Protestant Educators

Picture of James D. Smart

James D. Smart (1906-1982). Pastor, lecturer in homilectics and Christian education at Knox College, Jesup Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Smart served as editor in chief of curriculum for the Board of Christian Education, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. His influential publications included The Teaching Ministry of the Church (1954), and The Creed in Christian Teaching (1962). A proponent of a theological approach to Christian education, building on the doctrine of the church.

Biography

Influences, Teachings and Writings

The Reverend Dr. James Dick Smart was an internationally renowned writer, Christian educator, theologian, and Presbyterian pastor. He was born in Alton, Ontario, on March 1, 1906, to John George and Janet (Dick). His parents, Presbyterian by denomination affiliation, were much concerned over his Christian education in terms of values and mores (Fadumila 1975). The Christian training and advising they provided in his precollege years evidently played a significant role in shaping his vocations of ministry and religious scholarship in the disciplines of Christian education and hermeneutics.

His educational pursuits initially led him to the University of Toronto where he received a B.A. in 1926 and an M.A. in 1927. After his studies at the University of Toronto he went to Knox College where he studied theology, graduating in 1929. He then pursued post-graduate studies in Germany at Marburg and Berlin (1929-30), where his area of specialization was Old Testament studies. Finally, in 1931 he received his Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Toronto. Knox college conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1956, in recognition of his outstanding ministry and contributions to the Church.

Smart married Christine Mckillop on September 24, 1931. They had three daughters: Margaret Jean, Mary Eleanor, and Janet Ann. The same year he was married, he was ordained to the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in Canada and also became minister of the Ailsa Craig congregation in the Presbytery of London, Ontario. In 1934 he moved to Galt, where he served Knox Church, until he accepted a call to St. Paul's Church, Peterborough, in 1941. He pastored St. Paul's until 1944.

It was during his years of service at St. Paul's that he published his first book, What a Man Can Believe. As a direct result of this book, he was invited to Philadelphia to become the first Editor-in-Chief of a new curriculum development, "Christian Faith and Life," a Christian education project of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He apparently impressed the higher powers of the Presbyterian Church as "a theologian who could communicate well with lay people, was acceptable to the seminaries and the scholarly community, and who represented the growing edge of the Church's theological thinking" (Kennedy, 1980, p. 332).

It fell to Smart and his colleagues to develop a new curriculum for the Presbyterian church, since previous efforts had succumbed to the "modern" curricular approach that featured pupil-centered lessons, a strategy that began with human problems and led to the Word, and an emphasis on activities whereby pupils could "learn by doing" (Kennedy, 1980, p. 327). The new curriculum was to "teach content systematically. That content was to be based chiefly on the Bible. Study of Scripture was to be graded to the level of the pupils, and was to be done… according to the 'best scholarship'" (Kennedy, 1980, p. 330). Smart's belief in "solid doctrinal and biblical study as the basis for discipleship in the world" (Kennedy, 1980, p. 332) was clearly an asset to the curriculum project, but he was less versed in education principles. Consequently he spent his first months of his tenure learning more about the education process, with his colleague Edward Paisely instructing him and guiding him towards the major contributors to the history and philosophy of education, especially in the progressive education that prevailed at that time (Kennedy, 1980, p. 332).

The revised curriculum did have a positive impact on the cause of Christian education in the Presbyterian Church. In addition to reversing the trend of declining enrollment in Sunday school it helped strengthen other components of Christian education such as parent training, home visitation, and more appreciation for the ministry of teaching (Kennedy, 1980, p. 355). Smart served faithfully in the position of Editor-in-Chief for six years from 1944 to 1950 and consequently had a profound influence on Christian education in the United States and Canada.

