I have recently been reading a book about the influential Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. His book A Secular Age asks this question: “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” This is a penetrating and important question as 21st century Americans, especially those in the younger generations.
Taylor’s book is about 1,000 pages, so I won’t begin to summarize it here, but one of the great points he makes is that our secular world is “God-haunted”. In every sphere of Western culture – from our legal system to academia to the arts – God has been “kicked out” of the arena, but His presence remains. Our legal code, many of our cultural virtues, and our greatest colleges exist because of the influence of Christianity. Hospitals, laws, and colleges began because of a reverence for God, even though God has been “kicked out” of most spheres of public life. And conscientious people understand this.
This fact gives us great evangelistic opportunity. When we meet a police officer or artist or academic and we begin to talk to them about their life, we should ask why they chose their profession and what virtues drew them there. Ultimately all goodness comes from one source: God Almighty. If we ask the right questions of people to see what really moves them, they will discover the virtues they desire to achieve is found only in God, who is the giver of all of life.
If you are interested in exploring this more, see James K.A. Smith’s book, How (Not) to Be Secular.