March 8th, 2010
Baker, Hunter. The End of Secularism. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009. 224 pp. $17.99.
Secularism has been bandied about by so many intellectuals as the only way in which America can survive. Hunter Baker takes this assumption and pretty much kicks it in the face and shows it to be just what it is…an assumption. For those who do not know Hunter Baker, he is a writer and Christian academic who specializes in religion, politics, history and culture. He currently serves on the political science faculty at Houston Baptist University. He has written for the National Review Online, Journal of Law and Religion, and Christianity Today. In other words, he has studied quite a bit in the realm of secularism.
From the outset, Baker does not pull any punches. He gets right down into it by stating that he has “come to believe secularists are profoundly wrong to suggest that leaving religion out of the public square is a good thing for all involved.” He then states that secularism “is not and should not be synonymous with the separation of church and state.” That is his introduction.
From that point forward he spends a few chapters detailing the history of the development of secularism (both inside and outside of Christianity). He then looks specifically at the history of America to determine whether we were founded as a Christian or secular nation. (Hint: It was really neither.)
After having established the history of secularism and America, Baker then handles the assumption that secularism is a better choice and that a secularist really does not have a scientific claim to formulating political goals. He concludes the book with a look at a case where a state governor and Christian law prof tried to reform the state’s tax code using the philosophy of one Jesus Christ as their reasoning. Interestingly enough, no one complained then.
His conclusion is that “secularism is partisan, shallow and under-examined.”
I have to admit that the political science talk does nothing for me. Nonetheless, Baker lays out some amazing philosophical (that is more to my liking) arguments against secularism. In a nutshell, he offers a cogent argument showing how the entire concept of secularism is bankrupt. No can argue that, in a pluralistic society, kicking religious conversations to the curb will benefit the masses. Sure there are a group of very vocal minorities who would like to see all references to Jesus, God, or any religion, struck from the lips of the public, but the problem is that they will never (hopefully?) be able to convince the public at large against religion. I need not mention that secularism can be defined as a set of religious beliefs do I?
I would recommend The End of Secularism to any pastor or any thoughtful Christian–especially if he or she is planning to attend college. Even if one attends “Christian” university, he will undoubtedly encounter both profs and students wanting to argue for a complete eradication of religion. We are indebted to Hunter Baker for this volume.