In 1950 Smart returned to his country of origin to become minister of Rosedale Presbyterian Church in Toronto. In 1951, while serving the Rosedale congregation, undertook the duties of lecturer in Christian education at Knox College (1951-57) and Ewart College. In addition, he was professor of hermeneutics at Knox. During this time he also held the position of editor-in-chief of Curriculum Publications for the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

Throughout this period of time, Smart continued to pursue his passion for writing. Just as his first book, What a Man Can Believe, was a helpful aid for lay people in understanding the basics of the Christian faith, his second publication, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, greatly impacted the church and Christian educators, as he argued for the recovery of theology in the practical departments of the life of the church. Writing from a conservative perspective Smart, in the words of Kenn Gangel and Warren Benson, "shook the liberal establishment considerably… " (1983, p. 319). Harold Burgess described the treatise as "a positive influence in support of the professional community of religious educators. It gave solid, academically responsible, support to the linkage of educational ministries with the broader mission of the church" (1996, pp. 114-115).

Smart's assessment of the state of Christian education during the first half of the twentieth century and his personal "neo-Reformation" theological perspectives were highly influenced by the neo-orthodox scholar Karl Barth and his friend Eduard Thurneysen. The two Swiss theologians helped Smart connect theology to the church's educational responsibilities. Smart describes their impact on him as follows:

They opened up the Scriptures in such a way that revelation ceased to be merely a concept of theology and became the reality of God's present self-manifestation by which the Church and the Christian in the Church might live…
To this was speedily added the conviction that the responsible minister of the Word must also be a critical theologian. Theology had seemed to me to be an academic affair, chiefly concerned with the problems of understanding that arise for the Christian in the intellectual world of the university. It had little relevance for the situation of a village preacher. But Thurneysen's essays and Barth's Dogmatik gave theology a totally different character. In them theology came back out of the university into the Church and was established as an essential activity of the Church in every aspect of its life. (Lewis, et al., p. 371)

Consequently, Smart's efforts were directed towards convincing Christian educators that they must be able and responsible theologians. His enthusiasm and concern for the teaching of a truly biblical theology of Christian education is evidenced in his chief philosophical work on Christian education, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. In his critical assessment of the discipline, he bemoaned the fact that the religious education movement had aligned itself more closely to secular education than to the Church and theological moorings:

It is much happier to have its roots in modern secular education rather than in any tradition of the Church. Even where the educator stands determinedly in the Christian tradition, the interest has been much more emphatic in exploring the educational aspects of the field than in following up the Christian, or distinctly theological, aspects. The literature of Christian education is marked by the absence of serious and thorough theological investigations. The Christian educator apparently has in general assumed that his subject is educational rather than theological. (1954, p. 12)

The conservative writings of Smart produced strong reactions from the more liberal adherents of the older school of religious educational praxis (Cully, 1965, pp. 78-9). For example, Ralph D. Heim, in a review of Smart's Teaching Ministry of the Church, writes:

The total effect on a general reader may be bad because "the present situation" is painted in blacks and whites. Actually, though, there has been a great body of religious educators who have sought to keep the program soundly within the framework of the church's organization, thinking, and mission… To be sure, that slippery word "theology" is used here in so many ways that one finds himself having to stop and determine the particular meaning at the moment. (1956, p. 71)

"Thus" adds Kendig Cully, "the very word 'theology' itself continues to be suspect in some quarters, as connecting, by implication, a species of authoritarianism" (1959, p. 486).

James Michael Lee, champion of the social-science approach to religious education, characterizes Smart as one of the most forceful proponents of the theologically-oriented approach to religious education, going "so far as to assert that theology acts as the primary and supreme norm for all areas of religious instruction, including the very learning process itself" (1971, p. 245). As one might expect, Lee disagrees sharply with Smart's theologically-oriented approach to religious teaching: "My own position is that although theology does indeed serve as a kind of norm for religious instruction, it is by no means the exclusive or even the primary norm. To hold, as does Smart, that theology is normative over such obvious social-science sectors as the learning process is as theologically nonsensical as it is imperialistic" (p. 245).

In 1957, Smart once again left his native country, this time to become Jesup Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary (1957-1971). One also can easily discern a clear shift in his writing and academic pursuits. From this point on he focused his efforts more on biblical theology, and more specifically hermeneutics, rather than the practical theology of Christian education. By this time he was also a frequent lecturer and speaker at colleges and theological seminaries. For example, he was the Carnahan lecturer in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1963), speaking on the theme of "Old Testament in Dialogue with Modern Man." The lectures were later published under the same title. He was also a member of the Society of Biblical Literacy and Exegesis.

