Faith Formation in a Secular Age
The loss or disaffiliation of young adults is a much-discussed topic in churches today. Many faith-formation programs focus on keeping the young, believing the youthful spirit will save the church. But do these programs have more to do with an obsession with youthfulness than with helping young people encounter the living God?
Questioning the search for new or improved faith-formation programs, leading practical theologian Andrew Root offers an alternative take on the issue of youth drifting away from the church and articulates how faith can be formed in our secular age. He offers a theology of faith constructed from a rich cultural conversation, providing a deeper understanding of the phenomena of the “nones” and “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Root helps readers understand why forming faith is so hard in our context and shows that what we have lost is not the ability to keep people connected to our churches but an imagination for how and where God could be present in their lives. He considers what faith is and what steps we can take to move into it, exploring a Pauline concept of faith as encounter with divine action.
PRAISE FOR FAITH FORMATION IN A SECULAR AGE:
“This is not a ‘youth ministry’ book. This is a book that holds up a mirror to the contemporary church to help us see how we’ve come to reflect the culture around us and how that has changed our approach to faith formation. While this shift has had significant impact on youth, none of us are immune. With his typical combination of careful scholarship, pastoral wisdom, and lively prose, Root not only diagnoses the problem but also constructively charts a way forward. If we care about the future of faith formation, every seminarian should be reading this book.”
—James K. A. Smith, Calvin College; author of You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
“With a little help from Charles Taylor’s notion of transcendence, Root offers a corrective to mere ‘authenticity’ in a kenotic theology that views Christian formation not as affiliation but as union ‘in Christ’ in ministry. More than any living writer, Root has sparked the theological imagination of a generation of youth ministers. In a field of practice notorious for ‘tips, tricks, and techniques,’ this book promises not an easy way forward but one that is faithful nonetheless.”
—David F. White, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
“Root uses the current lament over the loss of the ‘nones’ to lay bare the ultimately secular understandings of faith that these concerns are grounded on. In exchange, he offers a more biblical, theological, and philosophically coherent vision of faith formation that is grounded in transcendence through participation in Christ. A volume worthy of careful study and consideration for the contemporary American church as a whole.”
—Dave Scott, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
“Root’s book is the perfect response to anyone looking at Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and wondering how in the world we got here. It is a masterful weaving together of history, the social sciences, and theological disciplines. Simply put, this book epitomizes what it means to be a practical theologian and ultimately leaves the reader knowing and loving God more.”
—Amanda J. Drury, Indiana Wesleyan University