Archives For Charles Taylor


Eerdmans has just released an audiobook edition of James K.A. Smith’s important book on Charles Taylor.


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How (Not) to Be Secular:
Reading Charles Taylor
James K.A. Smith

Audiobook: Eerdmans

[ Read our review of this book ]


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We Are All Secular

How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor

James K.A. Smith

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Brad Fruhauff
James Smith sets out to accomplish two main things in his short book. First: to paraphrase and condense Charles Taylor’s magisterial 2007 A Secular Age as “an homage and a portal” to the larger book. Second: to translate some of Taylor’s philosophical musings into practical questions for reflection for Christians in ministry or leadership contexts. It’s important to keep in mind that, unlike some accounts of secularism, this isn’t primarily about disarming the logic of secularity or explaining why the New Atheists are wrong. Nor is Smith about to use to Taylor to sound an altar call back to some foundational truth of Christianity as an antidote to secularity. It is neither polemic nor didactic in that way. It is, however, always intriguing and often illuminating. Thus it succeeds as an “homage.”

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A great conversation with James K.A. Smith about his new book on Charles Taylor:


How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor
James K.A. Smith
Paperback:  Eerdmans, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
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Scot McKnight Starts a Conversation on
Jean Twenge’s GENERATION ME.

When it comes to grasping the big picture of what is doing on in culture, the single-most important book I have read in the last thirty years is Robert Bellah’s famous Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. (Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Communitycame next.)

But I have to put next to Bellah’s book the devastatingly insightful Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before by Jean Twenge. I spend my time reading this in two poses: totally engulfed in what she says and staring into space pondering the implications of her conclusions.

I believe every parent, every youth pastor, every college professor, and every pastor ought to buy this book, read it, and then hold a series of conversations with others about (1) what it says and (2) what we can do to change the course of culture. This book is that important.

It is fashionable for 40 somethings and 50 somethings and 60 somethings and up to 90 somethings to decry the condition of our youth. So, it would be a complete mistake to read this book looking for ammunition to judge the 20somethings and 30somethings. By the way, iGens are 18-35 yr olds. One of Twenge’s observations is that the Boomers, formerly called the Me Generation, produced iGens or Generation Me. What we did is what iGens will do — only they’ll probably ramp it up some and that’s not good.

Twenge could have done some scolding of Boomers and could have done some figuring out what to do about the problems we’ve got, but her approach is to describe and decry. And she does this very, very well … and that’s all we need in order to create a conversation.

Here’s why this book is so signfiicant: Twenge and her associates have done longitudinal studies on tests taken for the last forty or fifty years and she has been able to observe major trends and shifts in such things as self-perceptions. And the results are showing increases in self-importance, leading not only to self-esteem but also narcissism. Here is her major conclusion:

iGens “speak the language of the self as their native tongue. The individual has always come first, and feeling good about yourself has always been a primary virtue” (2). But it is also a time of “soaring expectations and crushing realities.”
Read the full review:

Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans
Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled
–and More Miserable Than Ever Before
Jean Twenge.
Paperback: Free Press, 2007.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ] [ Amazon ]

The ORION review of Stephen Trimble’s

WHAT DRIVES individuals and corporations to erect mega-malls and luxury resorts in place of open meadows and sleepy communities? It is quite literally the million-dollar question. Money, however, is usually only part of the answer. As Stephen Trimble writes in Bargaining for Eden, “Caught between dreams, we are all greedy, and we are all generous. How then do we create a structure for our communities that expresses our altruism more than our self-interest?”

Eden focuses on Earl Holding, one of the nation’s largest landowners and a reclusive Salt Lake City mogul in charge of Sinclair Oil, Sun Valley ski resort, and the Little America hotel chain. A secretary once inquired if Holding was pleased about the acquisition of a parcel next to one of his ranches, to which he reportedly replied, “I won’t be satisfied until I own all the land next to mine.”

Read the review:


Stephen Trimble.

Hardcover: U. of California Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]

Tony Jones Overviews Charles Taylor’s A SECULAR AGE.

Taylor begins A Secular Age by acknowledging that secularity is difficult to define, hard to pin down.  It seem, he writes, that there are two leading candidates for describing secularism:


Secularity 1: Our relation to a transcendent God has been displaced at the center of social life and replaced by secularized public spaces and institutions.


Secularity 2: Faith in God has declined, as have the beliefs and practicies inherent thereto, in large part as a result of theories that originated with the Enlightenment.


Both of these, as I wrote above, Taylor sees as mistaken, for they tend to track a “decline” of religion.  But religion is not in decline.  Instead, Taylor argues, it is morphing.  What has ended is the age of “naive” faith in a transcendent God.  For the first time in human history, exclusive humanism is now a viable option, at least in the West.  And humanism sprang from Providential Deism, which itself grew out of orthodox Christianity.


It is the advent of exclusive humanism, however, that was the real watershed.  All belief systems are concerned with human flourishing, and most depend on a transcendent God to determine what it is to “flourish” (Buddhism being a notable exception).  “A secular age,” Taylor writes, “is one in which the eclipse of all goals beyond human flourishing becomes conceivable; or better, it falls within the range of an imaginable life for masses of people. This is the critical link between secularity and a self-sufficing humanism.” (19-20)


Thus, Secularity 3: New conditions of belief, consisting of a new shape to the experience which prompts and is defined by belief, in a new context in which all search and questioning about the moral and spiritual must now proceed. “The main feature of this new context is that it puts and end to the naive acknowledgement of the transcendent, or of goals or claims which go beyond human flourishing…Naivete is now unavailable to anyone, believer or unbeliever alike.” (21)

Read the full piece:

Charles Taylor.

Hardcover: Belknap Press, 2007.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]