Conversatio Divina

Book Discussion on James K. A. Smith’s How to Inhabit Time

Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now

Steve Porter

When you review your Christian life, how often do you examine your relation to time? How do you feel about the seconds, minutes, and hours of each day as well as the days, weeks, months, and years of your earthly life? In the words of John Swinton, have you become friends with time?

One of the aims of the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture is to pay attention to persons and words that help us pay attention to what God is up to in our lives and in our world. Recently, we gathered a group of deep souls to attend to Jamie Smith’s recent book How to Inhabit Time. Jamie’s book draws our attention to a temporal tone deafness that can arise among Christians. Jamie writes, “We don’t recognize how much we are products of a past, leading to naivete about our present. But we also don’t know how to keep time with a promised future, leading to fixations on the ‘end times’ rather than cultivating a posture of hope….We are blind to our own locatedness, geographically, historically, temporally.”

Even if you have not yet read How to Inhabit Time, you will find this conversation meaningful. After listening, you may want to pick up the book to go deeper. This conversation takes place between James K.A. Smith, Jennifer Abe, John Swinton, Brandon Rickabaugh, Mike Di Fuccia, and Steve Porter. You can read more about each of them below.

James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin University, where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. Trained as a philosopher with a focus on contemporary French thought, Smith has expanded on that scholarly platform to become an engaged public intellectual and cultural critic. An award-winning author and a widely traveled speaker, he has emerged as a thought leader with a unique gift of translation, building bridges between the academy, society, and the church. Jamie is also a senior fellow at the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture (Westmont College).

Jennifer Shimako Abe is a professor of psychological science at Loyola Marymount University and a senior research associate at LMU’s Psychology Applied Research Center. Her research broadly addresses topics related to mental health service delivery for ethnically diverse populations. Jennifer was part of the Ignatian Colleagues Program (2009-2011) and has long been committed to the intersections of culture, spirituality, and justice in the context of Ignatian values and the university mission.

John Swinton is chair in divinity and religious studies at the University of Aberdeen. For more than a decade he worked as a registered mental health nurse. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital and community mental health chaplain alongside of people with severe mental health challenges who were moving from the hospital into the community. In 2004, he founded the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. John is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was recently elected as a fellow of the British Academy. Among many other publications, John wrote Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship.

Brandon Rickabaugh is an author, public speaker, and assistant professor of philosophy and research scholar of public philosophy at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. His research seeks to understand what unifies and disunifies ultimate reality and human persons. More specifically, he focuses on the nature of consciousness and how it informs our understanding of human nature, the reality and activity of God, and human flourishing. Brandon also serves as a Cultura Fellow at the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture (Westmont College) and Research Fellow at EIDOS.

Michael V. Di Fuccia is director of the Cultura Fellowship at the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture (Westmont College) and Research Fellow for the Centre of Theology and Philosophy (Nottingham, UK). Mike has published on theology and spirituality at both the academic and popular levels.

Steve L. Porter is Senior Research Fellow and Executive Director of the Martin Institute for Christianity & Culture at Westmont College and affiliate professor of theology and spiritual formation at the Institute for Spiritual Formation and Rosemead School of Psychology (Biola University). Steve also serves as editor of the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care.