In 1970 Smart returned to Toronto and the Rosedale Presbyterian Church he had pastored in the 1950's, this time to work in a collegiate ministry. In 1974 he retired from active ministry, but continued to write and edit, adding to his impressive list of publications. He was an editor for the Westminster Study Edition of the Bible and did the exegesis and introduction on Jonah in the Interpreter's Bible.

In addition to his time-consuming efforts as pastor, theologian, preacher, and writer, Smart was committed to serving in the courts of the Presbyterian Church, both in Canada and the United States. He was Chairman of the Board of Ewert College, a member of the Articles of Faith Committee of The Presbyterian Church of Canada, and a member of the Special Committee of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States, which was responsible for drafting the Confession of 1967.

Dr. Smart passed away suddenly at his home in Toronto on January 23, 1982. He was, and continues to be remembered, as one who influenced not only the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United States, but has had an enduring impact on the universal Church. He is remembered, not only as biblical scholar and theologian, but as a dedicated pastor who touched the lives of people in his various congregations. Craig Dystra eloquently describes the pastor heart of James Smart:

He had a Ph.D. in Semitics, wrote nineteen books, and was a professor of Biblical interpretation at Union Theological Seminary in New York and editor-in-chief of the Christian Faith and Life curriculum of the Presbyterian Church in the USA but James D. Smart always understood himself primarily as a pastor. The pastorate was where he started. He returned to it when he finished his curriculum work. He went back to it again after retiring from Union Seminary. And all the while he was gone from it, he thought of himself, according to one of his colleagues, as a pastor on leave from his parish. (1983, p. 77)

Contributions to Christian Education

Kenneth Gangel and Warren Benson (1983) briefly summarize Smart's contributions to Christian education as follows:

"He writes from a Presbyterian position, arguing in Barthian form that recovery of theology is crucial to the practical departments in the life of the church (a theme that many of us in the evangelical camp have defended, but with different definitions). Smart is relatively conservative, and his 1954 book [The Teaching Ministry of the Church] shook the liberal establishment considerably…" (p. 319).

Sara Little highlights Smart's major views regarding Christian education in her own treatment of The Role of the Bible in Contemporary Christian Education (1961):

"Christian education, therefore, must not carry on its work as 'nothing more than a study of educational psychology and techniques.' It is 'more than methodological addenda to the curriculum.' In the practical department, it is a theological discipline along with biblical, systematic, and historical disciplines. Doubtless Barth might raise some questions with Smart at this point. After six years as editor of the Presbyterian Faith and Life curriculum, the theologian Smart was enough influenced by his own role as educator to see the 'involvement of Christian education in the total structure of theology.' He could say with conviction that 'the teacher of the Word requires the same grounding Biblically, systematically, and historically, as the preacher of the Word'" (71).

Harold Burgess summarizes Smart's contribution to Christian education as follows:

"His more scholarly writings, especially Teaching Ministry of the Church, exerted a positive influence in support of the professional community of religious educators. It gave solid, academically responsible, support of the linkage of educational ministries with the broader mission of the church" (p. 115).

Craig Dykstra summarizes the contributions of Smart to our understanding of the pastor as educator:

"First, he has put the teaching task of the minister in a strong theological perspective. The teaching ministry is at the heart of the church, and Smart shows why. From this perspective, teaching cannot be ignored by the pastor or carried out in only an auxiliary or superficial manner. Second, Smart has called our attention to the profound need of an appropriate and adequate hermeneutic for the use of the Bible in the church and has shown how important the pastor's role as a biblical interpreter in the congregation is" (p. 83).

