With its preponderance of violence, greed, and immorality, today’s secular society needs the transformational power that only the values of faith can provide, Yale professor Lamin Sanneh said last November at Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS).
Sanneh, who was speaking at the annual Stob Lectures sponsored by CTS and Calvin College, said that while separation between church and state may be a helpful tool in today’s culture for managing the conflicting demands of politics and religion, it is both difficult and ultimately destructive for society and often for religion itself, Sanneh said.
“There cannot be a rigid separation between church and state,” said Sanneh, professor of missions and world Christianity at Yale University.
In a lecture that ranged from the state of Christianity in Africa to the political approaches of Muslims and Christians, Sanneh said it is neither healthy nor particularly easy to divide the political and moral impulses of human beings.
Both have their purposes, he said.
“The secular state is very good at using values, but not at producing values,” he said in one of the lectures. “Religion has a most important role to play in creation of the common good.”
Society flourishes, he said, by its diverse character and the care and service that we show one another, especially since we are sinful people whose tendency toward self-exaltation, abuse of others, and individual success goes against the idea of a common good and a sovereign God.
“Being a political animal and carrying on political transactions is not enough,” Sanneh said. “Human beings are not logical animals in a political landscape. We are imbued by our Creator with the knowledge and ability to do right and wrong.”