“In God we trust” officially became the national motto of the United States in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. Originally implemented in part to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union and its explicit state atheism, the motto has remained to our day. Like many mottoes, however, the phrase has unfortunately become more of a throwaway statement for many Americans than a declaration of true faith in the one and only God of Scripture.
It is indeed our hope that our nation—and every nation—would genuinely trust God. Although many people claim to trust God, they act as if He has no authority whatsoever over their lives. They are an authority unto themselves, and the foundation for their self-appointed authority is as unstable as the emotions of their ever-changing hearts. Whether or not they know it, they have succumbed to secularism, which begins in the heart and ends in death. Secularism is the belief that man does not need God or God’s laws in man’s social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Ironically, secularism rejects religion, yet is itself a religion. In these United States of America, many of our politicians, courts, schools, and businesses embrace and promote the religion of secularism under the rubric of freedom from religion and by the advancement of human autonomy, which inevitably leads to anarchy.
Secularism is not only a problem out there in the culture, it is something we must fight in our hearts, our homes, and our churches.
It’s bad enough that secularism is a growing problem in our culture, yet it’s even worse that it’s making inroads in the church. Worship is often shaped by the felt needs and wants of secularized people. Many pastors will not preach on hell for fear of scaring people away. Some of our most popular religious leaders do little more than take self-help messages and dress them up with a veneer of Christianity. Even some preachers have embraced secularism’s teaching that we define our own reality. Thus, they are happy to redefine gender, marriage, and a host of other divinely revealed institutions and norms.
Secularism is not only a problem out there in the culture, it is something we must fight in our hearts, our homes, and our churches. We are too easily tempted to forget God and to avoid conflict with the world. It sometimes seems easier to live as if God really isn’t there, to go about our days without reflecting on His authority and that we’re called to live all of life coram Deo, before His face. But if we forget Him, we’ll forget who we are. We are His people, and we are called to stand firm against the creeping darkness of secularism, declaring to our hearts, our homes, our churches, and our nation that the Lord God Almighty has authority over all and that, unwaveringly, in God we trust.
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.