To fully understand and appreciate Smart's contributions to Christian education theory and practice, one has to understand the historical context from which he writes. The religious education movement was theologically liberal and humanistic, and according to Smart some individuals had even questioned the validity of remaining in continuity with the historic Christian Church. "They have found a Church too narrow that lets itself be bound and limited in any way by a biblical revelation, and they have called not only for a recognition of the revelations of all religions but also for an experimental approach by which the educator may expect to attain religious developments beyond anything to be found in the Christian or any other religion" (1954, p. 12). Consequently, he noted, Christian educators were more interested in exploring secular educational interests than in theological aspects (p. 12). Smart's mission was to reintroduce theological foundations to Christian education and to clarify the place Christian education has in the total structure of theology (p. 45).

For example, in a chapter titled "The Growth of Persons," Smart criticizes the religious education movement of being overly zealous in their dependence upon the findings of developmental psychology in formulating curriculum. It is a fallacy, he says, to assume "that it is a simple matter to discover the needs of persons at various stages of life" ( p. 155). On the other hand, Smart affirms the value of having some knowledge of human development and the specific stages of growth individuals find themselves in. A true understanding or definition of humanity, however, finds its starting point in the person of Jesus Christ (p. 157).

Unfortunately, observes Richard Osmer in his lengthy dissertation on practical theology and Christian education, "Smart does not really expand on how his theologically-derived understanding of humanity interacts with the empirically-derived psychology of human development which he… claims that Christian Education needs" (p. 305). Indeed, after briefly alluding to the benefits of human development findings to Christian education in the beginning of the chapter, Smart makes little or no mention of the relationship of empirical findings to theology of humanity. Osmer concludes, "It seems that he recognizes an inevitable role for some sort of psychological understanding of persons that affords practical directives for education that are grounded in actual observations and empirical research. But how is the practicing Christian Educator to move from one field of discourse to another? Smart gives us no help whatsoever in this regard" (p. 305).

Perhaps Smart's intent is to be descriptive rather than prescriptive on this issue, but he seems to offer little in enabling the reader make the connection between the disciplines of psychology and theology. Once again I appeal to Osmer who concludes that Smart's "preoccupation with theology leaves him aloof from descriptions of the human situation, in this case the description of human or Christian development which he would make use of in dealing with such practical questions as the readiness of certain age levels of stages of faith to appropriate the contents of the Bible or church doctrine" (p. 309). Was Smart's fragile approach to integrating the social sciences with theology intentional (i.e. it was not his intent to do integration), an oversight, or flawed thinking? It is difficult to say. It has been left, however, to those who have come after him to better develop an integrative approach to doing and shaping Christian education (for example, see Clouse, 1993; Downs, 1994; Joy, 1983; Steele, 1990; Wilhoit and Dettoni, 1995; Yount, 1996).


Bibliography

Books

  • Freedman, D. N., & Smart, J. D. (1949). God has spoken: An introduction to the Old Testament for young people. Philadelphia, Westminster.
  • Smart, J. D. (1943). What a man can believe. Philadelphia, Westminster.
  • _____ (1946). The first Christian church: A course for use in Westminster Fellowship summer conferences. Philadelphia: Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
  • _____ (1948). Jesus, stories for children. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1949). A promise to keep. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1953). The recovery of humanity. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1954). The teaching ministry of the church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1957). The divided mind of modern theology: Karl Barth and Rudolph Bultmann, 1908-1933. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1960). The rebirth of ministry. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1961). The interpretation of scripture. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1962). The creed in Christian teaching. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1964). The Old Testament in dialogue with modern man. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1965). Hermeneutische probleme der schriftauslegung. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.
  • ______ (1965). History & theology in Second Isaiah: A commentary on Isaiah 35:40-66. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1967). The Confession of 1967: Implications for the Church's mission. New York: United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations.
  • _____ (1968). ABCs of Christian faith. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1969). The quiet revolution: The radical impact of Jesus on men of His time. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1970). The strange silence of the Bible in the Church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1972). Doorway to a new age: A study of Paul's letter to the Romans. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1977). The cultural subversion of the biblical faith: Life in the 20th century under the sign of the cross. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1979). The past, present, and future of biblical theology. Philadelphia: Westminster.

Edited Books

  • Moxon, I. S., Smart, J. D., Woddman, A. J. (Eds.).(1986). Past perspectives: studies in Greek & Roman historical writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Olin, J., Smart, J. D., and McNally, R. E. (Eds.). (1969). Luther, Erasmus, & the reformation: A Catholic-Protestant reappraisal. New York: Fordham University Press.

