Navigating a Secular Age: A Book Review of ‘How (Not) to Be Secular’ by James K.A. Smith

Navigating a Secular Age: A Book Review of ‘How (Not) to Be Secular’ by James K.A. Smith

Kevin Germer, Upper School TheologyKevin Germer, Veritas theology instructor and pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, recently reviewed James K.A. Smith’s “How (Not) to be Secular” for The University Bookman.  Re-posted here are the opening paragraphs of this fascinating look at Smith’s latest work.  Read the entire essay at the original source site: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/navigating-a-secular-age/.

In early August I went backpacking in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the North Cascades. The terrain was unfamiliar to me, and I knew very little of what to expect other than what I could glean beforehand about the weather. But this was calculated unpreparedness. I knew one of the friends who accompanied me had spent significant time planning the trip, studying the route we would take, thinking through what was needed for a successful, enjoyable journey. He knew, for example, how far we needed to travel each day, where the best campsites were located, and which day hikes would prove most sublime. The rest of us trusted him to guide us through the Washington backcountry, and without him, we’d have quickly lost our way.

James K. A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, sees Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age as a kind of existential map for our time, and in How (Not) to Be Secular, Smith wants to help us understand the map and get a feel for the layout of the land. In an always engaging and at times delightful way, he guides us through Taylor’s nine-hundred-page tome; the five chapters of Smith’s book match the five parts of Taylor’s, while the sections of Smith’s chapters roughly track with the chapters of A Secular Age.

But How (Not) to Be Secular is more than mere summary, and more, too, than an entryway to Taylor’s larger work. While he has several audiences in mind, Smith writes primarily for “practitioners”: teachers, pastors, Christian leaders, yes, but also anyone who feels, deep down, that our “secular” age is messier than many would lead us to believe; that transcendence and immanence bleed into one another; that faith is pretty much unthinkable, but abandonment to the abyss is even more so; and that they need to forge meaning and significance in this secular space rather than embracing modes of resentful escape from it.

Intrigued?  Continue reading here: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/navigating-a-secular-age/

Veritas School will be hosting the author, James K.A. Smith, as part of our Speaker Series Friday, February 27, 2015.