinking, then the only legitimate integrating center of our life has disintegrated. Precious little some of us care to hear about self-denial for the sake of the kingdom of God! Our material “world” has us. How refreshing it is to hear of one of God’s faithful witnesses in China whose value system was firmly grounded on God’s Word. When an oil company sought by all means possible to secure his services for the company, he refused. They offered him ten thousand a year, then twelve, and finally fifteen thousand. (He was receiving a meagre six hundred.) But he declined the offer for this reason: “I have a big job and a small salary; I would rather have this than your little job with the big salary.”

That the public schools of our land are largely utilitarian in outlook and purpose is self-evident, but what is rather frustrating is to see many Christian schools which were founded to offset this materialistic outlook fall into the same sin. Rather than becoming recruiting centers for God’s great spiritual army, we are content to equip young people sufficiently so that they may get a ‘good job’ and get along in this life and bring {55} to the tollbar of death a lot of luggage that must be left behind. Eva Stuart Watt once said that educational work was a faded flower if it were not from beginning to end—Christ. Christian schools which no longer make it their supreme goal to train lives for the ultimate purpose of making Christ known have forfeited the right to be called “Christian.” When revival sweeps through educational institutions the quest for jobs becomes secondary and the desire to live and witness for Christ supreme. Let me conclude this section by bringing in bright testimony of a Christian high school teacher (not of our denomination): “We have but one objective, one single aim—that of moulding and training these young people so that they will know God’s will for their lives and will be prepared for it . . . We want to see a band of young people go from here year by year whose hearts God has touched, prepared to ‘follow the Lamb whithersoever it goeth.’ The Cross must be central in our lives as teachers if it is to be in theirs.”

Cultural Pursuits

A second manifestation of secularistic tendencies is our overemphasis on cultural pursuits. It is an interesting observation to make, that wherever Gospel light is ‘shed abroad’ cultural advancement follows upon its heels. We need only to look at Catholic dominated countries where ignorance and superstition rules to see the opposite of cultural progress. But frequently we confuse the fruit of Christianity with the tree itself. Christianity is not humanism. “The promulgation of humanistic social values—education, hospitals, resistance to vice and intemperance, promoting domestic ideals, and combating illiteracy” 6 is not the primary task of the Church. But even though Christianity places greater emphasis on spiritual values, untold cultural values grow as choice fruit out of these spiritual verities, and of course there is no reason why the cultural may not be enjoyed. Luther found an important place for them in his thinking. He once said: “After theology I give music the next place and the highest honor.” 7 Christians are often confronted with the question of how to enjoy the artistic, the beautiful, and the aesthetic without being conformed to the secular spirit of the day. Whatever the place that is given them may be, we must always remember that they must be reduced to a ‘ministering role.’ Erich Sauer remarks, “The attainments of civilization are not in themselves contrary to God, but rather belong to the paradisaical nobility of man. Inventions and discoveries, science and art, refinement and improvement, in short, the advance of the human mind, these are entirely the will of God.” 8 In the world, of course, cultural pursuits are often only attempts to compensate for a lost Paradise by one that is artificial, and usually leads {56} to the benumbing of the conscience. The German, Drechsler, adds to this: “. . . mit Musik, Gesellschaft, Üppigkeit und Pracht wird alles übertäubt . . . So ist alles Lust und Herrlichkeit, umschlungen und gekrönt von der Blume menschlichen Witzes und der schaffenden Seelenkräfte: der Dichtkunst.” 9 Is it not interesting to note that the first time art, trade, and manufactures are mentioned they are associated with godlessness? (See Genesis 4.) W. H. Griffith Thomas asks: “Is it or is it not an accident that art has often flourished most when religion has been at its lowest?” 10 But the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light, which is to be expected for “they are making an empty existence attractive by the cultivation of the natural resources of the world.” 11

