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Select Works of James K.A. Smith (2 vols.)

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Despite the critiques of secular postmodernism, orthodox Christian doctrine is on the rise in many Western cities. In these volumes, Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith intelligently outlines the appeal of the theology of Calvin and the historic Christian faith in our time. Who’s Afraid of Moral Relativism? creatively addresses the challenge of moral relativism through a study of pragmatist thinkers. And Letters to a Young Calvinist frees the world-shaking implications of the Reformation from the narrow debates over predestination, as Smith adopts a pastoral tone in a series of messages to young “New Reformed” Christians. A writer of substance and sensitivity, Smith keenly addresses the Church’s twenty-first century obstacles without compromising foundational beliefs.

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Key Features

  • Addresses the challenges of moral relativism
  • Explains the broad implications of Reformed theology
  • Explains the thought of theological pragmatists, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom

Product Details

Individual Titles

Who’s Afraid of Relativism? Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood

  • Author: James K.A. Smith
  • Publisher: Baker
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Pages: 192

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Following his successful Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? leading Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith introduces the philosophical sources behind postliberal theology. Offering a provocative analysis of relativism, Smith provides an introduction to the key voices of pragmatism: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom.

Many Christians view relativism as the antithesis of absolute truth and take it to be the antithesis of the gospel. Smith argues that this reaction is a symptom of a deeper theological problem: an inability to honor the contingency and dependence of our creaturehood. Appreciating our finite nature as the condition under which we know (and were made to know) should compel us to appreciate the contingency of our knowledge without being arbitrary. Saying “It depends” is not the same as saying “It’s not true” or “I don’t know.” It simply recognizes the conditions of our knowledge as finite, created, social beings. Pragmatism, says Smith, helps us recover a fundamental Christian appreciation of the contingency of creaturehood. Smith engages key thinkers in modern philosophy with a view to ministry and addresses the challenge of relativism in a creative, original way.

It is often observed that one of the most important and revealing questions you can ask someone identified as a ‘thinker’ is ‘What are you afraid of?’ Writing with clarity and great sympathy, Smith helps us see that Christian theologians have betrayed their best insights by being afraid of relativism. He helps us see that the challenge is not relativism itself but rather the epistemological concerns that produced relativism. As is usually the case with Smith’s work, this book is both clear and constructive: he not only provides a clear account of the work of Wittgenstein, Rorty, and Brandom but also develops an account of why and how Christians should navigate the contingent character of our lives.

Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School

In very readable and reliable expositions of Wittgenstein, Rorty, and Brandom, Smith builds an extremely attractive case philosophically for recognizing the place of contingency, finitude, and dependence in human life. From a Christian perspective, this actually reaffirms an acceptance of creaturely existence and thus of a properly orthodox version of relativism, which there is no reason to fear. A wonderful thesis.

—Fergus Kerr, honorary fellow, School of Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Edinburgh

In Who’s Afraid of Relativism? Smith takes a beautiful risk, boldly and successfully making a case for the relevance of pragmatism for contemporary Christian self-understanding. In this remarkable book, he not only succeeds in making the difficult and enigmatic work of complicated thinkers like Wittgenstein, Rorty, and Brandom accessible to the uninitiated (no small task in itself) but also argues convincingly that the pragmatist emphases on contingency and fallibility should play a key role in a Christian understanding of humans as dependent creatures. The mutual hostility between religious thinkers and pragmatists like Rorty is well known; Smith has the wisdom to see past this impasse in a timely and radical effort to encourage contemporary Christians to think differently about themselves.

—Ronald A. Kuipers, author, Richard Rorty

Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition

  • Author: James K.A. Smith
  • Publisher: Baker
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Pages: 160

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Who would have guessed that something as austere as Calvinism would become a hot topic in today’s postmodern culture? At the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, new generations have discovered and embraced a “New Calvinism” with fervor and zeal, finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision. In fact, Time cited New Calvinism as one of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”

Letters to a Young Calvinist provides pastoral and theological counsel, encouraging participants in this tradition to find in Calvin a vision that’s even bigger than the New Calvinism might suggest. Noted Reformed philosopher James K.A. Smith contends that much of what traffics under the banner of New Calvinism reduces “Reformed” to a narrow concern with Calvinistic soteriology. Smith introduces New Calvinists to the “world-formative” Christianity that was unleashed with the Reformation, presenting the Reformed tradition as an Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic. Offering wisdom at the intersection of theology and culture, he also provides pastoral caution about pride and maturity.

The creative and accessible letter format invites young Calvinists into a faithful conversation that reaches from Paul and Augustine through Calvin and Edwards to Kuyper and Wolterstorff. Together these letters sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and imaginative.

My friend Jamie Smith is never boring. Most of the time I cheered ‘Amen!’ as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated Jamie’s model of charity and humility as well as conviction. In the midst of all the encouraging energy of the ‘New Calvinism’ movement, it is also important to say that being Reformed is more than TULIP. These are rewarding and creatively written letters for all of us.

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California

I wish there had been a Jamie Smith to write letters like these to me when I was a young Calvinist. But, hey, I'm glad to get them today! This is a wise and delightfully written portrayal of a robust Calvinism for the twenty-first century.

Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

Letters to a Young Calvinist is a splendid book that speaks to both head and heart, counseling the ‘young, restless, and Reformed’ toward growth into a wider and deeper Reformed tradition. . . . [T]he journey with Smith into the spacious and expansive Reformed tradition is well worth the ride. This wise and witty book is a delight to read!

J. Todd Billings, associate professor of Reformed theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan

Although Letters to a Young Calvinist may not please everyone in the Reformed camp (it is a big and diverse family after all), Jamie Smith has done a fabulous job articulating a winsome and engaging account of the depth, splendor, and joy of the Reformed tradition. I found much of what I hold dear about Calvinism reaffirmed in these interesting letters and at the same time was delighted to learn new insights that got me excited about the tradition all over again. I hope this book introduces a whole new generation to the richness of the Reformed understanding of the faith.

—Jim Belcher, author, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional

James K.A. Smith winsomely steps into one of the most fascinating conversations in contemporary evangelicalism—the surprising resurgence of Calvinism among younger Christians. Letters to a Young Calvinist is thoughtful, nuanced, provocative, relational, and informed. No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciated most was Smith’s careful insistence that there's much more to being theologically Reformed than believing in the famous (and fabulous!) five points of Calvinism. He shows that the Reformed tradition is covenantal and cosmic in scope, big and bright in scale, doctrinal and devotional in spirit. A thoroughly engaging read!

—Tullian Tchividjian, pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; author, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels

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About James K.A. Smith

James K.A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he also holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He is the editor of Comment magazine. Smith has authored or edited many books, including Imagining the Kingdom and the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom. He is also editor of the Church and Postmodern Culture series.

Enjoy February's Monthly Sale


Regular price: $27.99
Save $8.40 (30%)