Stanley Hauerwas, one of America’s preeminent theologians and ethicists, thinks the combination of a “liberal narrative” and modern medicine has led to an inability to deal with death and sickness in a healthy, communal way.
For a set of related reasons Hauerwas claims that the liberal narrative is the story by which the American nation-state […]
Apropos of our ongoing discussion of what religious political engagement should look like amid the culture wars, Conor Williams has made an effort at describing two different faith interacts with American politics. He calls these “ideological religion,” which would be your extreme religious partisan; and “dispositional religion,” which is theologically engaged but less […]
In reading various reviews and reflections on Robert Bellah’s latest tome, Religion and Human Evolution, I was reminded of some thoughts I had written down about Peter Rollins’ work. I have tried to cobble something coherent together here which conveys my general criticism, which is basically historical in nature. One reflection on Bellah at […]
Reading the various reactions of Christian bloggers to the Mark Driscoll book, two in particular stuck with me. The first was by Matt Anderson, who I think described the correct way to think about the event of an evangelical sex book, and also nailed the essentially legalistic character of the Driscolls’ explicitness.
Allow me to direct your attention to a blog post over at the wonderfully named “Hobo Theology.” Full disclosure: the blogger is my brother-in-law. That influences this response in two ways: the first is that I love him more than I love most other bloggers with whom I disagree. Second, I know that the […]
By now you’ve no doubt heard that the Christian corner of the internet blew up over the weekend over Rob Bell’s upcoming book, Love Wins, a galley of which has been resting untouched on my desk for several weeks. If you’re just now tuning in, my friend Sarah Bailey at Christianity Today has […]
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.”
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