DMINLGP

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

I am thoroughly humbled

Written by: on January 18, 2019

A Secular Age is a heavy tome, and a worthy addition to the shelves of important books to own, but not sitting yet on the shelf “important books to read.” I’m encouraged by Jason’s admission and sharing of his goal to read through this book slowly over the next decade. Before this program I was not accustomed to books this deep. Is there really books that require you to read so this slowly? Being a practitioner and being trained in SQR3, can’t I just skim and spark notes? However, after reading the companion book to A Secular Age, and realizes how deep and hard to follow the explanation book was to this real text, I am thoroughly humbled.

 

I read the whole companion text cover to cover. And I knew as I was reading it, I was not doing it justice. I moved on from paragraphs and sections in which I grew my vocabulary by reading words outside my typical scope, but not having yet more understanding on the subject. Even this companion book I feel I could be read slowly or reread and reread and continue to have my mind stretched by new ideas. I’m a huge fan of postmodernism. By that I mean it’s one of those topics I love learning and ranting about. I think this gave me some ill-placed confidence as I approached this book. Not only is postmodernism still a concept I am struggling to fully understand, but postmodernism is only place piece of what Charles Taylor and James Smith writes in A Secular Age.

 

My big takeaway from this 1st week of our studies, is to find a book that takes me a decade to work through I may not follow Jason and pick this book as my decade book, but I know that I need to (after this program concludes) continue to engage with difficult books like this and do so slowly in a way that reengages.

 

But I also found it difficult to be able to regurgitate with confidence. Most of the books I read I feel I could turn around and teach a lesson from it or write a summary spark notes takes away. Even as I sit to write this blog and survey the large amounts of material blogs and responses out there and review the reviews of James Smith’s review of A Secular Age I have trouble following all the content. This book and topic is truly a monumental work.

 

But As far as the actual content of this book I found what I was able to grasp to be very helpful. What I found immediately helpful to me was a better understanding of the world secular, and the different levels of secularity as well. Like people who only understand postmodernism as the rejection of absolutes, there is so much more to secularism. What I understand to be secular was really just what Taylor calls Secular2., which is essentially just subtracting God out of the typical equation. Dr. Sam Keyes on bethinking.org[1] explains the that real secularism or secularism3 is “The defining feature of Secular3 is not what we believe, but that our options for belief are more numerous, optional and contestable than at any previous time in history. We are ‘caught between myriad options for pursuing meaning, significance and fullness’.”[2] 

 

These complexities are a reality. But the christian often thinks they can surpass this whole issue by just relying and quoting Proverbs 3:5-6[3], but they actually fall into lazy thinking and become ignorant to the signs of the age. They become opposite the spirit of the Men of Issachar.[4] Christians need to, while still affirming belief in God, be honest about the complexity of belief, resisting spin of all shades, and showing empathy and compassion for those caught painfully in the existential malaise of our secular age.”[5] Taylor and Smith point out the wins and losses that this shift of the world’s immanent frame has had to the christian faith. Christendom was not perfect, and in fact, as smith claims oppressive. This is a strong and shocking word, one in which I feel I would get immediate push back from if I shared it among my field of pastors, and one in which I am not prepared to explain how this is actually the case.

 

As my title speaks, I am thoroughly humbled by this book, but inspired to keep sharpening my mind to be able to navigate texts like this.

 

Works Cited

Keyes, Dr. Sam. “How (Not) To Be Secular – a Review.” Bethinking.org, 19 July 2017, www.bethinking.org/culture/how-not-to-be-secular-review.

Smith, James K. A. How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018.

 

[1] Keyes, Dr. Sam. “How (Not) To Be Secular – a Review.” Bethinking.org, Last modified July 19, 2017. https://www.bethinking.org/culture/how-not-to-be-secular-review.

[2] Smith, James K. A. How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. Page 62.

[3] Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

[4] 1 Chronicles 12:32 – “from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command…”

[5] Keyes, Dr. Sam. “How (Not) To Be Secular – a Review.” Bethinking.org, Last modified July 19, 2017. https://www.bethinking.org/culture/how-not-to-be-secular-review.

