Friday, May 4, 2012

The year of fat books

The past few months I've chewed through some fat books.
My current one in Charles Taylor's 'The Secular Age'.
The book is an account of how the west moved from (almost) unquestionable beleif in God to a situation where belief is one option among many.
The book is describing something complicated, and so is a fairly complicated book. Taylor refuses simplistic explanations.

I'm almost through it.
 Reading 'A Secular Age' feels like taking the red pill from the Matrix. Your eyes are opened to the presuppositions you have about the world, where they come from, and why they are not 'obvious'.
As someone whose job it is to try and help the church be faithful to the gospel, I also feel like I am now wearing a bland grey sweater and eating gruel.  "Give me back my fantasy!!". The way Taylor describes it, the task of the church is incredibly hard. (though he is positive about the church's prospects).

The book is difficult to get into at first. Taylor is weaving together many threads, and doesn't deal with them one by one, but gets into them all and then comes back to them again and again. About a quarter to half the way into the book, you start to get a feel for the tapestry he is describing, but that is about 200 pages! He also assumes you have some grasp on the history of philosophy, literature, art, music and politics. Sometimes he also assumes you know French. (Classic Quebecois, sometimes he translates, other times he wants to rub your nose in it)

Still, it is a very helpful book for understanding the complicated motivations for belief and unbelief in our context (and is more sympathetic and less ranty about it than most christian accounts)
Well worth the time, the book will shape you for many years to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will need to make some space on my "books to read" shelf before I can get into the recommendation, but thank you.

On the French question, it doesn't have to be merely his Canadianit'e that is pushing that. Many's the time I've been reading a British scholar from ~100 years ago, and he's kindly supplied Latin and Greek, but left French and German untranslated (or vice versa). I particularly liked it when they left the punchline in there, as in, "But of course as [X] has said: [blah blah blah quelle horreure est-il blah blah blah...]"

Good times.

Alan Wood