What was it that led to the rapid decay of Israel’s spiritual life? Having disobeyed God’s command to drive out the Canaanites, they fell prey to their culture. Compared with the cultured Canaanites (in spite of their vileness), Israel was a rustic nomadic people. The eminent archaeologist and Semitist W. F. Albright makes this comparison. (His remarks must be taken with a grain of salt). “The early religion of Israel had little art and probably little or no music. Against the ancient liturgy of Canaanite temples and their elaborately organized personnel appeared in sharp contrast the aesthetic barrenness of the early cult of JHWH. Against the rich mythology and the dramatic ritual of Canaanite religion stood out the lonely figure of the desert God . . .” 12 Listen to Hosea’s indignant indictment (10:1): “Israel is a luxuriant vine.” Having attained great cultural levels, they had at the same time forsaken God. Arthur Weiser remarks: “Israel hat sich in Kanaan zu einer reichen Kultur emporgeschwungen. Damit kam Abfall, man wußte die Grenze nicht mehr. Der Prophet sieht die Kultur unter einem andern Licht, er bekämpft sie nicht, aber weist darauf hin, daß Israel ihr nicht Herr geworden . . . wenn die Kultur nicht den ungeteilten Gottesglauben stehen läßt gibt es eine Aufblähung ohne Gehalt. Gott läßt sich vom Glanz nicht blenden . . .” 13

Could it happen that we who under the blessing of God have attained to prosperity lose hold of God? Escaping the whirlpool of moral decay, should we be swept away by the whirlwind of cultural interests and pursuits? Can we fiddle while Rome burns? “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach . . . but I found none” (Ezek 22:30). Listen to the startling statement of Ruskin, an art critic who had been sitting under the voice of Spurgeon for two years: “One great fact meets me. I cannot answer for the experience of others, but I have never yet met a Christian whose heart was thoroughly set on the world to come, and (so far as human judgment could pronounce) perfect and right before God, who cared about art at all.” 14 {57} Dr. T. B. Maston observes:

The secularized church may have, and usually does have, beautiful and sometimes elaborate church buildings. It may have a properly arranged order of service, with every conceivable aid to worship. It may have, and frequently does have, a highly educated and cultured minister. It even may be reaching great numbers of people in its organizations and services and still largely be a church orientated to this world and not to the Eternal. 15

But must we not keep abreast with the times? Truly, Christianity is a dynamic force that meets the need of every age, of every language or cultural group. The great principles of Christianity, although unchangeable in essence, are plastic enough to be adapted to every situation that arises in the history of mankind. However, we agree with Berkouwer of Amsterdam in maintaining that the worst kind of secularism is the appeal to the changing times (the relativity of ethics). With T. B. Maston we say, “The Christian movement must free itself from the enslavement of our pagan culture if it is to provide the resources for the renewal and reorientation of our civilization.” 16 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23–25).


  1. W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Bulletin of United Bible Societies 4th Quarter (1954): 2.
  2. T. B. Maston, A World in Travail: A Study of the Contemporary World Crisis (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1954), 41.
  3. J. C. Wenger, Separated unto God: A Plea for Christian Simplicity of Life and for a Scriptural Non-Conformity to the World (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1951), 279.
  4. Maston, World in Travail, 95.
  5. Maston, World in Travail, 96.
  6. C. F. Henry, Remaking the Modern Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), 280.
  7. Luther, in Wenger, Separated unto God, 121.
  8. Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption: A Survey of Historical Revelation in the Old Testament, trans. G. H. Lang (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 65.
  9. Drechsler, in Erich Sauer, Das Morgenrot der Welterlösung: ein Gang durch die alttestamentliche Offenbarungsgeschichte (Wuppertal-Barmen: Der Rufer, {58} 1937), 78. [“. . . all is drowned out with music, good company, opulence, and splendor, . . . So all is pleasure and wonder, interlaced and crowned by the flower of human wit and the creative powers of the soul: poetry.” — V. Froese translation.]
  10. W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary (London: Religious Tract Society, n.d.), 63.
  11. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1942), on 4:20.
  12. W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (New York: Harper & Row, 1949), 18.
  13. Arthur Weiser, Das Alte Testament Deutsch (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1949), vol. 24, commentary on Hosea 10:1. [“Israel had developed a rich culture in Canaan. With it came apostasy, and one no longer recognized limits. The prophet sees culture in a different light; he does not fight it but points out that Israel did not become its master . . . if culture does not leave faith in God intact, there is expansion without content. God is not blinded by splendor . . .” — V. Froese translation.]
  14. Ruskin, in Prairie Overcomer, March-April 1950, 85. [This bi-monthly periodical was published by Prairie Bible Institute. —Ed.]
  15. Maston, World in Travail, 97.
  16. Maston, World in Travail, 99.

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