My thesis at Denver Seminary is entitled “An Analysis of James K. A. Smith’s Theology of Christian Spiritual Formation in Light of John Frame’s Triperspectivalism.” That’s a mouthful so here’s a synopsis.
James K. A. Smith’s writings are very popular right now within church leadership and Christian education circles (worship leaders seem especially excited about his emphasis on the importance of liturgy). His writing style is approachable (if dense at times) and engaging. He critiques what he believes many evangelical organizations practice as formation, the transmission of propositional truths to people. I find his arguments compelling and helpful but also overstated and incomplete. In order to analyze Smith’s proposals, I use the triperspectivalism of John Frame.
Triperspectivalism is a theological method based in the Trinity. It approaches knowledge from three perspectives; the normative, the existential, and the situational. From the normative perspective, we engage the standards, norms, and rules of God’s world (the Bible is considered the norming norm). From the existential perspective, we engage the affections, desires, and emotions of one’s internal world. From the situational perspective, we engage the world by looking at the context and embodied situation we find ourselves within. By using triperspectivalism, I hope to point out where deficiencies exist and improvements could be made to Smith’s argument. I also hope to show that triperspectivalism is a legitimate way to think about Christian spiritual formation. Not only this, but I think triperspectivalism could be used to create a philosophy of formation or discipleship (much like we do at The Well through Dig Groups) for churches and ministries.