James K. A. Smith

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James K. A. Smith
Born 1970 (age 47–48)
Embro, Ontario, Canada
Residence Grand Rapids, Michigan, US
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater
Notable work
  • Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? (2006)
  • Desiring the Kingdom (2009)
  • You Are What You Love (2016)
Era 21st-century philosophy
Thesis How to Avoid Not Speaking[1] (1999)
Doctoral advisor John D. Caputo
Other academic advisors James Olthuis
Website jameskasmith.com

James K. A. Smith (born 1970) is a Canadian philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, holding the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. He is a notable figure associated with radical orthodoxy, a theo-philosophical movement within postmodern Christianity.[3] His work is undertaken at the borderlands between philosophy, theology, ethics, aesthetics, science, and politics. Drawing from continental philosophy and informed by a long Augustinian tradition of theological cultural critique—from Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin to Jonathan Edwards and Abraham Kuyper—his interests are in bringing critical thought to bear on the practices of the church and the church's witness to culture, culminating in the need to interpret and understand what he has called "cultural liturgies".[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Smith was born in 1970 in Embro, Ontario.[5] He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo and Emmaus Bible College. He earned a Master of Philosophy degree in philosophical theology in 1995 at the Institute for Christian Studies[5] where he studied under James Olthuis.[6] He went on to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1999 from Villanova University[5] where he was advised by the noted deconstructionist[citation needed] John D. Caputo.[6] After teaching for a short time at Loyola Marymount University, Smith accepted his current position at Calvin College.

He currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


As a former proponent of radical orthodoxy, Smith's claim is that it is actually theology or, more specifically, the story told by the church that is capable of countering modernism. His popular-level work largely aims at educating evangelicals regarding postmodernism and radical orthodoxy. Though he is critical of the emergent church movement, it should be said that he is at the same time sympathetic to much that could be described as part of that movement. It seems that a primary concern in his work is to expose certain postmodern philosophical claims (and certain ecclesial attempts to work with them) as not actually postmodern enough, pointing out instead that they too have accepted the agenda set by the enlightenment. This is seen in his warnings that the emergent tendency away from historic ecclesial tradition is a grave mistake, and that putting down roots, committing to a community for the long haul, and engaging the deep discourses within historic Christian orthodoxy are in fact the truly post- or counter-modern practices for the church today.

Given his training in continental philosophy and in the theology of the Reformed and Pentecostal traditions, his intellectual interests are a natural fit. Smith's research topics range from the continental philosophy of religion to urban altruism to the relationship between science and theology.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, James K. A. (1999). How to Avoid Not Speaking: On the Phenomenological Possibility of Theology (PhD thesis). Villanova, Pennsylvania: Villanova University. OCLC 42523029. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, James K. A. (December 17, 2015). "Christmas, 2015: Dr. James K.A. Smith". The Anglican Planet. Interviewed by Careless, Sue. Retrieved February 12, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Blog Comment at Women in Theology". 
  4. ^ "Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation". January Series at Calvin College. Calvin College. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  5. ^ a b c "James K.A. Smith". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Smith, James K. A. (2005). Jacques Derrida: Live Theory. London: Continuum. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-8264-6280-0. 

External links[edit]