DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Fulfilment in a secular age

Written by: on February 19, 2015

“…the salient feature of the modern cosmic imaginary is not that it has fostered materialism, or enabled people to recover a spiritual outlook beyond materialism, to return as it were to religion, though it has done both these things. But the most important fact about it which is relevant to our enquiry here is that it has opened a space in which people can wander between and around all these options without having to land clearly and definitely in any one.” [i]

My dear brother Peter and his lovely partner Aline, are experiencing “the best years of their lives” (his own words). They’re in their early 40s, have a beautiful two year old son, William, have jobs they enjoy and find meaning from, are both enjoying excellent health, and have a nice home to live in. They have ‘arrived’ as my brother recently explained to me. However, he Aline is dealing with mild depression, which my brother is struggling to comprehend in view of what they have built together. On the surface of things, they have everything they need, the “fullness’ as defined by secularlization. However, it’s not enough and they know it.

Peter is an believing unbeliever. He admits he believes in something transcendent, in a God, and even prays to this Being occasionally. Yet although he believes God is real, he doesn’t want to commit to following Him and making any life changes that he knows would have to ensue. So he is happily wandering around, spiritually speaking, occasionally enjoying glimpses of the transcendent in Nature, other times finding great interest and wisdom in astrology, and other times admits his fear of the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms which he has experienced. He spends time at each of these ‘options’ with no plans on landing clearly on any particular one soon. Aline, on the other hand, a confident, intelligent, and hard working woman, is an atheist. While my brother will happily talk about God and His possible existence for hours on end, Aline has no interest in such conversations. Meals together are a challenge!

“…secularity is a condition in which our experience of and search for fullness occurs; and this is something we all share, believers and unbelievers alike.” [ii] That is something we could surely all agree on as family, but how we arrive at that “fullness” differs greatly. For my brother and his partner, a self-sufficient humanism is the ethos by which they live by, “a humanism accepting no final goals beyond human flourishing, nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing.” [iii] For me, it’s completely different. Yes, of course, I want to flourish to some degree. But more than that, I want to live out God’s Kingdom purposes here on earth. Life is fleeting and my desire is to reach heaven one day and hear God say, ‘Well done, Liz. Look who also made it to heaven because of your work and testimony.’ For me, it’s all about pleasing God and living for Him. My sense of fullness and fulfilment comes only from Him. That is my reality, my experience, my whole meaning to life. Nothing or no one else comes anywhere close. As the Scriptures say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” (Psalm 73:25-26) No need to wander. My heart is settled on the God of the universe.

[i] Charles Taylor: A Secular Age (USA: Harvard Press, 2007). 351

[ii] Taylor, 19

[iii] Taylor, 18

About the Author

mm

Liz Linssen

7 responses to “Fulfilment in a secular age”

  1. Liz…
    I so appreciate your insights and perspective from within your life context. Taylor’s concept of flourishing is challenging, helping to see the measure of our allegiance, the potential for fulfillment as well perhaps as the “dulling” that may exist in its subtly. What do you think about Taylor’s assertion that God desires us to flourish? Is that something that we need to “re-discover” from (as much as we can) God’s perspective rather than understand flourishing in tension with our desires, even if we are desiring to please God? Mulling your good work and insights…. Blessings!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Thank you Carol for your kind encouragement always 🙂
      Yes, I do believe God desires us to flourish in the holistic sense, but not at the expense of our devotion to Him. I do think that God delights in giving us our hearts desires, but often those desires are first purged by Him.
      What are your thoughts on that question? Wishing you a blessed Sunday x

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Liz, thanks for sharing this real life story. It’s a testament to Taylor’s writing that his ideas are much more than theory. It’s happening in real time to all of us. No doubt dinner are a challenge with your brother and his partner. Not having a centre from which you can share ideas, thoughts, and dreams makes relationship development difficult. Has it always been this way? How have you seen changes either more openness or more resentment towards God in your relationship with them? It’s an assurance to know that our belief or unbelief doesn’t change the nature, character or sovereignty of God.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Deve
      Thank you for your kind feedback.
      They’re certainly not opposed to the faith. And my brother especially has seen God answer prayer in my own life, and has even told me “he believes in the power of prayer”. Amazing.
      I would love him to know the Lord, and for us to be able to have those conversations about loving God and to serve Him together. What about your own family? Does your family of origin follow God?

      • mm Deve Persad says:

        Liz,

        The majority of my family of origin are not follower of Jesus. My sister and her husband came to Christ about ten or eleven years ago – which certainly has changed our relationship considerably.

  3. mm John Woodward says:

    Liz, your post brought back memories of your quick trip home from Cape Town with the illness of your mother. Then you shared some of your family’s perspective, and your desire for them to know the hope you have. Taylor does such a brilliant job of explaining why your brother and his partner can live within their particular milieus. It is the second half that I am anxious to see what he says we should (can/might?) do about or with this information! What I am discovering from Taylor is what looks on surface as confidence and assured stances of many people in our secular age, might in fact be lacking the foundation for human flourishing and meaning as they claim. But how do bring the Good News to those that have not let their guard down yet to something greater out there? That is what I am hoping to find! And I assume in your work in you community, this would be a question you would appreciate some answers for too! Thanks again, Liz for a thoughtful post!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Dear John
      Thank you so much for your kind feedback. I appreciate where you wrote, “But how do bring the Good News to those that have not let their guard down yet to something greater out there? That is what I am hoping to find!” Yes, me too! But how to do that?
      I often remind God, “I can do my part, but you have to do Your part.” God’s part, that miraculous work of drawing an individual to Himself, is the most precious work of all. And I suppose prayer makes a difference there, inviting God to work by His Spirit.
      Thanks again John for your response 🙂 also for your kind comment about mum’s passing.

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