Who is James K.A. Smith?

Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by Tom Hart, Aug 4, 2019.

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  1. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    A couple of friends have told me they're reading books by James K.A. Smith. Has anyone here read him? What were your impressions?
  2. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Thank you. These reviews are very helpful.

    My own eyebrows were raised when a friend told me that, in the book he was reading (Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?), Smith was arguing that the postmodernism of Derrida and Foucault ought not to be considered at odds with Christianity. I only replied that I imagined that'd be a tough argument to make.
  4. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, I read that book too. It's awful. Among other things, he "highly recommends" Brian McLaren. McLaren is a "bold explorer" in Smith's estimation. And when D.A. Carson critiques McLaren, it's an "epic adventure in missing the point." Whatever.
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    That's all very concerning. I worry that both of my friends who have read or are reading Smith will be negatively influenced.
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  6. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    I have little experience outside of a few lectures I've seen online of his. From my understanding he seems to be primarily a philosopher/historian in some of his outlook. Not sure of the details of everything, but I at least found helpful some lectures where he deconstructs and explains post-modernism. I found it helpful because many in the church are functioning against modernism, not really realizing we are on another wave that has moved beyond mere modernism, and I thought it was at least interesting what he had to say in the realm of examining America in light of post-modernism. So not sure about his theology, but it seemed his history/philosophy was at least a helpful talking point to consider what we're facing in our current culture.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I've read almost everything Smith has written. His earlier stuff is fantastic. His later stuff is sketchy. He tries to argue that those "postmodern" philosophers are more like Dooyweerdians. I don't think that's accurate. I'll post my reviews of all of his works.

    He is very perceptive in that every culture has a liturgy. He's also pretty good on how habit forms.







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  8. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Thank you. I appreciate this.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Some more thoughts on Smith and Derrida. Smith wants to read Derrida as saying "There is nothing outside the text," which means that every fact is already pre-interpreted. That's Van Til. So far so good. Unfortunately, that's not all derrida said. Ultimately, there is infinite deferral. The meaning of a sign is always deferred. Apply that to the Trinity and you get atheism.
    1. Derrida tries to “un-loose” (gr. analusis; analyze) the structures, usually those made of binary oppositions (hot/cold, good/evil).

      1. Logocentrism: a preoccupation with meaning, rationality, and truth. Privileging presence (speech) over absence (writing).

        1. pharmakon: poison or cure. Writing is both poison and cure. It is poison because it threatens presence, but is necessary for the transmission of thought.
      2. nihilism: nothing real in the world. Only human creations. No real correspondence. Only immanence.
    2. Signs: for Derrida signs are sideways. It is not a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept and sound patterns.

      1. differance. signs acquire meaning only in difference to other signs.

      2. Deferral: meaning is only deferred. The play of signs goes all the way down

        1. Defers presence.

        2. Metaphysics is the science of presence. Derrida, argues, by contrast, that that presence is always already mediated by the play of signs. Thus, there is no pure presence
  10. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    I had to read his "Desiring the Kingdom" at Westminster Seminary and although some things he wrote were true ("the scholar and the university can’t help but be religious; or, in other words, there is no such thing as the secular.") alarm bells to discern him went off all throughout. My notes on him are that he seems to be charismatic, emergent-ish, and formerly Radical Orthodoxy (postmodern philosophy). One wise pastor said Smith was sympathetic to Emergent Chruch, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and guys like N.T. Wright (New Perspectives of Paul heresy) and and Peter Leithart (Federal Vision heresy; "End of Protestantism" author). James K.A. Smith is on my "avoid this author because of bad theology" list.

    I have to ask Jacob, dear brother, why the Dallas Willard icon? He is definitely on my "avoid this author because of bad theology" list. He is heavily influenced by and promotes Roman Catholic mystics and Arminian theology. Road to Rome, no? :hunter:

    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Willard helped me on prayer and studying Edmund Husserl. Willard is strong on metaphysics and epistemic realism. He is the very antithesis of Smith.
  12. Potter

    Potter Puritan Board Freshman

    Interested in this as well.

    I am reading his book, "You are what you love", right now as it is required reading for the "Personal Sanctification" class at RTS online.

    Not sure what to make of the book yet, but it has certainty challenged me.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    In every Smith book about half of it is great. It's when he becomes NPR's token theologian and starts bashing nationalism (but never the UN or globalism) that we get into problems.
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

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