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How (Not) to Be Secular

, 2014
ISBN: 9780802867612

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How (Not) to Be Secular is what author Jamie Smith calls “your hitchhiker’s guide to the present.” It is both a reading guide to Charles Taylor’s monumental work A Secular Age and philosophical guidance on how we might learn to live in our times.

Taylor’s landmark book A Secular Age (2007) provides a monumental, incisive analysis of what it means to live in the post-Christian present—a pluralist world of competing beliefs and growing unbelief. James K.A. Smith’s book is a compact field guide to Taylor’s study of the secular, making that very significant but daunting work accessible to a wide array of readers.

Even more, though, Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular is a practical philosophical guidebook—a manual of how to live in our secular age. It offers an adventure in self-understanding and maps out a way to get our bearings in today’s secular culture, no matter who “we” are—believers or skeptics, devout or doubting, self-assured or puzzled and confused. This is a book for any thinking person to chew on.

In the Logos edition, this valuable volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Check out more resources from James K.A. Smith on being a Christian in the twenty-first century.

Resource Experts
  • Guides readers through Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age
  • Provides insight into living a Christian lifestyle in a secular world
  • Presents material useful for a wide range of readers
  • Introduction: Our Cross-Pressured Present: Inhabiting a Secular Age
  • Reforming Belief: The Secular as Modern Accomplishment
  • The Religious Path to Exclusive Humanism: From Deism to Atheism
  • The Malaise of Immanence: The “Feel of a Secular Age”
  • Contesting Secularization
  • How (Not) to Live in a Secular Age
  • Conclusion: Conversions

Top Highlights

“Your neighbors inhabit what Charles Taylor calls an ‘immanent frame’; they are no longer bothered by ‘the God question’ as a question because they are devotees of ‘exclusive humanism’—a way of being-in-the-world that offers significance without transcendence. They don’t feel like anything is missing.” (Page viii)

“There’s no undoing the secular; there’s just the task of learning how (not) to live—and perhaps even believe—in a secular age.” (Page 11)

“it’s not that our secular age is an age of disbelief; it’s an age of believing otherwise” (Page 47)

“This contemporary social imaginary is crystallized in terms of authenticity. So the primary—yea, only—value in such a world is choice: ‘bare choice as a prime value, irrespective of what it is a choice between, or in what domain’ (p. 478). And tolerance is the last remaining virtue: ‘the sin which is not tolerated is intolerance’ (p. 484).” (Page 85)

“The secular is not simply a remainder; it is a sum, created by addition, a product of intellectual multiplication.” (Page 26)

Charles Taylor’s crucial book on our secular age is inaccessible for most people, including the church leaders who desperately need to learn from its insight. Jamie Smith’s book is the solution to this problem. As a gateway into Taylor’s thought, this volume (if read widely) could have a major impact on the level of theological leadership that our contemporary church is getting. It could also have a great effect on the quality of our communication and preaching. I highly recommend this book.

Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

This is a brilliant, beautifully written book on the dilemma of faith in a modern secular age. It introduces the reader to the material in Taylor’s dense book, of course, but it does more. It invites the reader on a journey through the experience of the spirit in different centuries, and how our conceptions of mind and person shape belief in ways far more intimate than we usually imagine. How (Not) to Be Secular is a gem.

—T.M. Luhrmann, professor of anthropology, Stanford University

Charles Taylor’s daunting tome, A Secular Age, has just turned a great deal less intimidating. Combining his usual lucid style, his love for literature, and his passion for the church’s future, Jamie Smith offers a faithful guide through the pages of Taylor’s monumental work. Along the way, he wisely cautions his co-religionists against facile responses to the ‘disenchantment’ of modernity, but he also insists that the Christian faith may have much more going for it than many recognize.

Hans Boersma, J.I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College

  • Title: How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor
  • Author: James K. A. Smith
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Print Publication Date: 2014
  • Logos Release Date: 2016
  • Pages: 160
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Christian philosophy; Christianity › Philosophy; Taylor, Charles, 1931- Secular age; Secularism; Religion and culture
  • ISBNs: 9780802867612, 0802867618
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-30T00:40:46Z

James K.A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was editor in chief of Comment magazine from 2013 to 2018 and is now editor in chief of Image journal. Smith is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and is editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series, and has written for Christianity Today, First Things, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Washington Post.



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Digital list price: $11.20
Save $2.21 (19%)