Contributions to Books

  • Smart, J. D. (1970). The language problem in evangelism. In R. P. Job and H. K. Bales (Eds.). Issue one: Evangelism (pp. 45-51). Nashville, TN: Tidings.
  • _____ (1983). The theological significance of historical criticism. In D. K. McKim (Ed.). The authoritative Word: Essays on the nature of Scripture (pp. 227-237). Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans.
  • _____ (1981). The Karl Barth-Eduard Thurneysen letters. In H. Rumscheidt (Ed.), Karl Barth in re-view (pp. 55-64). Pittsburgh, PA: Pickwick.

Dissertation

  • Smart, J. D. (1931). A New Approach to Isaiah 40-66. (Doctoral dissertaion. University of Toronto).

Periodicals/Journals

  • Lewis, E., Horton, W. M., Ferre, N. F. S., McCracken, R. J., Heinegken, M. J., Robinson, J. M., Langford, N. F., Thomas, J. N., Hofmann, H., Smart, J. D., Wolf, W. J., and Haroutunian, J. (1956, October). How Barth has influenced me. Theology Today, 13, 371-372.
  • Smart, J. D. (1951, January). Church with a cutting edge. Theology Today, 7, 442-443.
  • _____ (1954, January). Life of man in the light of God. Theology Today, 10, 462-463.
  • _____ (1956, October). How Barth has influenced me. Theology Today, 13, 371-372.
  • _____ (1957, November). Biblical interpretation. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 13, 25-29.
  • _____ (1957). Our present situation in biblical theology: The need for biblical theology. Religion in Life, 26 (1), 22-30.
  • _____ (1958, July). Christian ministry in the light of the Old Testament. Review and Expositor, 55, 235-252.
  • _____ (1959). The minister as pastor. Moravian Theological Seminary Bulletin, 17-34.
  • _____ (1959). The minister as theologian. Moravian Theological Seminary Bulletin, 1-15.
  • _____ (1959, April). Eduard Thurneysen: pastor-theologian. Theology Today, 16, 74-89.
  • _____ (1959, July). The minister as pastor. Canadian Journal of Theology, 5, 180-191.
  • _____ (1960, May-June). Reply to "The theological dilemma in religious education." Religious Education, 55, 169-170.
  • _____ (1965, March-April). Review. The bible and education in Germany [Die biblische Geschichte im Unterricht: Kateschetische Beitrage,]. Religious Education, 60, 131-135.
  • _____ (1966, April). Scripture and the confession of 1967. Theology Today, 23, 31-43.
  • _____ (1966, May-June). The Holy Spirit--superfluous to education or essential: reply to E. Farley. Religious Education, 61, 223-229.
  • _____ (1969, Summer). Sermon on the confession of 1967 and Karl Barth. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 24, 377-383.
  • _____ (1969, July). The language problem in evangelism. Ecumenical Review, 21, 238-244.
  • _____ (1971). Thoughts on returning to the parish. Theology Today, 27 (4), 453-456.
  • _____ (1976, January). Treacherousness of tradition. Interpretation, 30, 12-17.
  • _____ (1979, July). Mark 10:35-45. Interpretatio, 33, 288-293.

