James Smith on "Buried Treasure? Reformed Tradition and the Future of the CRC"
October 27, 2010
Updated June 10, 2014
18 comments 233 views
I invite you to listen to this talk that Dr. James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College. He presented it to a combined meeting of CRC agency boards and some guests during their September 2010 meetings.
In a stimulating 28 minutes, Jamie spoke on “Buried Treasure? The Reformed Tradition and the Future of the CRC.” Both the talk and the Q&A after the talk are worth listening to in order to challenge and provoke us pastors, our councils and congregations to re-engage the richness of the Reformed tradition, but NOT traditionalism.
Before teaching at Calvin College, Jamie Smith was saved at a Plymouth Brethren church when he was 18 years old –almost 22 years ago. He came to the Reformed tradition and CRC via Toronto’s Institute for Christian Studies for rich reasons he fascinatingly explains in his talk. He says so much about "Calvinism" and the Reformed tradition/accent that I have appreciated for a long time and keep trying to communicate in my limited way. He points to a number of hallmarks of Reformed thought such as mission vision and covenantal interpretation of the Bible among others that make him wonder why some CRC folks are ashamed of our wonderful theological architecture and try to renovate it with cheap materials.
Lest you think he wants us to go back to my grandfather's CRC, well, I’ll just get out of the way now and let you listen to Jamie Smith. I hope you find this as provocative, clarifying and sheerly enjoyable half as much as I do. Talk about it when you’re at home, on the way and at work. Hang it from the frontlets of your eyes—if you have any frontlets. See how this view of God’s world fits into our visions, into our lives, families, churches and communities.
NOTE: These files are no longer available.
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When I listened to this short (about 30 min.) speech my thoughts went back to my teenage years when we attended young people society conventions and listened to similar (and longer) speeches. Dr. Smith is (and sounds) like a 21st. century Abraham Kuyper. All of us, especially our young people should hear this. Its powerful stuff. Loved it.
James, you are absolutely right. I studied at Calvin Seminary from South Africa in the apartheid years. I came back being encouraged to face my context headon as a result of what I learned at Calvin. We are also crying here in Africa, we think Reformed faith is critical for the renewal of the continent. We should not be ashamed of this heritage. I always tell my afrikaner colleagues who are so obssesed with their particular culture at the expense of the rich heritage they are part of. If it was not the richness of this heritage some of us would not be part of the Reformed churches here in South Africa, but we are not ashamed though we are ridiculed because of the contribution of Reformed churches in Apartheid. There is more that this heritage can do not only in South Africa but in Africa. We are crying like people in Macedonia. Thank you very much for the encouragement. When you come to South Africa, you have our invitation.
Good Stuff. Is there any way I can download this as an MP3 file?
You can download MP3 files here:
Talk MP3 download
Q+A MP3 download
The first file is the opening devotion by Ken Boonstra, not the talk by James Smith. It's a good devo to be sure, but do you have the talk by Smith?
Thanks for letting us know Dan. We've updated the link. Happy listening.
More than one leader in the CRC who heard Jamie deliver this speech said afterward, "I've been waiting for twenty years for someone to say this!." Of course many people say this, often, but Jamie says it embodied in his own particular journey and it's powerful. Jamie is a great gift to the CRC, not to mention the larger Christian church.
Thanks for uploading this stimulating speech. What I found most helpful was Jamie's point about being reformed as a way of being more catholic. This helps us steer away from the kind of provincialism with which the CRC has struggled, and which in turn causes some to dismiss the very reformed distinctives that Jamie calls us to highlight, celebrate, and continue sifting.
Jamie Smith captures what I've been feeling for at least twenty years about the richness of the CRC and the strange phenomenon of CRC persons wanting to "paper over" the best parts of that tradition. I was evangelized into the church with my mom and sister in 1976. I soaked up Reformed theology from my pastor while getting fed dispensationalism at a fundamentalist Christian school. I went to Calvin College and Seminary, and I increasingly came across this embarrassment or even disparagement of the Reformed tradition among CRC people, and even, I have to say, among my fellow CRC clergy. I have frequently found that kind of spiritual masochism disheartening, and it is encouraging to hear Jamie's call to stop trying to bury the treasure we have inherited or found or which has found us. We have much to learn from other traditions (catholicity), and especially, I think, in terms of the liturgical tradition, but we also have much to offer. It's not about being Dutch, or getting uptight about being Dutch or non Dutch. If you're Frisian maybe that's a different matter, But seriously, get over it! Otherwise we will totally lose our distinctive way of holding these things together and thereby lose our reason for existing as a distinct part of the body of Christ. The Dutchness in our history is an important ingredient in the recipe that has made us who we are, in all of our common diversity, one might say. I am thankful that God led my family to this unique part of his body, and I am not ashamed to identify myself with the Dutch-North American Reformed tradition, and neither, I suggest, should any of you who have "van" at the front or -sma" at the end of your names.
"Dominee" Randy Blacketer
And just to clarify, by the "Dutchness in our history" I mean things like the adoption of the (German) Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession, and the formulation of a church order that has served us well and continues to do so even as we tinker with it to enable it to serve us better. I don't mean being tall and blonde and liking salty licorice. Celebrate our peculiarly Dutch-North American Reformed tradition!
Hey, go and visit Holland, you would be just about be convinced that most of the tall, blonde (the licorice I am not sure about) people have moved to North America!
Is there a transcript available to read? I'm in a place where bandwidth is an issue so downloading even an mp3 can be a problem. Thanks.
Along the lines of valuing the heritage of the Dutch Reformed community, I find Kuyper's "Lectures on Calvinism" to be standard. It helped me see past the 5 point TULIP to see the real point of Calvinism, as well as John Bolt's "Christian and Reformed Today." Both older works, but their value is not tied to their age. As a guy who came to the Reformation honestly (I grew up spiritually in a Calvin-hostile environment before breaking free) these and many other works have encouraged me.
Shortly after, The Banner published this. Though I haven't compared it to the audio to know how similar/not it is. I don't know of any transcript.
Thanks! I appreciate it.
The links to the talks are not working. I would love to listen to these talks, do you have alternative links?
I would love to see these files re-posted. This issue is as relevant today as ever. I just met with a group of church planters at a recent conference, and they are resonating with Jamie Smith's call to cease treating our greatest assets as liabilities, and to provide theological leadership to our church and the broader Reformed tradition--but in a way that is distinctly different from the often one-sided, harsh, overly pugnacious, and reductionist picture of "Calvinism" presented by the "Young, Restless, and Reformed."
It looks like the links to this audio and Q&A have been taken down from the site on which they were hosted. I'm not sure if the Calvin College philosophy dept. might have information on whether these audio files are held someplace else.
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