To believe or not to believe?
Life is full of opportunities to believe or not to believe. We face it every day. If you open social media or if you follow news sources, there is a constant struggle to
know where to put your trust for information. James Smith in his book, How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, constructs a book to explain a book about the Secular Age. Charles Taylor’s daunting tome is a very intimidating book even though it is a monumental work. Taylor’s purpose is writing this book is to look at what happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith even for the staunchest believers, is only one human possibility among others. the digression of a society’s belief in God. His outlook is not that this happened all at once or that it dissolved. Instead the secular world has embraced a myriad of ideas and thoughts about belief that has diluted into a belief in multiple spiritual things. This “cliff notes” approach of James Smith is very helpful in “eating the elephant” by making this a bite size approach.
The jumping in point brings up language that I have heard before. Ethnography is a word that we have explored in the arena of the visual. Philosophical ethnography is a close look at the results of the everyday and even closer look at the world we inhabit. It is an adventure in self-understanding, a way to get our bearings in a secular age, whoever we might be: believers or skeptics, devout or doubting. These words are repeated by Smith as he starts to unpack this information. What is the landscape of our society? What does it truly look like? As he starts to explore the thoughts and concepts the word believe or belief become a part of this language.
Let me highlight a few that caught my attention on belief.
We don’t believe instead of doubting, we believe while doubting. This principle is powerful in exploring God and belief in him. The challenge of exploring the decline of the spiritual and the rise of the secular causes lots of emotions, thoughts and passions. This topic stirs the soul and statements of belief may not always have researched facts to be built upon. To pinpoint where faith has taken steps away from God and has placed belief and or faith in human reasoning instead causes emotional response. This can cause us to get into the “fog of fraudulence.”
Exploring the conditions of belief: a shift in the plausibility conditions that make something believable or unbelievable, develops our view of what is or isn’t secular. Because of this indifference toward belief and the drift toward secularism, unbelief has become the major default option. When there is a digression of a society from one point of view to another then there must be defaults. We will just go with this thought or this idea because we are being told this is what is happening and where the trend is going.
What happens when we fixate on expressions of belief rather than conditions of belief. 
“Subtraction stories” is a piece of language that Taylor uses to attribute everything to disenchantment. Science gave us “naturalistic” explanations. Then people started to look for alternatives to God. Secular terms are also introduced to change the language.
The greatest extent of the subtraction story with the fading of God’s presence in all three domains made us look afresh for alternative possible reference points for fullness. The transfer of God’s power to our own power was the natural progression. Humanism points us toward ourselves and away from God. So the subtraction of the story forms the truth and pushes us toward opinions.
Belief is explored
Subtraction stories are added
Humanism is championed and God is in decline.
Secularism is the new world order and God is a point of reference for a few who still believe that way.
The world is different than it was but the principles and the word of God says that He never changes and he stays the same and relevant no matter other people’s opinions or the world’s opinion.
This progression is very intriguing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is a life happens week. I have overbooked myself and time is not on my side to write something completely. I have emailed Jason and he asked me to at least post something of my thoughts. These are incomplete thoughts. Thanks for your grace and mercy toward the lack of depth and clear communication. I leave for a student retreat tomorrow afternoon after our morning service. Hopefully wifi will allow me to connect on Monday with you. I will be at Sky Ranch in Quapaw, Oklahoma, so we will see.
 James K.A. Smith, How(Not) to be secular: Reading Charles Taylor, (Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014) Introduction.
 Ibid., viii.
 Ibid., ix.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 20.
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, (London, England: Belknap Press of Harvard, 2007), 26.