Hunter Baker does very good work. This new book is called The System Has a Soul. His earlier book The End of Secularism was really worthwhile, and now he is out and about with this collection of essays on similar and related themes.
Secularism is completely bankrupt, and the more people we can get to talk regularly about this useful fact in public, the better I like it. People used to believe that secularization was part of the inevitable march of evolution. Now the ground has shifted, and people are just acquiescing to certain practical realities brought about by the mere fact of pluralism. But, as Baker points out, “There is nothing about that situation that guarantees a secular future” (p. 54). What the future will look like is always an idea, and unless there is divine inspiration for your eschatology, you need to be a little bit careful about your pronouncements. There is no historical inevitability to secularism at all. Baker is one of the few writers today who is willing to point that fact out.
The subtitle of this book is Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, and his work ranges between a number of related themes. He talks about the crisis that higher education faces, he addresses whether social conservatives and libertarians can find any common ground, and what relevance the resurrection might have for political theory. Baker is an intelligent observer of the emperor’s parade, and he has the courage to comment on the emperor’s lack of suitable apparel.
Secularism had already gotten wobbly all by itself, and then God introduced the wild card of fundamentalist Islam. Secularists simply won’t follow their premises out to the logical conclusion, and so God arranged for ISIS to chase them there.
In the midst of this chaos, Baker reminds us that Christians in a society must learn to embrace their high calling.
“The church is a huge influence on the values of the culture. The church works to help the state when it is right and calls the state to righteousness when it is wrong. The church is the soul of the system” (p. 50).
There was an early church father, name began with a D I think, who said very much the same thing when he said Christians something something soul of something society. I was surprised that Baker didn’t quote him as I have done, the quote being so apropos to the subject at hand.
Without a return to something like what Baker is outlining here, we have had it. He deftly uses Elton Trueblood’s metaphor to refer to our “cut-flower civilization” — retaining our shape and glory for a time, but stuck there in the vase, and almost ready to be pressed between the pages of a fat history book.