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St Mellitus College

24 Collingham Road

London

SW5 0LX

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James KA Smith, theologian at Calvin College, on orthodoxy and art in the Generous Orthodoxy series at St Mellitus College.

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The Art of Hope: Imagining Another World in a World That Breaks Our Hearts

There is something almost surreal about Christianity. At its heart is a string of incredible claims—a God who becomes human; a crucified God who is raised from the dead; a cosmic Creator who knows everything about us and yet loves us, forgives us, and promises to wipe away every tear. Is it any wonder, then, that the Church has been an incubator of the imagination, a wellspring for the arts? If orthodoxy is generous because it has something to offer the world, one of those gifts is an ability to imagine the world otherwise. The Chalcedonian orthodoxy that dares to imagine the mystery of the God-man is the orthodoxy that underwrites an entire artistic tradition that speaks to human hungers. This lecture will consider how and why the Spirit speaks to us in songs and poems, painting portraits of a world we couldn’t otherwise imagine—and why the arts are a conduit of hope in a culture of despair.

James K.A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. The award-winning author of Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, Desiring the Kingdom, and How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (2014), his recent books include You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (2016) and Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (2017). His new book, On the Road with Saint Augustine, will be published in October 2019.

Smith also serves as editor in chief of Image journal, a quarterly devoted to “art, mystery, and faith.” His popular writing has appeared in magazines such as Christianity Today, First Things, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

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St Mellitus College

24 Collingham Road

London

SW5 0LX

United Kingdom

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