Recordings

  • Smart, J. D. (speaker). (1956). Theology in the training of educators [cassette]. (Commencement address recorded at the General Assembly's Training School, Richmond, VA., May 21, 1956. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1958). Teaching ministry of the church [cassette]. Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (An address given at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 4, 1958).
  • _____ (speaker). (1958). Unfinished tasks in religious education [tape reel]. Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • _____ (speaker). (1967). Word and spirit in the Fourth Gospel [cassette]. Atlanta: TRAV. (Lecture recorded at the Montrreat Bible Conference, Montreat, NC, Aug. 18, 1967. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1963). The restoration of dialogue in biblical interpretation [cassette]. (Lecture recorded at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, VA., Nov. 12, 1963. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1967). Law and gospel in Galatians [cassette]. Atlanta: TRAV. (Lecture recorded at the Montreat Bible Conference, Montreat, NC, Aug. 19, 1967. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1968). Hermeneutics and homiletics [cassettes]. (Four lectures recorded at Columbia Presbyterian Church, Decatur, GA., Oct. 28-30, 1968. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1971). The interpretation of Scripture [cassettes]. (Four lectures recorded at the Baptist Pastors' School, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA., June 21-23, 1971. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • _____ (speaker). (1972). One Israel or two: Rom. 11:17, 18 [cassette]. (Thesis Theological Cassettes 3 No. 10).
  • _____ (speaker). (1973). The use of the Bible in the local congregation [cassettes]. (Five lectures recorded at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA., July 3-6, 1973. Library: Union Presbyterian School of Christian Education).
  • Smart, J. D. et. al. (speakers). (1958). Unfinished tasks in religious education [tape reels]. (Recorded at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY).
  • Smart, J. D. et. al. (speakers). (1978). Catalyst, a resource for Christian leaders [cassette]. (cassette 10 2). Waco: Word.

Unpublished Manuscript

  • Smart, J. D. (1960). Memoirs of a ministry: Book I, 1918-1944. (Unpublished manuscript). Philadelphia: Presbyterian Historical Society.

Bibliography of Reviews and Essays on Smart's Works

  • Anonymous (1955, April). Review. The teaching ministry of the church. Canadian Journal of Theology, 1, 58-60.
  • Baxter, E. M. (1955, April). Review. The teaching ministry of the church. Journal of Bible and Religion, 23, 153-154.
  • Boettcher, H. J. (1962, Spring). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Springfielder, 26, 62-63.
  • Butler, J. D. (1956, January). Review: Teaching ministry of the church. Theology Today, 12, 545-546.
  • Coles, S. B. (1962, January). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Canadian Journal of Theology, 8, 69-71.
  • Cully, K. B. (1959). Two decades of thinking concerning Christian nurture. Religious Education, 54, 481-489.
  • Dykstra, C. (1983, Fall). James Smart's contribution to the pastor as educator. Quarterly Review, 3, 77-84.
  • Eelman, J. (1961, March). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Reformed Review, 14, 66-67.
  • Gray, J. (1964, Summer). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Scottish Journal of Theology, 17, 373-376.
  • Gunn, G. S. (1955, December). Review. The recovery of humanity. Scottish Journal of Theology, 8, 432-433.
  • Hedrick, S. (1955, Spring). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Religion in Life, 24, 303-304.
  • Heim, R. D. (1955, Jan.-Feb.). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Religious Education, 50, 71.
  • Jones, I. T. ((1961, January). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Interpretation, 15, 73-76.
  • Kao, C. L. (1965, October). Review: The creed in Christian teaching. South East Asia Journal of Theology, 7, 104-108.
  • Kraft, J. (1941, Autumn). Review. What a man can believe. Religion in Life, 24, 303-304.
  • Lewis, H. (1961). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Religion in Life, 30 (2) 313-314.
  • McDowell, R. (1961, July). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Theology Today, 18, 231-232.
  • Miller, R. C. (1955, Winter). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Journal of Pastoral Care, 9, 235-236.
  • Outler, A. (1962, November). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 18, 99-100.
  • Reeves, K. E. (1962, November). Review: The creed in Christian teaching. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 18, 71-73.
  • Runia, K. (1963, Fall). Review. The interpretation of Scripture. Reformed Theological Review, 22, 25-27.
  • Schroeder, F. W. (1960, November). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Theology and Life, 3, 332-333.
  • Sherrill, L. (1955, March). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 10, 62-63.
  • Slusser, G. H. (1962, Winter). Review: The creed in Christian teaching. Hartford Quarterly, 3, 89-90.
  • Streng, W. D. (1961, Fall). Review. The rebirth of ministry. Lutheran Quarterly, 13, 73-74. The numerous reviews and essays of the works of James Smart are limited to those related to his works on Christian education.

