DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Secular Age or Emergence Christianity

Written by: on January 17, 2020

Charles Taylor’s massive treatise on secularism, A Secular Age, seeks to explain the shift in our belief system which focuses on the conditions of belief; “The shift to secularity in this sense consists, among other things, of a move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed, unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option among others and frequently not the easiest to embrace.”[1] Taylor seeks to understand how we in the Western world went from believing wholesale in Christianity to a cafeteria-style of belief systems that lets us pick and choose from a menu of options that suit our tastes. Smith points out, “As you’ll notice, these questions are not concerned with what people believe as much as with what is believable.”[2]

One of the ways Taylor believes we arrived at this point of Secularism is through the “process of disenchantment”; this is ridding of the beliefs in the spiritual world of evil forces, demons, and other moral forces.[3] However, it is interesting that while Taylor believes in disenchantment, it seems that the level of fantasy novels and movies has risen to new levels. Movies and television shows feature zombies, wizards, and all kinds of magical creatures. It seems even if the supernatural has been taken out of our belief systems, it has been reinvented in other ways. Maybe this focus on the supernatural shows a deep-seated need for something beyond the mind and body paradigm of secularism.

Possibly, the rise in Secularism and the changes described by Taylor can be linked to something else. Phyllis Tickle presents another explanation of the changes which took place from the years 1500 to 2000, stating, “Every five hundred years, give or take a decade or two, Western culture, along with those parts of the world that have been colonized or colonialized by it, goes through a time of enormous upheaval, a time in which essentially every part of it is reconfigured.”[4] Tickle has named this shift, “The Great Emergence” and defines it as “an across-the-board and still-accelerating shift in every single part and parcel of our lives as members in good standing of twenty-first-century Western or westernized civilization.”[5] From this emergence Tickle believes there is a new form of Christianity, Emergence Christianity. “A central characteristic or principle of Emergence Christianity is its aggressive belief in inclusivity and the importance of diversity in worship and in community.”[6] Emergence Christianity also embraces deinstitutionalization, is comfortable with the physical sciences, is techno-savvy, and embraces social justice. [7]

Although Taylor and Tickle present two different views of what is happening in the Western world in the last 500 years or so, they both speak to an enormous shift in the way beliefs are thought of in our society. Yes, there is a rise in secularism, but there also seems to be many young people who attend non-denominational churches and it seems that many are embracing less traditional ways of worship. One only needs to look at the popularity of churches like Hillsong to a young adult to know there is growth in Christianity but in new forms.

Living in Washington, DC, I see the rise in secularism on the one hand, but I also see young adults embracing new ways of worshiping at the same time. Perhaps secularism and emergence Christianity are like two trains running parallel to one another. I think Taylor and Tickle both give us a lot to think about for the future of the Church and society in general.


Smith, James K. A. How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

Tickle, Phyllis. Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where it is Going, and Why it Matters. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012.


[1]. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. 2007:3.

[2]. Smith, James K. A. How (Not) to be Secular. 2014: 19.

[3].  Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. 2007:29.

[4]. Tickle, Phyllis. Emergence Christianity. 2012: 17.

[5]. Ibid., 25.

[6]. Ibid., P-1.

[7]. Ibid., 130-135.

About the Author


Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

5 responses to “A Secular Age or Emergence Christianity”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, Mary. I have been interested in Tickle’s premise for some time. The trends seem to confirm her argument regarding the types of church that are attractive to young adults. My question is how many have grown up in the church and are simply finding the Hillsong types to be more conducive to their tastes versus those who have no church background. Are the truly irreligious even remotely interested in any church or aspects of the Christian faith?

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Tammy, that’s a good question as to who is going to the Hillsong type churches. I don’t think it’s just those leaving other churches since it is composed of so many young people who never had a chance to be indoctrinated into denominationalism. Taylor is interesting, but I think many are still not satisfied with secularism and are reaching for something more.

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Super job connecting Taylor’s work with another view like that of Phyllis Tickle. I cannot imagine what it must be like living and serving in your localized culture within Washington, DC. You summarize, “I see the rise in secularism on the one hand, but I also see young adults embracing new ways of worshiping at the same time. Perhaps secularism and emergence Christianity are like two trains running parallel to one another.” Utilizing your train metaphor, I wonder if the lines should be parallel or “interact/intersect”? What do you think? Thanks again for giving us your perspective on the text and where you serve.

  3. mm Shermika Harvey says:

    Mary, I have to look into Tickle’s research because it seems relevant to my current context. As I stated before our church is a millennial church and it is also a non-denomination church and we have both young adults who were brought up in church, pastor’s kids and some who have never been apart of church because either the came from another religion or never knew anyone who were Christians. It’s a interesting dynamic and just like you in the midst of secularism, we still have many young people coming to Christ and staying in and growing in God and church community.

  4. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Enjoyed your blog, Mary. I especially appreciated your insight that “it is interesting that while Taylor believes in disenchantment, it seems that the level of fantasy novels and movies has risen to new levels.” I truly agree with you. I also appreciate your insight from Phyllis Tickle. You intrigued me to Google her, as I wasn’t familiar with who she was. As an author and lecturer, she sounds like she had positive influence in the world of Christianity. I am planning to do more research on her now. Thanks for your insight, Mary!

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