James K.A. Smith responds to Peter Berger

Recently, I linked to Peter Berger’s reflections on the intellectual contributions of Pentecostal Christians.  James K.A. Smith, whose recent book was referenced Berger’s post, comments:

My only addendum would be a slight caution: Berger is right that I challenge naturalisms of various stripes. But from the context of his discussion, one might thereby conclude that I argue for a “supernaturalism,” whereas in fact the argument in the book (particularly in chapter 4) is also a critique of supernaturalism–or more specifically, what I describe as “interventionist supernaturalism.” My point is that implicit in pentecostal spirituality is an ontology that eschews both naturalism and its contrary, supernaturalism, offering instead an “enchanted naturalism,” a sense that nature is en-Spirited. In other words, implicit in pentecostal spirituality is an ontology that challenges the nature/supernature distinction. (Thus I suggest there are some surprising resonances with la nouvelle théologie.) Perhaps one could say that within a consistent pentecostal worldview, the cosmos is not “interrupted” by supernature; rather, nature is always already “porous” (following Charles Taylors’ account of enchantment in A Secular Age, p. 35).

The upshot is still consistent with Berger’s claim and concerns, but I think it offers a more nuanced account that avoids letting pentecostal spirituality seem merely like ressentiment vis-a-vis naturalism.


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