Dissertations and Thesis on Smart's Significance

  • Fadumila, S. B. A. (1975). A comparative analysis of the religious education thoughts of Lewis J. Sherrill and James D. Smart (Thesis. Howard University).
  • Osmer, R. R. (1985). Practical theology and contemporary Christian education: An historical and constructive analysis (Doctoral dissertation. Emory University).
  • Yuh, S. (1996). James D. Smart's paradoxical understanding of human nature as a theoretical basis for a comprehensive religious education curriculum. (Doctoral dissertation. School of Theology at Claremont).

Excerpts from Publications

1954, pp. 12, 19-20, 88, 108.

In 1954, Smart decried the state of Christian education of the past half century. One point of concern was that theology played an apparently unimportant role in the task of doing Christian education: "It is much happier to have is roots in modern secular education rather than in any tradition of the Church. Even where the educator stands determinedly in the Christian tradition, the interest has been much more emphatic in exploring the educational aspects of the field than in following up the Christian, or distinctly theological, aspects. The literature of Christian education is marked by the absence of serious and thorough theological investigations. The Christian educator apparently has in general assumed that his subject is educational rather than theological" (p. 12). Smart makes a clear distinction between preaching and teaching: "Preaching is the call to men in their sin and unbelief to repent and receive the good news that God is ready to come to them, and that, by the power of his Word and his Spirit dwelling in them, he will establish them in the glad free life of his Kingdom…Teaching essentially (but not exclusively) addresses itself to the situation of the man who has repented and turned to God and to the situation of children of believers who through the influence of their parents have in them a measure of faith, even though they have also in them a large measure of unbelief" (1954, 19-20). As a theological starting point for his philosophy of Christian education, Smart takes the doctrine of the Trinity, and attempts to draw implications for church education: "It is clear, then, that the original purpose of Christian education can be undressed only against the background of what the New Testament means by 'God' and by 'Church.' Apart from the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Church, which is the outcome of the doctrine of the Trinity, the New Testament developments do not make sense. The Christian Church came into being as a consequence of an inbreaking of God upon our world that took place in Jesus Christ. It was not to be described in any language that man had hitherto used, because it was a new knowledge of God, and it was a new creation and a new humanity that were born of that knowledge. When men tried to put in human words what they now knew of God and how they knew him, they had to speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (1954, p. 88). Smart explains the rationale for Christian education in this manner: "Christian education exists because the life that came into the world in Jesus Christ demands a human channel of communication that it may reach an ever-widening circle of men, women, and children, and become their life. The aim of Christian teaching is to widen and deepen that human channel, to help forward the growth and enrichment of the human fellowship, through which Jesus Christ moves ever afresh into the life of the world to redeem mankind. the program, therefore, must be such that it will lead people, from their earliest to their latest years, ever more fully and in the most definite way into the faith and life of the Church of Jesus Christ" (1954, p. 108).

1956, p. 372.

In a contribution to a multiple-author work titled "How Barth Has Influenced Me," Smart describes the way in which the eminent neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth impacted his approach to theology, which subsequently helped shape his approach to Christian education: "Though I have had years of specialized studies in Old Testament, I had no preparation for the interpretation of the Old Testament as an essential part of the record of God's revelation of himself and his truth to the Church. A whole new development was clearly needed in which the Old Testament scholar would recognize his responsibility as a Christian theologian. I began therefore to work at the problems of a theological interpretation of the Old Testament… The situation in Christian education during the past half century has been roughly parallel to that in Old Testament studies. The educator has tended to ignore theology, considering himself an educational scientist. In the early 1940's the rising tide of theological interest an concern was making this attitude more and more untenable. My own endeavor has been to convince educators on every level that they must be responsible theologians" (Lewis, et. al., 1956, p. 372).

1962, pp. 11-12.

Smart's reflections on the immensity of the role of a church school teacher: "The church school teacher is not just an individual expressing opinions on various subjects, but to the group of pupils he represents the church of Jesus Christ and speaks for the church to them… What he teaches must be true for him if it is to have any vitality or authority for them. Instead of standing before a neat little task of preparing and delivering a lesson, he stands between immensity's--the infinite possibilities for good and evil in the future that resides in the members of the class and in all the lives that are yet to be touched by them, and the infinite riches of God's grace and truth that reside in the gospel" (1962, pp. 11-12).

