Church and Culture: Transcending Secularism

Western culture declares the world secular. God and spirituality are the realm of the private inner life. Churches can embrace this wider cultural perspective by separating the sacred and the secular, church and culture, and creation and redemption, but Christians are then left with a fractured life. Most of their lives—from professions, arts, education, and entertainment—take place in the secular world. They struggle to relate these areas of life to God, spirituality, and church. This course explores ways to regain creation as the space for encountering God. Together we will consider ways to transcend the secular world, not by escaping it, but by finding God in the diverse contexts of life. To achieve this goal, this course engages leading voices and approaches to the problem of secularism and transcendence. It investigates theological and practical strategies for transcending the secular and retrieving creation as the horizon for experiencing God.

Course Format

This course is a hybrid class. It includes online and in-person learning experiences. The first part consists of two online weeks, April 10–21. The second part is in-person, April 25–27. The in-person days include two days of classroom experience, one of those featuring Christina Gschwandtner (conference keynote), and the third day attending the “Secularism and the Pursuit of Transcendence” conference at McMaster Divinity College (April 27, 2023). The third part of the course is three online weeks (May 1–19).

Knowing

  • Identify challenges facing the church from secularism (blogs/podcasts on church and secularism, small group discussions on major seminar/project/paper, lectures).
  • Describe and assess instances of secularism in contemporary culture (blog on secularism and religion).
  • Explore a variety of contemporary approaches to secularism and Christian responses to it (conference attendance).

Being

  • Develop a theology of creation as a place for encountering God (lectures, constructive element of seminar/project/paper).
  • Acquire a deeper theological vision for Christian life and ministry in secular society (seminar/project/paper, lectures).
  • Improve skills for creating thoughtful and creative digital content (blogs, podcasts, video presentations).

Doing

  • Differentiate and compare distinct Christian responses to secularism (blogs and/or podcast, video presentations).
  • Articulate the complex theological knowledge and cultural analysis of secularism for a non-academic audience (post-conference reflection and assessment, seminar/project/paper).
  • Generate and write a constructive Christian engagement with secular culture (seminar/project/paper).