We have all encountered them. Those individuals, that, as you attempt to share a loving personal God with them, simply replied back that they believe a god may have been instrumental in the whole creation of the universe. They concede that this god may have implemented natural laws that currently guide said universe with a relative order and logic that we can both learn and adapt to our favor. But a personal god, not a chance. If there is a god he does not really care about the individual or the day-to-day dealings of humans upon his earth. For whatever reason, he is too grand, too busy, too holy, or whatever, to be interested in the likes of me or any other measly human being upon this earth.
How did we, in the western, educated, civilized society get to a point where, though we may attest to a higher being and his creative ability, have lost the connection to him personally. Taylor describes this as the great turning point that brought about our current exclusive humanism as being the viable option in today’s “civilized” world. This anthropocentric shift has a genesis in what Taylor refers to as a Providential Deism. Yes, there is a belief in a creator, but not a personal, interacting God that cares for his creation. He has been replaced with an agreed upon impersonal order.
This reminds me of a missionary story that missiologist often share. It is a story of a man who traveled to another country to reach a certain ethnic group. Though he desperately tried to reach this group, there was very little to no success. His housekeeper, who happened to be from another ethnic group, saw the struggle of her employer and questioned him one day as to what he was attempting to do here in her country and with that other ethnic group of people. He told her that he was there to bring the message of God. She replied and said that her ethnic group had a mythical legend of God also. Though she did not represent this missionary’s target group he went ahead and listen to her story.
She began to tell a story of how her people believe in a God who was both loving and caring; the creator of all things. But through an unfortunate mistake they lost the book of their God. The missionary concluded that there must be some syncretistic-animistic-irrelevant-mythical God who handed down some enchanted and mysterious book that she and her people sadly believed in. She began to try and remember what her God’s name was. After several attempts she pronounced the Hebrew name “Yahweh.” The missionary shot straight out of his chair, for he, having been educated in Hebrew, recognize the name immediately. He brought out his Bible and began to share stories from the Old Testament of Yahweh. From generation to generation this housekeeper had heard some of the same magnificent stories of their God.
Her excitement could no longer be contained. She grabbed the missionaries Bible and ran out of the house. Astonished by her action the missionary race after her. They arrived at her village and in her own language she began to shout “we found the book, we found the book.” True to this housekeeper’s description, the villagers, being all familiar with the story of their God and his book that they failed to preserve, came out in astonish jubilation. Revival ensued! They had found the book.
We in the civilized west have not lost God’s book, we have chosen to set it aside. We have methodically changed our understanding of God and his relation to His creation. Taylor defines this as a “drift away from Orthodox Christian conceptions of God as an agent interacting with humans and intervening in human history; and towards God as architect of the universe operating in unchanging laws.” That is the simplistic understanding of Deism. Least we fall into an implicit petitio principii (the logical fallacy of assuming the conclusion in the premises) that Taylor warns against regarding Deism, he unpacks this slide to Deism which he understands reason was the architect of, stating that “scientific reason was at once an engine and beneficiary of disenchantment, and its progress led people to brand all sorts of traditional beliefs and practices as superstition.” Thus, Deism, and in Taylor’s thesis, Providential Deism, methodically disintegrated the bedrock of religious truth by systematically removing the essence of religious truth from “participation in certain community practice of religious life, into which facets of prayer, faith, hope are woven.” Unitarianism played its role in the degradation of truth by attempting “to hold on to the central figure of Jesus, while cutting loose from the main soteriological doctrines of historical Christianity.”
We see through Taylor’s mammoth work that every person who believes in a personal God through Jesus Christ needs to not set the book of God aside, but rather, aspire to know God with all their mental capacity. We cannot succumb even to Count Zinzendorf’s pronouncement that “Whoso wishes to grasp God with his intellect becomes an atheist.” We must continue to battle against the scandal of the evangelical mind i.e., that there is no mind. Let us read, study, and know the God of the Book even in this secular age.
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 221.
 Ibid., 270.
 Ibid., 271.
 Ibid., 293.
 Ibid., 291.
 Ibid., 314.