James K.A. Smith

James K.A. Smith is Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the Center for Social Research at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. He is the author of Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (Baker Academic, 2004) and has edited After Modernity? Secularity, Globalization, and the Re-enchantment of the World (Baylor University Press, 2008). His latest books are The Devil Reads Derrida: And Other Essays on the University, the Church, Politics, and the Arts (Eerdmans, 2009) and Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic, 2009). Read James K.A. Smith's contributions to Christianity and the crash, Reflections on summer reading, and Surveying religious knowledge.

Posts by James K.A. Smith:

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

An atheism a theologian can love

“Strangely enough,” Foucault mused, “man—the study of whom is supposed by the naïve to be the oldest investigation since Socrates—is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things.” He is “only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge” who “will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form.”

Foucault’s flippant requiem for “man” reflects a midcentury antihumanism in European thought, which, in the wake of two World Wars in the heart of Europe, had become suspicious of the “anthropotheism” of humanism wherein “Man” replaced the God who had died. And it is this story that is told so brilliantly by Stefanos Geroulanos in An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought. For these antihumanists, humanistic atheism had never really gotten over its theological tendencies; so the result of the death of God was the divinization of Man.

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Monday, March 16th, 2009

“Bob and weave”: A response to Wolterstorff

<br />Nicholas Wolterstorff’s calm, careful, humble response to my posts might make me look like an overly pugilistic polemicist.  But I think he’s just from a different school of pugilism.  (As a Canadian and long-time hockey player, I think pugilism is a great way to spend a Friday night, with beers afterward.) Wolterstorff is a careful student of the “bob and weave” school of philosophical polemics, turning ill-advised haymakers into merely glancing blows. I, on the other hand, tend to be a student of the George Foreman school of philosophical polemics (and frequent user of his grills to boot!): I’m easily sucked in by rope-a-dopes.  Why stop now?

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Friday, March 6th, 2009

Whig Calvinism?

I’ll close my contribution to this symposium with some broad brush strokes by suggesting that Wolterstorff’s project can be seen as a powerful, persuasive version of a Whig Calvinism, which, instead of ending up with a neoconservativism, ends up with a theistic liberalism.

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Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Whose injustice? Which rights?

<p></p>Wolterstorff (not unlike Jeff Stout) sometimes assumes that commitment to liberal democracy is the only way to care about justice; so a critique or rejection of the paradigms of liberal democracy or rights-talk is seen as a lack of concern for justice per se.  Thus when he sketches the influential narrative of MacIntyre and Hauerwas, he narrates it as “a hostility to justice and rights”—taking it to be the case that an opposition to rights talk is equivalent to an opposition to justice per se.  That seems clearly false to me (to adopt a Wolterstorffian locution!) unless one sets up the matter in a way that simply begs the question.

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Monday, March 2nd, 2009

The paucity of secularism?

<p></p>It seems to me that what worries Wolterstorff about “right order” theories of justice (i.e., communitarian accounts) is that they leave justice at the whim of a particular story, a particular community, and thus leave the wronged without recourse, without a basis for appeal.  If rights are going to “work”—that is, if they are going to provide an extra-story and supra-community criterion for naming wrongs—then the worth of the human person needs to be grounded in some feature or property that is not conditioned by a particular story and which is a feature of all human beings.

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Friday, August 15th, 2008

Who’s afraid of sociology?

Attempts to define “evangelical” often hover between theological definitions from those who self-identify as evangelicals and so-called sociological definitions from those who take themselves to be observers of the phenomenon. Though I don’t think we can make this distinction neat and tidy, let’s work with it as a heuristic starting point. In what follows, I want to make a theological claim for emphasizing a sociological definition. […]

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Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The last prophet of Leviathan

stillborn11.jpgLilla turns aside to the small cadre of the Enlightened who see the story for what it is….“We” turns out to be the sect of modern-day Essenes living on the upper West Side, who have vowed to abstain from the illusions of the masses and consigned themselves to the cold, hard desert “reality” disclosed by reason. Lilla and his exceptionalist monastic brotherhood of enlightened “us” have girded their loins in order to make their way in the world without the comforts of faith and revelation […]

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