How (Not) to be Secular

How (Not) to be Secular February 10, 2015

I was one of the many judges of the  Christianity Today Book Awards, charged with picking the top two books on Christianity & culture.  I was glad to see that my top two were the magazine’s top two.  I thought I would post my reviews.  The winner was James K. A. Smith’s  How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.  Read what I had to say about it after the jump. James K. A. Smith, How (Not) to be Secular (Eerdmans)

Canadian scholar Charles Taylor is the author of a monumental study of contemporary life entitled A Secular Age, in which he explores not only the causes of the loss of a religious sensibility but its psychology. Refuting the New Atheist assumption that the loss of religion restores human beings to a more natural, rational, and liberated state, Taylor shows that secularism is itself an ideological construction, an attempt to find meaning without transcendence in the purely immanent plane. And yet, the transcendent keeps insinuating itself, so that what doubt is to faith, faith is to the secularist, something to fight against or, sometimes, to give in to.

Since both unbelievers and believers are influenced by the prevailing secularism, Taylor’s work has important implications for contemporary apologetics, evangelism, and ministry. The problem is, Taylor’s work is so technical and sophisticated that it is mainly accessible to academic philosophers and phenomenologists.

James K. A. Smith explains Taylor’s thought and its implications for contemporary Christians. But this is not a Cliff’s Notes simplification. Rather, Smith has written a challenging, paradigm-shifting work of his own that applies Taylor’s findings to the challenges and opportunities of today’s churches.


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