Brief Reviews, VOLUME 3

Brief Review: Thinking in Tongues – James K.A. Smith [Vol. 3, #33]

861849: Thinking in Tongues: Outline of a Pentecostal Philosophy A Brief Review of:

Thinking in Tongues:
Outline of a Pentecostal Philosophy

By James K. A. Smith.
Paperback: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010.
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Reviewed by Jasmine Wilson.

In an interview I conducted with Jamie Smith a few months ago, Smith commented, “I think that my range of denominational experience or background has given me sensibilities, which I’m grateful that I bring to being Christian Reformed that I don’t think others have who have only been Christian Reformed . . .  It means that I inhabit that space a little bit differently.” As a professor at Calvin College, Smith is required to be a member of the CRC church. However, as he has commented here, his personal experience at denominations other than the CRC tradition have given him sensibilities. And thankfully for all of us, he has shared those sensibilities with us in the form of the book, Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy.

In true Pentecostal fashion, this work would make more sense if one knew Smith’s own story. In 2008, Smith wrote two articles that are the introductory research of this book, “Thinking in Tongues,” and “Teaching a Calvinist to Dance.” In the second article, Smith explains that while pursuing a master’s degree at the Institute for Christian Studies, Smith was attending a Pentecostal church. During the week he was being immersed in the theological work of Calvinists, and on the weekends he experienced God showing up in ways only possible at a “crazy” Pentecostal church. Surprisingly, Smith did not see the two worlds as unrelated. Instead, he allowed his Reformed intellectual sensibilities and the Pentecostal stirrings on his material body to mesh into the person he is today. And because of that, he is the ideal person to write a work in which he unapologetically gives an account of Pentecostal theology, an account that is not in spite of certain crazy Pentecostal tendencies, but because of their unique pneumatology, almost as if the Pentecostals have gotten something biblically right that the rest of Christianity has forgotten about.

Smith also shows how Pentecostal theology is important not just for Pentecostals to articulate for themselves, but for all Christians, because there are some ways in which the catholic church is Pentecostal.

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities
and the life of the church." 

-Karen Swallow Prior

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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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