Does Religion Have Any Place In Culture?

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

— Abraham Kuyper.

In the wake of the heart retching events that occurred in Northern Ireland regarding the murder of Lyra McKee, I can’t help being continually haunted by a statement coming from a young woman at her funeral. During the news coverage from the funeral, which saw a host of political and cultural leaders in attendance, the reporter sought to depict the mood surrounding the crowd of this huge funeral taken place in St. Anne’s Cathedral. Many of the bystanders wanting to show support rightly empathised with the McKee family and the tragic loss that they must be feeling at the present, whilst others reminisced about the stories they had heard of Lyra and her drive to make Northern Ireland a better place to live. Then, a women responded saying something along the lines of ‘There’s no need to Religion in politics.’ Being a ‘child of the peace agreement’ this is quite a common statement to be made when regarding the recent history of Northern Ireland. This statement, at this moment, has some really important implications for Christians in Northern Ireland.  

The statement itself may seem harmless – yes, we as Christians shouldn’t try to treat Stormont as a body of believers, but in this rapidly evolving secular society, where does faith and politics meet? And what sort of framework should we look to for such a complicated matter? One such framework which can be extremely helpful when trying to make sense of faith and politics is the ‘sphere sovereignty’ framework. Sphere sovereignty asserts that all areas of modern life can be split into very distinct spheres. Each sphere is sovereign within its own sphere but, not in a different sphere. God is sovereign over every sphere, therefore, we as Christians should live in those spheres as if God is sovereign over them. Attributed to the previous Dutch Prime minister Abraham Kuyper, sphere sovereignty is formed on two main principles based from scripture: 1) common grace; and 2) biblical worldview.  

Kuyper started with the premise of common grace, which he derived from the Noahic covenant. The sign of that covenant is the rainbow, which was a sign of God’s providential care in sustaining of the whole world. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God’s providence as: “His most holy, wiseand powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.” It is distinct from special or particular grace because common grace is supplied to everyone in God’s creation, regardless of whether you bow the knee before Him or not. However, Kuyper doesn’t just see this as a mere natural phenomenon, instead he proposes that God, in creating the natural order, also blessed humanity with the ability to create civilisations. In other words, God has given us through His common grace the ability to make and sustain a well ordered and functioning society. This was seen through the Theocracy of Israel right up until modern day democracy.  

Kuyper didn’t just stop there. Building on his idea of Common Grace, Kuyper further proposed that seeing the societal structure bares the image of our creator, it should be governed by His rules as well. This, Kuyper believed, is when a biblical worldview must be developed. God has given through His Grace special revelation through His word. Kuyper, like Calvin before him, knew that the only way to understand our purpose as Christian is to know our position clearly in relation to God. Therefore, because God is omniscient and omnibenevolent, He has given us instructions that will lead to the highest form of human flourishing possible.  

Applying sphere sovereignty to the 21st Century can produce some really interesting ‘flash points’ for Evangelical Christians. Due to our understanding of man’s innate inclination to sin, we can map the parallels between secularisation and the normalisation of issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, etc. Because, when you’re not morally accountable to anyone other than yourself, why not do what’s right for you, find your truth. As biblically minded Christians, we must be the ones heralding from absolutely every sphere, the unfathomable forgiveness that can be found in Christ. Are we not moved by our fellow man trying to find satisfaction in worldly, temporary things? Do we not want to tell them of the satisfaction that is found in the cleansing forgiveness of Christ and Him alone? Speaking candidly, I often find myself justifying to myself that I showed kindness to that person so therefore, they know the love of Jesus. But, as we peel it back, we find out that we aren’t the only ones who can show immense kindness to people. Yet, we are the only ones who have a reason to. Let us think about this, seriously, in our quiet times, before the Lord. Search the scriptures diligently as it is not just our only hope but as our guide through this vastly confusing world we live in. Find out what the biblical worldview is on mathematics, science, teaching or whatever sphere you may find yourself in, and live by it. Not just because you have your Christian hat on today, but because Christ is Lord over everything.  

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