Worldview has been Christian education's byword, codeword, password, keyword, and—for some students—swearword for the past 30 years. Amid the modern cacophony, it has provided a rhetorical and philosophic unifying point for academic communities badly in need of the singularity and depth of vision their mission statements proclaim. So why in Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic) does philosopher James K. A. Smith call for a "temporary moratorium" on this hallowed notion?
This turn is especially shocking given Smith's ecclesial home. The prolific Smith is a polymath who has emerged over the past decade as a force in the world of religious studies, with a reach extending well beyond. And he has done so with Calvin College as his home base and the Dutch Reformed tradition as his inspiration. It was the Dutch whose compelling championing of the "world-and-life view" concept in the mid-20th century so influenced American evangelical intellectuals like Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Arthur Holmes, and Francis Schaeffer, which in turn led to its rapid embrace within the burgeoning evangelical academy in the 1970s.
Now, from the very fountainhead of the Dutch Calvinist stream, Smith intends to disrupt what has become business as usual and push the evangelical academy hard on its fundamental sense of identity. Rather than affirming worldview as a pathway to sophistication and solidity, Smith contends that it is a symbol of capitulation: capitulation to the very enlightened, rationalist conception of human beings that earlier Christian educators had (ostensibly) sought to unmask and defeat with worldview thinking. How does he make this move?
For Smith, worldview-centered education ...1