I first came across James K. A. Smith’s book, How Not to be Secular, about Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age in the Christianity Today Book Awards for 2015. The title looked interesting but I did not have time to order it. Then this past December I ordered it and started reading. I couldn’t put it down. This was partly due to the fact that some parts of this book need to be read several times to be understood. Smith wrote his book explaining Taylor’s book partly because A Secular Age comes just shy of 800 pages. Neither books are what I would call an easy read. But I was hooked.
I have been hearing about “post-Christian” American since the 80’s with some of Francis Schaeffer’s works. But I had not found anything that really explained it in a broad sense with terms and themes that could help me get a handle on the concepts involved. But Smith’s book really opened a window up for me to explore Taylor.
There is no way to explain all about Taylor’s work in one post. However, I hope to explore several of his themes over several posts. Some themes may even need to be broken down into multiple posts. But as the title of his book suggests, Taylor is interested in breaking down what it means to live in a secular age. For Taylor, this is ultimately to live in an age when it is conceivable to not believe in God. Of course there is a lot more to his work than just this one concept, but this is an important concept to grasp. He is not saying that a huge majority of people do not believe in God, but that it is now possible for this to happen. So, how did we get from Christendom to where we are now? That history is what the book chronicles, and I hope to reflect on this over time in several posts. I think that Taylor’s work is important not just so we can understand how we got here, but also so that we can use a common language as campus ministers, pastors, collegiate leaders, and students as we explain our position to nonbelievers on our campus, and process what is going on in society around us. I hope these posts will peak your interest and get you to dig deeper with Smith’s book or Taylor’s original work. Keep checking in for this continuing discussion.