When I reflect on my experience in Seminary, I realize that studying Christian history and theology did not give me any answers; but rather, made me comfortable with my questions. Instead of becoming one who was sure of what she believes, I became one who was not unravelled by how much she doubts. Perhaps this is why I was captivated by what James K. A. Smith wrote the introduction to his book, How (not) to be secular: reading Charles Taylor. “While stark fundamentalists—either religious or secular—get all the press, what should interest us are these fugitive expressions of doubt and longing, faith and questioning. These lived expressions of ‘cross-pressure’ are at the heart of the secular.”
Indeed, we are in the secular age, and as Taylor explains, both believers and unbelievers occupy this same space, which he calls the “imminent frame.” The imminent frame “constitutes a ‘natural’ order to be contrasted to a ‘supernatural’ one, an ‘imminent’ world over against a possible ‘transcendent’ one.” This imminent frame is so ubiquitous to us that it runs in the background of our consciousness, and acts as the starting point for our way of understanding the world. Smith explains, “the question isn’t whether or not we in habit the imminent frame, but how.”
The challenge for us as believers in general, or for me as a missionary specifically, is to accept this reality of the secular age rather than base our engagement with the world on a wish that it simply wasn’t so. Unfortunately, this is not what we tend to do. Thus, Smith astutely poses this question/challenge:
A lot of contemporary apologetics, bent on “defending the faith” against the charges of the new atheists, seem to offer a transcendent “spin” as the alternative to immanent “spin.” What might a Christian apologetic look like that offers a transcendent “take” on our experience, even at point recognizing the force and persuasive power of an immanent “take”?,
I think that this is one of the key issues that missionaries and missionary sending organizations need to address in order to create a process of evangelisation that is relevant in the secular age. As Smith observes, we as Christians can fail to acknowledge and validate the “difficulty of belief.” When inhabit the immanent frame with a “transcendent spin,” we can belittle or ignore the reality of those who have an “immanent spin.” Add in the reality of the “rise of the nones,” (the fact that many from Christian backgrounds are moving away from a place of faith), and we confront the possibility that our own “immanent spin” provides too rigid a framework for the unavoidable presence of doubt within the immanent framework of our secular world.
As I sought to consider my response to the challenge that Smith presents here, I was reminded of something I read in Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. Bell describes theology as our communal attempt to understand God, and he explains that we can either have “brick wall” theology or “trampoline spring” theology. Brick wall theology could be compared to having a “transcendent spin” in the lexicon of Smith. If one has “brick wall” theology, and one of the bricks gets called into question then the whole thing crumbles. For example, imagine that seven-day creationism is part of one’s theology—and imagine that that person was confronted with undeniable proof that the earth was 14 billion years old. If the “young-earth brick” gets pulled from that wall, then that person believes all else—the truth of the scriptures, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the afterlife—becomes suspect. Contrast this with “trampoline spring” theology, which allows for changes in our understanding of God to emerge as we have changes in our understanding of the world—or in the parlance of Smith, we recognize the “cross-pressure” that defines our culture.  A person with “trampoline spring” theology has more of a “transcendent take,” (as opposed to a “transcendent spin”) allowing for one spring (for example, young earth theology) to come off without compromise the entire structure or basis of their theology.
Of course, this idea, as with many of Bell’s ideas, gets dicey if taken to its extremes. A trampoline with only a handful of springs would cease to be a trampoline—it would simply be a tarp. So I would propose that there are some immoveable springs that—like load-bearing walls—cannot be touched. But I do think that having a more flexible theology enables me to better witness to an unbeliever—and to sympathize with the “difficulty of belief.” Even more so, I know that such a theology enables me to stay in difficult conversations with adult children who are teetering on the edges of becoming “nones” themselves. And finally, “trampoline spring” theology allows me to have fellowship and community with believers who differ from me on non-essential (non load-bearing) issues of faith.
So perhaps this is the starting point for my response to Smith’s challenge.
 James K. A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014). 14.
 Smith. 92.
 Smith, 93.
 Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular. 96.
 If I have understood correctly, Smith uses the word “spin” to describe an over-confident way of inhabiting the immanent frame (the assurance that one’s way of thinking is correct) and the word “take” as simply an unchallenged way of inhabiting the immanent frame (not having considered one’s way of thinking as right or wrong, but blindly accepting it.)
 Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular, 5.
 Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012).
 Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular, 104.