How Do We Combine the Bible with “Secular” Advice?

sunmoonandmyrtle asked a question:

Hey J, I know the Bible contains God’s instructions for us, but in this modern time, I wonder if it’s ok to also look at “secular advice” on topics like developing your career (especially as a young person), money management and general life stuff (e.g. being organised and good mental health). I don’t refer to anything against God, but what if the source of the advice is still someone non-Christian? I hope you know what I mean. What do you think?

Hey dear friend, I absolutely believe that “all good knowledge is God’s knowledge,” and that anything useful to you is divinely anointed.

While we might not see eye-to-eye on this, I don’t believe there’s a “sacred/secular” divide. It’s a strangely false dichotomy. As a Christian, to reject “non-Christian sources” is no better than when the evangelical church boycotts a movie or a department store. If we had to boycott the things we disagree with, we’d have nothing left.

Even our Christian-labeled books, music, and movies all navigate within secularized channels that might endorse things we dislike. I wonder if self-identified Christians recognize the irony of “taking a stand” on culture wars when the very venues that are used—church buildings, social media, news stations—are unavoidably non-religious.

In fact, the Bible itself cites secular and non-Christian sources to support itself. Here is a list of non-canonical citations in the Bible. The Book of Joshua mentions the most obvious one, called the Book of Jasher, and Apostle Paul makes an argument in Acts 17 that quotes secular sources as well as acknowledging Epicureanism and Stoicism.

Even more, how much are we missing out on if we segregate from all secular sources? My favorite authors like Oliver Sacks, Andrew Solomon, and Yuval Noah Harari would most lilkely be despised by the typical evangelical congregation. C.S. Lewis was classically trained in medieval literature and ancient mythology; Apostle Paul was trained under the famous Jewish teacher Gamaliel; Jesus himself was technically Jewish. I cannot imagine a privatized little world where I only hear from those who call themselves a Christian—especially when so much “Christian art” is bland and mediocre.

It especially pains me when pastors and churches dismiss medicine, doctors, and mental health. This is absolutely dangerous. Your pastor is not your doctor and your church is not a clinic. Your pastor is not qualified to give you medical advice. That includes me, that includes a blogger, YouTuber, celebrity, or fitness guru. It’s terrible to presume that “we only need the Bible” when it comes to medical and mental health issues. This borders on—in fact is equal to—abuse and neglect. It’s a justice issue. We need medicine and therapy as much as we need antibiotics, better laws, heart medication, clean water, vaccines, and homeless shelters. For anyone to tell you otherwise is a cult member or conspiracy theorist, and they’re placing your life at stake just to make a point—a very wrong point.

I’ve always believed that any help is good help, and all good help is God’s help. Any good knowledge is God’s knowledge.

Of course, we must discern wisely and think carefully (1 John 4, Acts 17:11). There are some ideas that must be sifted, rejected, unlearned. I believe very strongly that Christianity teaches to think for yourself. I also think we need to be even harder on Christian-sounding teaching, because so much of it is “hollow and deceptive” (Colossians 2). And we must learn to pick the meat from the bones, or as Aristotle once reportedly said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I’ll leave you with this: C.S. Lewis remarked in The Weight of Glory that all our longings, that which we call good, the desire for something true, is all pointing to ultimate reality, to God. I believe too that good knowledge in some way is pointing back to God, a reflection of His goodness, a tracing of His grace, and while that reflection is imperfect, it can still point imperfectly to the perfect source. I hope we don’t confuse the two, but I hope we don’t dismiss one for the other.

— J.S.

3 thoughts on “How Do We Combine the Bible with “Secular” Advice?

  1. This is sound advice, J.S. I agree.

    There is so much to be learned from others. While we’re learning, it’s up to us to weigh the information against the morals of the Bible.

    I asked my pastor, many years ago, how I could judge what was okay and what wasn’t. And he gave me the simplest advice:

    Just invite Jesus everywhere you go and in everything you do.

    So, if I’m reading a book to help me with my blogging venture (and the author is or isn’t Christian), my heart is open to Jesus pointing out anything that isn’t pleasing to him. We’re reading together. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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