1970, p. 24ff.

Smart expresses concern over the silence of the Bible in the church today: "The seriousness of the situation is that the fading of the Scriptures from the consciousness of the church weakens and then ruptures the continuity of the church of today with the church in which it had its origin, so that it no longer remembers the word that called it into being or the purpose that alone justifies its existence… We call the church the body of Christ, but it remains his body only insofar as it is open, responsive, and obedient to his mind and spirit as they confront us ever afresh in the witness of Scripture. Let the Scriptures cease to be heard and soon the remembered Christ becomes an imagined Christ, shaped by the religiosity and the unconscious desires of his worshippers. Every renewal of the church in history has been the consequences of men, after a time of deafness, recovering their ears with which to hear not just the words but the strange disturbing, yet gracious, word that is somehow hidden in the words until it meets the hearer who is ready for it" (1970, pp. 24ff.).

References:

  • Burgess, H. W. (1996). Models of religious education. Wheaton: Bridgepoint.
  • Clouse, B. (1993). Teaching for moral growth. Wheaton: Bridgepoint.
  • Cully, K. B. (1959). Two decades of thinking concerning Christian nurture. Religious Education, 54, 481-489.
  • Cully, K. B. (1965). The search for a Christian education--since 1940. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Downs, P. G. (1994). Teaching for spiritual growth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Dykstra, C. (1983, Fall). James Smart's contribution to the pastor as educator. Quarterly Review, 3, 77-84.
  • Fadumila, S. B. A. (1975). A comparative analysis of the religious education thoughts of Lewis J. Sherrill and James D. Smart (Thesis. Howard University).
  • Gangel, K. O. and W. S. Benson. (1983). Christian education: Its history and philosophy. Chicago: Moody.
  • Heim, R. D. (1955, Jan.-Feb.). Review: The teaching ministry of the church. Religious Education, 50, 71.
  • Joy, D. M. (Ed.). (1983). Moral development foundations. Nashville: Abingdon. Press.
  • Kennedy, W. B. (1980, Winter). Neo-orthodoxy goes to Sunday school: The Christian
  • Lee, J. M. (1971). The shape of religious instruction. Birmingham: Religious Education faith and life curriculum. Journal of Presbyterian History, 58, 326-370.
  • Lewis, E., Horton, W. M., Ferre, N. F. S., McCracken, R. J., Heinegken, M. J., Robinson, J. M., Langford, N. F., Thomas, J. N., Hofmann, H., Smart, J. D., Wolf, W. J., and Haroutunian, J. (1956, October). How Barth has influenced me. Theology Today, 13, 371-372.
  • Little, S. (1961). The role of the Bible in contemporary Christian education. Richmond, VA: John Knox.
  • Osmer, R. R. (1985). Practical theology and contemporary Christian education: An historical and constructive analysis (Doctoral dissertation. Emory University).
  • Smart, J. D. (1954). The teaching ministry of the church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1962). The creed in Christian teaching. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • _____ (1970). The strange silence of the Bible in the Church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Steele, L. L. (1990). On the way: A practical theology of spiritual formation. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Wilhoit J. C., & Dettoni, J. M. (Eds.) (1995). Nurture that is Christian. Wheaton: Bridgepoint.
  • Yount, W. R. (1996). Created to learn. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.

Recommended Readings

Books

Dykstra, C. (1983, Fall). James Smart's contribution to the pastor as educator. Quarterly Review, 3, 77-84.
Kennedy, W. B. (1980, Winter). Neo-orthodoxy goes to Sunday school: The Christian faith and life curriculum. Journal of Presbyterian History, 58, 326-370.
Smart, J. D. (1943). What a man can believe. Philadelphia, Westminster.
_____ (1954). The teaching ministry of the church. Philadelphia: Westminster.

Author Information

Harley Atkinson

Harley Atkinson serves as Associate Professor of Christian Education at Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa Falls, Georgia.

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