Christianity and Secularism Prospects and Possibilities

Main Article Content

Nigel G. Wright


This article proposes a strategy by which countries that have detached from their Christian or religious roots and embraced some form of secularism may nonetheless be understood in a positive light as arenas for religious liberty and action. It argues, in contrast with common assumptions, that free church or radical baptist perspectives do rightly aspire to a form of Christendom by which nations may be profoundly influenced by non-coercive and non-Constantinian conceptions of church and state that guarantee justice and religious liberty for all. However, such a vision will not be realised until the eschaton and, given the declining state, at least in Europe, of the Christian churches, is a distant prospect. A pragmatic engagement with secular political concepts therefore comes into view. However, a clear and crucial distinction needs to be made between differing versions of secularism. ‘Hard’ or ‘programmatic’ secularism is ideologically hostile to any forms of religion and so cannot act as a constructive conversation partner. By contrast, ‘soft’ or ‘procedural’ secularism views itself as hospitable to religious perspectives and communities, keeping the ring open as a non-sectarian and constructive arbiter for all productive religious contributions. The challenge for free church Christians therefore becomes critiquing all attempts of hard secularists to pursue their agenda by masquerading as soft secularists. Paradoxically, the Christian interest is in maintaining its own guiding visions of what the state and society ought to be while at the same time encouraging soft, hospitable and impartial secularism to be true to itself in the interests of all.

Article Details

Author Biography

Nigel G. Wright

Dr Nigel G. Wright is Principal Emeritus of Spurgeon's College London and a former President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.