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I’m sure many Patrol readers can commiserate with me about the sinking feeling I get anytime I hear about some religious person, and particularly a Christian, doing or saying something crazy and/or offensive. As much as I try to not be cynical, a lifetime of disappointment and embarrassment has made me wary.
All that […]
James K. A. Smith is currently Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI where he also teaches in the Department of Congregational and Ministry Studies. He also serves as Executive Director of the Society of Christian Philosophers. His book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation was awarded The 2010 Word Guild Award in Leadership/Theoretical, as well the Christianity Today2010 Book Award in Theology/Ethics. His new book, Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition, was just published by Brazos.
1. You’re currently teaching philosophy at Calvin College, and you’ve written a series of books, from academic philosophical studies to collections of op-ed essays about contemporary Christianity. For Patrol readers who aren’t familiar with your work, tell us a little about your journey: when you became a Christian, when and why you decided upon a life in academia.
I wasn’t raised in the church and became a Christian when I was 18 years-old, back in Canada (through my girlfriend—now wife—doing a little missionary dating). This was a sort of Damascus Road experience for me, not because I’d been a licentious frat boy but because I quickly discovered why I had a brain. I immediately abandoned my plans to become an architect in order to pursue what I sensed was a call to pastoral ministry. When I was a sophomore in college, I discovered Reformed theology and then, shortly afterwards, began reading Francis Schaeffer and later Alvin Plantinga. All sorts of lights went on for me and I began to sense that perhaps my calling was to be a Christian scholar.
So at the end of college, I had to choose between seminary and grad school in philosophy. It was a real struggle for me—one of the few really existential choices I had to make. But when we settled on the academic direction, everything sort of fell into place and I was at peace with the decision. I’m sometimes still tempted by pastoral ministry a bit, but it’s a heck of a lot more work, so that usually passes pretty quickly.
However, I do think it’s been that sort of “pastoral” side that has always made me inclined to be a scholar who tries to serve the church—trying to think through issues and challenges in order to help the church be a faithful witness in our late modern culture. I think that’s what’s behind my more “popular” work: I sometimes describe that as “outreach scholarship.” My exemplar here is Rich Mouw, one of my predecessors in the philosophy department at Calvin and now president of Fuller Seminary. Rich is the model of what we might call an “ecclesial scholar.”
I enjoyed both “The Town” and “The Social Network”, but I was struck by each film’s treatment of women. I’ve seen a lot of articles online bemoaning the sexism of The Social Network, specifically that such a significant film contains no significant female characters.
Rebecca Davis O’Brien writes in the Daily Beast, “Women in […]
Happy Italian-Guy-Who-Sailed-From-Spain-and-Accidentally-Ended-Up-In-the-Americas-and-Thought-He-Was-In-India-and-then-Was-Credited-With-Discovering-America Day!
Just a reminder that beginning tonight and continuing for three nights PBS is airing a mini-series called “God in America.” The series is comprised of 6 episodes, which take the viewer through the history of religion in America beginning with colonization and continuing right through to the present mess day.
Unless you are slobbering neanderthal (a creature that most certainly did not exist… EVER!) you ought to be very frustrated with American political discourse, and equally, evangelical discourse on political America. With the constant stream of opinionating and commentating on the opinionators coming from politicians to the media, to major evangelical mouthpieces, it is almost impossible to find a cogent argument these days that isn’t riddled with fallacies.
So when I discovered The NonSequitur it was like finding the stash of Christmas presents in my parents’ closet still unwrapped. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s “about” page…
A couple of weeks ago, Timothy Dalrymple, Associate Director of Content for Patheos.com, issued a challenge to writers, in part as a response to separate pieces posted here at Patrol,one by Sessions and another by me, both about the Glenn Beck rally back in August. Sessions noted that the real problem with evangelicals’ new love affair with Beck is that it prioritized their common America worship over theological differences; and I, and others, saw the rally as the birth of a new national religion.
Dalrymple posed a set of questions to us personally, and to the larger community in an effort to host a thoughtful and informed discussion about the relationship between religion and politics. You can see his initial invitation here, and the landing page for the discussion, which Dalrymple titled “American Evangelicalism and National Idolatry” here.
My response, in which I posit that President Obama’s 2006 keynote speech at the Call to Renewal conference sets the template for the mixing of religion and politics, has been posted already. Keep checking Patheos.com to watch as this conversation continues.
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