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


Written by: on January 11, 2018

James Smith, How (Not) to be Secular


In the Introduction, Author Smith shares several points of views from other secular age authors. For example, Author Julian Barnes, of the book “Nothing to be Frighten of”, has a few quotes:  “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him” (5) making reference to his missing the stained glass artwork. Barnes appreciates religious art and found “missing God is missing the underlying purpose and belief when confronted with religious art.” (8)  I loved sitting in the park observing nature which is m reminder of God’s creation. We have in our cities removed so much of God’s creation to build our own creation. This has affected the earth, seasons, and the latest weather phenomenon.  Another quote, “If I called myself an atheist in my twenties, and an agnostic in my fifties and sixties, it is not because I’ve acquired more knowledge in the meantime, just more awareness of my ignorance” (8). This statement was inspiring to me that it was not what we know all but at times we realize our weaknesses. Smith also shared a comment by author Luhrmann stating, “If you could believe in God, why wouldn’t you” and the other “Believing in God should be more difficult.” (6)  I will be reading this book later in my studies and I hope to understand her statements. Once you have experienced challenges that you could not resolve but the problems were resolved without help from friends and family, and you know the visual evidence, you realize that there is a higher being than ourselves. I choose to believe the name is God.

Smith wanted to share his view on Taylor’s book on Secular Age, to assist readers to understand Taylor’s views. Evidence of a secular age reveals people are more interested in “living for goals that are immanent lives and not honor God’s transcendence.” (44)  In this secular age, we have moved from why we believe to what is believable. This act is not of faith but what one can prove.  Smith states that Taylor’s book is more like a “3D map, time lapse, existential of our present.” (18)  Smith wanted to break down what Taylor was saying so that a reader can understand. Taylor believes people are “leaning more to ‘exclusive humanism’, the believing life can have meaning and significance without God’s transcendence and rather than believing in God. We are of a secular age because our belief system is no longer axiomatic.”  [1] Explaining exclusive humanism was the replacement of human desires for religious beliefs. We witness this in our government laws. It appears that the Christian right wing is trying to make American pure Christianity through worldly laws. This was truly not Jesus’s method. Believing and following Jesus is a personal decision, not a government one. Smith shares the views on the religious path to exclusive humanism that people are looking to replace transcendence with something that they can visualize. We are knowledgeable and can figure life out without interaction with a religious belief. Smith points out that “God is reduced to a Creator and religion is reduced to morality.” (51)

We must be aware of our own moments of self-sense of accomplishment and ignore the power of the Holy Spirit.  These moments have destroyed many ministries. God is a jealous God and He demands to be first in our lives. Substitutions are not acceptable.

This book was similar to writing a one-page essay about the Iraq War. It’s too much information press down into Cliff Notes.

[1] Taylor, Justin. An Interview with James K. A. Smith on How (Not) to be Secular Age and How to Read Charles Taylor, The Gospel Coalition, accessed January 10, 2018,

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

6 responses to “MISSING GOD…”

  1. Mary says:

    Yes, way too much information!!
    I am thinking that we will go into some of the “flaws” of trying to live in only an “immanent” world. If we are happy with only the things we can see, then why does Star Wars make billions of dollars? What is the Force anyway? Luke was told you can only feel it. Is that in fact what Taylor is saying – your feelings are more real than anything else? He says that everyone “senses” that there is something more. Can we maybe ask the person to define “something more” for us and then compare to Jesus? Like you, I believe that the name is God.

  2. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    What a dismal statement from Smith: “God is reduced to a Creator and religion is reduced to morality.” The entire concept of having a personal relationship with our very relational concept is lost with this belief statement. Your reminder that God is a jealous God counters the distances that Smith suggests. A jealous God is one who deeply longs for a close relationship with us. Powerful reminder Lynda.

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    I really like the approach you took on this Lynda. I agree that “awareness” is an important concept in the discussion of secularism. It becomes an issue of the “immanent framework” where all we need to process life is right in front of us, pushing against a Transcendent who impacts the universe from outside of the universal laws. It is a reality that is difficult to understand if one has the boundaries of the immanent framework. I think if we can help secular people be “aware” instead of trying to convince i.e. the “take” vs the “spin,” then the church will make great steps in completing her mission.

  4. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    Lynda, you’ve done a nice job of drawing us in to Smith’s guide to Taylor, recognizing that we are ALL secular, that in this age, choosing to be aware of God and accept the gift of Jesus is a choice, not simply taken for granted. As Kierkegaard said (in Smith’s quote of the novelist Walker Percy), the end of Christendom is not a bad thing. Personally, I’d rather someone be a disciple of Jesus because they decided, made the choice to follow him, rather than being born a “Christian” This, of course, leads me to think about “cultural Christians” and Muslims– especially in places like the Middle East, where religion is an identity one is born into and converting is often prohibited by law.

  5. Lynda,
    Love the quotes you pulled out… and I actually laughed out loud at the cliff notes comment at the end of post.
    A lot of information to be sure…. God is, indeed, a ‘jealous’ God….but both Smith and Taylor drive us to consider, what do we do if we don’t even know that we are settling for a ‘substitute’ instead of God?

  6. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Great reflections Lynda! Smith hits the nail on the head with with quote “God is reduced to a Creator and religion is reduced to morality.” We can bear witness to this in our society today!

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