Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy

Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy

Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy

Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy


The past several decades have seen a renaissance in Christian philosophy, led by the work of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, Eleonore Stump, and others. In the spirit of Plantinga's famous manifesto, "Advice to Christian Philosophers," James K. A. Smith here offers not only advice to Pentecostal philosophers but also some Pentecostal advice to Christian philosophers.

In this inaugural Pentecostal Manifestos volume Smith begins from the conviction that implicit in Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality is a tacit worldview or "social imaginary." Thinking in Tongues unpacks and articulates the key elements of this Pentecostal worldview and then explores their implications for philosophical reflection on ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, language, science, and philosophy of religion. In each case, Smith demonstrates how the implicit wisdom of Pentecostal spirituality makes unique contributions to current conversations in Christian philosophy.


The oak-paneled walls of the McGill Faculty Club glistened with privilege and prestige; the room felt like it incarnated the university’s global influence and vaunted heritage. the space was abuzz with the quiet, sometimes affected, chatter and conversation of scholars and fawning graduate students, awash in dark jackets, khaki tropological explorer making first contact with an “exotic” world. This was a long way from Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle, perched on the edge of Stratford, Ontario — five hundred miles east but a world away. My discomfort, tinged with just a hint of a thrill, was a product of that cultural distance — as if the trip from Bethel to McGill had stretched taut a rubber band now full of energy, but also prone to snap.

I found myself here due to the hospitality of the Canadian Theological Society (CTS). Each year, cts sponsored a graduate student essay competition and the winner enjoyed travel and accommodations to present the winning paper at the annual meeting. in 1994 this had given me the opportunity to attend my first cts meeting in Calgary, Alberta; having won the competition a second time, I now found myself at McGill. the smaller academic world in Canada yields a kind of professional life that seems more

1. a version of that 1994 paper in Calgary later appeared as James K. A. Smith, “How to Avoid Not Speaking: Attestations,” in Knowing Other-wise: Philosophy on the Threshold of Spirituality, ed. James H. Olthuis, Perspectives in Continental Philosophy Series (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 1997), pp. 217-34; the 1995 paper presented at McGill later appeared as Smith, “Fire from Heaven: the Hermeneutics of Heresy,” Journal of tak 20 (1996): 13-31.

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