In our new secular age, there are two possible trajectories for evangelical churches, Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith argued at Faith Angle Forum.
Smith’s March 14 talk, “Re-Imagining Religion in a Secular Age,” to 20 journalists plus other attendees in Miami Beach, sought to explain different ways of thinking about secularism and how those distinctions can aid our understanding of religion in the public square.
“Secular” can be understood in different ways, Smith explained. It can refer to things that are worldly, as opposed to sacred, spiritual or not religious. This view has led, in some circles, to a view that secular is neutral, or objective, while religious views are unobjective, or value laden.
Smith prefers a different way of thinking about secularism.
Leaning upon the work of philosopher Charles Taylor, Smith says that in our “secular age,” religious beliefs should be one option among many different contestable options. The secular age, therefore, does not entail an absence or weakening of religious belief, as the “secularization thesis” holds. Rather, there is a plurality of beliefs, religious and non-religious, all holding contestable views. Those views are contested in the public square.
The secular age brings both rewards and challenges for Christians and non-Christians alike, Smith says. We all now live in a “cross-pressured space,” where believers encounter unbelief and unbelievers encounter belief.
“Doubt is the natural accompaniment of faith in a secular age,” Smith said.
Doubt has always accompanied faith, as scripture attests, but this is intensified in the secular age.
“Unfortunately, too many religious communities still feel like doubt is the enemy of faith, rather than a companion,” Smith said. “… But notice the cross-pressure works on everyone. So, if the believer is tempted to doubt, the unbeliever can also be tempted to believe. There remains a kind of haunting and pressure that is the sort of pull and lure … of that eternity and transcendence. Nobody gets to … insulate themselves from cross-pressure.”
Quoting Taylor, Smith says the secular age doesn’t bring an end to religious belief, but an explosion, or “nova effect,” of different types of beliefs.
“So a secular age is not an age of unbelief, it’s actually this really messy, complicated, crazy world in which we find ourselves, in which, because people are experiencing all of these multiple cross-pressures, it’s almost like the pressure builds up and it explodes, and what you get are all kinds of ways of believing. And you get “Eat, Pray, Love” ways of believing … a sort of Oprah-significance. There are all kinds of different ways of people pursuing now, a spiritual life,” he said.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post