Christian Philosopher James K. A. Smith Packs the House

The annual Payton Lectures at Fuller Theological Seminary drew hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and community members to hear James K. A. Smith. Held on Fuller’s Pasadena campus on April 22-23, the animated lectures of Dr. Smith, a renowned Christian philosopher, highlighted the interactions of the church and politics, including issues of how and when Christians should be involved in the political sphere.

Smith, an established figure in Christian theology and philosophy, currently teaches at Calvin College. The author of over 20 books, he is best known as a public philosopher and leader in the movement known as “Radical Orthodoxy,” which seeks to push Christianity beyond a modernist worldview that many in contemporary society find inadequate.

His lectures drew from his current project, a trilogy of books focused on what he calls “cultural liturgies”: the practices that shape us, both in and outside of the church. He claims that everyone worships something—whether it is a traditional notion of God or something like wealth, power, or happiness. Christian worship is a direct and countercultural formation process, turning us into people who do not look like the rest of society.

“Worship is the civics of the city of God, shaping us towards unity with God's will for shalom on earth,” Smith said in his opening lecture. He then noted that even things as simple as watching football games and participating in the workforce are practices that form us to the current cultural and political climate in which we find ourselves: “Every society creates a people; every state creates an ethos.”

The Payton Lectures are an annual conference hosted by the School of Theology. Named in honor of seminary founder Charles E. Fuller’s father- and mother-in-law, the lectures are in their 68th year.

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