One reason for Christians to read on secularism: it informs our thinking more than we realize.
Following Christ in a secular world is challenging and counter-cultural. The following ten Christian books on secularism will ground your thinking in biblical truth and show how Christ offers more than the empty promises of the secular world. I pray they help you grow in knowledge and love for the truth.
Nancy Pearcey is a great thinker and writer. Every book I’ve read of hers dramatically influences how I think and see the world. Pearcey studied under Francis Schaeffer and has co-written with Chuck Colson, and speaks with clarity and insight to Christian worldview matters. She understands the secular mindset and how Christian truth triumphs supreme. I loved how Finding Truth exposes how false worldviews do not have adequate categories to describe reality and that only biblical truth can. This makes sense because if God is the creator of all, He is the only one who can comprehensively describe all facets of life and the world. Read my short summary of Finding Truth.
3 & 4. The Reason for God: Faith in an Age of Skepticism and Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller
You can’t go wrong with either of these books. Both are personal favorites and recommended for engaging secular thought in clarity and depth. Since Keller’s understanding of secularism seeps into everything he writes, you can’t go wrong reading anything he has written. Learn more about these two books from my review of Making Sense of God:
Tim Keller’s 2008 New York Times bestseller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton), first propelled him into the international spotlight. The Reason for God sought to make skeptics “doubt their doubts” about Christianity by holding them up to the same intellectual scrutiny to which skeptics held Christianity.
While The Reason for God impacted many interested in Christianity, Keller realized it was not written for those who do not deem Christianity “relevant enough to be worth their while” (p. 4). Such people would never pick it up but rather dismiss Christianity altogether as a “blind faith in an age of science, reason, and technology” or believing “fewer and fewer people will feel the need for religion and it will die out” (p. 4). Keller’s newest book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, is directed at those people, serving as a prequel to The Reason for God.
Keller’s main purpose for both books is to explain how Christianity makes sense emotionally, culturally, and rationally. Naturally, The Reason for God discussed the rational, while Making Sense of God focuses on the emotional and cultural, making the case for Christianity’s relevance in both spheres.
5. How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K.A. Smith
While A Secular Age by Charles Taylor may be the most important book on secularism, it is probably the hardest to read and the longest (874 pages!). Jamie Smith, professor at Calvin College, condenses Taylor’s arguments in How (Not) to Be Secular, making it accessible to a wider audience. Still not the easiest read, this book will introduce readers to Taylor’s insight in a mere 140 pages. You may enjoy this episode on Bob Thune’s podcast The Wednesday Conversation engaging ideas from this book.
6. Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor edited by Collin Hansen
This book of collected essays published by The Gospel Coalition interacts with Charles Taylor from a number of angles including pop culture, art, politics, consumerist Christianity, and more. Contributors include Mike Cosper, Jen Pollock Michel, Michael Horton, Carl Trueman, and others. I haven’t read it yet, but I hope to in the coming months. If this book interests you, check out Collin Hansen’s conversation with Jen Pollock Michel about how Christians should think about human flourishing in our secular age on the TGC Podcast.
7. Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale
In this book, Zacharias, the world-renown apologist, and Vitale, a fellow RZIMer, tackle the many ‘isms’ of secularism: scientism, pluralism, humanism, relativism, and hedonism; before pleading with readers to love the truth.
I haven’t read this yet, but Tim Keller has. Here is his recommendation: “Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale take a big topic—’The Secular’—and break it into digestible parts. They provide analysis and critique of the various ‘isms’ of our culture in ways that are respectful, readable, and compelling. Though it is based on great learning and extensive research, every chapter is nonetheless highly accessible. It will serve many audiences very well.”
8. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
Rosaria Butterfield’s dramatic story of conversion is the focus of this book, not secularism. But as readers see how Butterfield, a former lesbian and feminist college professor, engaged with Christians and gospel issues from a secular point of view, they will learn about gospel engagement in a secular world. Read top quotes from this book.
9. The End of Secularism by Hunter Baker
I haven’t read this one yet but have a lot of respect for Baker. Here’s Crossway’s description of the book:
University scholars have spent decades subjecting religion to critical scrutiny. But what would happen if they turned their focus on secularism? Hunter Baker seeks the answer to that question by putting secularism under the microscope and carefully examining its origins, its context, its claims, and the viability of those claims.
The result of Baker’s analysis is The End of Secularism. He reveals that secularism fails as an instrument designed to create superior social harmony and political rationality to that which is available with theistic alternatives. Baker also demonstrates that secularism is far from the best or only way to enjoy modernity’s fruits of religious liberty, free speech, and democracy. The End of Secularism declares the demise of secularism as a useful social construct and upholds the value of a public square that welcomes all comers, religious and otherwise, into the discussion. The message of The End of Secularism is that the marketplace of ideas depends on open and honest discussion rather than on religious content or the lack thereof.
10. The Christian Mindset in a Secular Society by Carl F. H. Henry
Henry is one of the most important evangelical leaders of the second half of the twentieth century, serving as founding editor of Christianity Today and catalyst for several other major evangelical institutions. This book is older than the others on this list, and much has changed since it was first published in 1984. What hasn’t changed is Henry’s insight into Christian truth and how it applies to our task in a secular world.
D.A. Carson answering my question, “How does the Gospel of John Speak to Our Secular Age.”