About the Author

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Kyle Chalko

9 responses to “I am thoroughly humbled”

  1. Chris Pritchett says:

    Hey Kyle I always appreciate your vulnerability in your writing. Your humble and kind personality often come out. Your desire to take your reading to the next level is commendable and it sounds like your considering taking some important steps in that direction. I’ll just share a little from my experience and you can take or leave what may or may not be helpful. I confess that I have sat down to read multiple-volume monsters over long periods of time and I have never lasted longer than a month. These have included: Karl Barth’s ‘Church Dogmatics’, NT Wright’s massive trilogy, and the complete works of Bonhoeffer. I got furthest with Bonhoeffer because his context had the most blood and guts mixed in. I sought out to do this because I was told multiple times that forcing yourself to read above your level ratchets up your capacity. The problem was I put all my energy in that basket and neglected “fun” reading for years, and as a result, I can still neither carry out the task of reading a volume like that, nor do I easily sit down and read a fun novel. Still, the act of forcing myself above my reading level increased my vocabulary and gave me a skill to digest material more quickly, but to complete a volume like that over ten years requires a patience that I seem not to have! My suggestion would be to go for it but don’t beat yourself up over it. Maybe read a paragraph a day, but keep reading books that keep reading fun for you. The sheer absorption of material in this course will continue to ratchet up your capacity. It’s part of the design and goal of the course, like learning a language through immersion. I think you’re doing great.

  2. Greg says:

    Kyle, I have yet to write a blog that approaches the vulnerability that you so often express. I am always looking for the take away so I can write my 1000 words and be done. There are many times I don’t really engage like I should. I believe as Chris said that there is real temptation to quit while reading a decade long book without some kind of accountability or group that is reading along with you. I do find that I read things that I have value but would have never picked up myself when reading for a class. Thanks for your thoughts and challenges.

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Kyle,

    Great to see that I was not alone in struggling with the concepts in this book. As a fellow academic I am also humbled by writing like this and sometimes feel like I don’t truly belong in the field as my mind does not work the way either Taylor’s or Smith’s clearly do. What we can learn from it is what I believe you discovered yourself…..that is our simplified concepts are insufficient if we truly want to comprehend our surroundings and be able to eruditely speak into the culture. This is true whether we are talking about post-modernism, secularism, or any of a multitude of other philosophies or intellectual concepts. I think as long as we maintain the humility that you demonstrate in this blog we will continue to grow and learn and thus be better able to communicate to our students as we help them process as well.

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Kyle,
    I appreciate the introspection you put into your posts. These are hard books to digest but as you pointed out they are necessary if we are to continue to expand our thinking. Thanks for your post.

    Jason

  5. Kyle,

    I love your post and I’m right there with you in struggling through Taylor and thanking God for the gift of Jamie Smith. 😉

    I’m trying to think why Smith would call Christendom oppressive. Let me take a stab at it. I think it would be because it does not allow choice and just assumes all will believe. It leads to hypocrisy and lukewarm faith.

    In contrast, I think the gift of secularity-3 is that we don’t HAVE to believe anymore. Instead there are some who choose to believe in Christ. But in such an environment, faith must really be real and transformational. I think that’s why Taylor is so enthusiastic about living in a secular age.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Kyle, great job expressing what most of us probably felt with this first reading of the semester. I too was fascinated by some of the concepts; that is when Smith simplified them a little bit. Taylor is DEEP…not just a little…but bottom of the ocean DEEP.

    I’m always searching for the answer for defeating the evils of modernism in the church; not to say all things that are modern are evil…but there are a lot of things plaguing
    God’s people. Sadly, it might just take me 10 years to determine if Taylor was on to something or not. I do not believe he was really tackling a solution; but rather, identifying character traits. However, perhaps if we can get to know that beasts…we can learn to kill it.

    Good job.

  7. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Kyle,
    Thanks for this honest post and response to the reading. Yea, it’s a heavy duty book to start out with for this semester– yikes! But I think your approach is good: you read the companion text, you found reviews, you gave the book its due and gave it a spot on the shelf to be returned to or referenced later. All good, my brother!

  8. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Kyle!

    Spot on my Brother. You and a few other Elite 8’s nailed it on the head with, “The defining feature of Secular3 is not what we believe, but that our options for belief are more numerous, optional and contestable than at any previous time in history. We are ‘caught between myriad options for pursuing meaning, significance and fullness’.” Wish I was half as smart as you…

  9. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Thanks for your vulnerability Kyle. I hope you find your gem of a 10 year read.

    Also, I was overwhelmed by the content as well. I think I spent way too much time reading and thinking and being confused and then finally just had to write, hoping it would all make sense…thus my choice of Smith’s definitions as an anchor in my blog.

    I’d love to hear more of your musings on Post-modernism too. Such a fascinating topic when paired with Smith and Taylor!

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