Andrew Fulford Archive Authors Nota Bene

James Smith on Charles Taylor

Justin Taylor posted an interview with James KA Smith on his new book summarizing the insights of Charles Taylor; it may be of interest to some TCI readers. An excerpt:

What motivated you to write this book about a book?

I taught a senior seminar on A Secular Age with a group of intrepid Calvin College philosophy majors who ploughed through the book with me. In the course of our discussions, it was clear that something in Taylor’s analysis struck an existential chord for them: it helped them make sense of the fraught world they inhabit. As I spent more time with Taylor’s book, I also realized that this would help lots of pastors and church planters better understand “secular” environments like New York or Seattle or Austin. But I realized—and completely understand!—that pastors and practitioners don’t have the time to wade through Taylor’s huge book, so I wanted to try to crystallize and compress his analysis and tie it to some contemporary cultural hooks in a way that could help those who find themselves immersed in such contexts.

I’ve talked elsewhere about the necessity for pastors to be ethnographers; I think Taylor’s argument—and hopefully my book—can equip them to do that a little better. I also hope it reframes what it means to engage a “secular” context. If Taylor is right, this shouldn’t be seen as a battle. Instead, we should recognize all the persistent longings for transcendence that characterize our secular age. To proclaim the Gospel in such a context is not a matter of guarding some fortress; it’s an opportunity to invite our neighbors to meet the One they didn’t even realize they’d been longing for.