Whose Kuyper? Which Inheritance?

James K.A. Smith In certain sectors of North American Protestantism — sectors, I would say, that seem to have disproportional influence on public discussions — everyone wants to hitch their wagon to Abraham Kuyper. From Chuck Colson’s How Now Shall We Live? to Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, evangelicals have found in Father Abraham a model for robust …

A Peculiar People

I recently returned to Canada for a two-week sojourn to teach at the University of Toronto. This was a homecoming of sorts—to my “home and native land,” to the familiar environs of the U of T, and to the vicinity of the Institute for Christian Studies where I did my master’s degree. But as I was strolling around Queen’s Park …

Writing (and) Theology

There’s no dearth of publishing in Christian theology. To the contrary, an expanding universe of theological publishers seems to churn out more and more books, now supplemented by the ofthailed (and over-hailed, I’d say) blogosphere. So at this moment there are countless theologians writing–sketching outlines and plans, whiling away at manuscripts, passionate about their ideas, all with the aim of …

Making Sense of Church

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During the heat of the 2008 United States presidential election, journalist Bill Bishop offered a tome that helped explain why the lines of demarcation between Barack Obama supporters and those of John McCain seemed so extreme: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. Therein, Bishop (with statistical support from sociologist Robert Cushing) describes the …

Thinking Biblically About Culture

There is a subtle irony in the fact that a book by a liberal theologian has so thoroughly suffused contemporary evangelical selfunderstand ng. H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture has achieved the status of a classic not because it has been particularly influential amongst his mainline confreres, but because his taxonomy of various Christian understandings of “culture” has become a …

The Last Prophet of Leviathan

James K.A. Smith It would be unfortunate if Lilla’s The Stillborn God got lost in the shuffle of the burgeoning industryof Theocracy A larmists, Inc. (fronted by the likes of Chris Hedges and Kevin Phillips)–or even worse, lumped in with the screeds of secular fundamentalists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Unlike these other hapdash offerings to fawning secularist audiences, …

Nothing Outside the Text? Taking Derrida to Church

MARCH 2006: ESSAY Nothing Outside the Text? Taking Derrida to Church by James K. A. Smith Raising the Curtain: Memento Lenny has a problem.1 Well, he has lots of problems–believe me!–but one stands out: he can’t remember what he did five minutes ago. Since a tragic incident involving the death of his wife, Lenny has not been able to make …

How to Get Your Hands Dirty

In his review of Anxious About Empire (Perspectives, May 2005), William Katerberg charitably represents the stance of Jean Bethke Elshtain who scolds those Christians not willing to get their hands “dirty” by compromising, for instance, a Christian commitment to peace and nonviolence. On her account, Christians who criticize the Iraq war, or war in general, are not willing to deal …

Working At Rest

INTRODUCTION There is one thing for which I am regularly (and justly) scolded by my wife: I just don’t know how to rest. Far too often, we find ourselves talking about my inability to just sit on the couch–without a book, without the TV on, without a notepad in hand, without an agenda of some sort. Rest is something I …

“Remember You Are Catholic”

It is no secret that the Reformed tradition can take shape in forms that are deeply sectarian, provincial, and polemical. But if we were to diagnose the cause of such instantiations of Reformed faith, I think we would find one common cause: memory loss. In particular, such sectarian versions of Reformed identity tend to see themselves as relatively new inventions, …