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Conference Presentation

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youth ministry, Charles Taylor, Secular Age, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Religionless Christianity


"Is there any hope for those who have abandoned the church and the beliefs of their youth? More importantly, how will the Christian community engage those who turn their back on religious belief and practice?"

This paper will argue that the response and focus of the Christian community should not be to call young people back to the church, or to traditional forms of Christianity, instead the Christian community must embrace a radical form of secularity that is the outworking of protestant Christianity. This is a form of Christianity that navigates a middle road between the two idealist positions: much of orthodox Christianity that holds to a radical transcendence obsessed with some “other” spiritual dimension, and modern secularism that holds to the idealist reality of money, technology, and progress. This middle way is exemplified in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Religionless Christianity” that calls the Christian community to embrace finite, temporal, human existence as the place where God meets us in Jesus Christ, and the object of divine love revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection. This interpretation of Christianity provides the basis for a form of youth ministry that is less about keeping young people in the church or make sure they are indoctrinated and more about helping young people embrace their humanity in Jesus Christ so they can embrace and live in world. To do this I will bring the philosophical work of Charles Taylor, specifically his book The Secular Age, in which he explores the historical and cultural changes that have influences the way religious belief and faith have been understood within contemporary Western culture, into conversation with Bonhoeffer to provide the basis for a political form of youth ministry.


Paper presented at the biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry held at the London School of Theology in London, England, January 3-6, 2015.