Dr. Dirk Smit joined the Princeton Seminary faculty in the fall of 2017 as the Rimmer and Ruth deVries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life. He is a leader in public theology
in church life in South Africa and
in the ecumenical world. He has
written extensively, in both English
and Afrikaans, on the legacy of the
Reformed tradition and its relevance
to contemporary theological, social,
and political questions.
In 2018 Professor Smit was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Protestant Theological University (Protestantse Theologische Universiteit) in the Netherlands.
Dr. Smit will deliver this year's Annie Kinkead Warfield Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary March 19–22 on the theme “Hope for Even the Most Wretched? Speaking of Election.”
Recently we sat down with Dr. Smit to ask him about his work and what motivates his teaching at Princeton Seminary.
Q: How does your work in South
Africa speak to the current
A: In South Africa, Reformed churches
were deeply involved in many spheres of public life. Together with
colleagues and students, I have been
active in public theology, and I have
been part of the work of the Beyers
Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
In the circles of public theology, but
also through the ecumenical church,
I have taken part in many projects
addressing contemporary global
challenges for faith and for societies
Q: What is your area of study and
what impact do you hope it will
make on the church and society?
A: I am a systematic theologian. Early
in my career, I taught ethics at the
University of the Western Cape. I
was teaching during the years of
political and church struggle against apartheid. While at Princeton
Seminary, I intend to concentrate
on the role of the Reformed faith
in public life, given the diverse
intellectual traditions within the
Reformed tradition and the complex
nature of our contemporary global
I find Princeton Seminary’s residential community and strong sense of belonging to be new, supportive, and enriching.
Q: How will your students be
equipped to participate in the
church’s public witness?
A: Equipping students for the church’s
public witness is indeed at the
heart of my teaching. This includes
teaching students to understand
contemporary public life in our
global world, to understand the
passion, power, and problems of the
Reformed tradition, and to recognize
the rich and diverse nature of witness
in today’s world.
Q: What’s struck you most in your
first few months at Princeton
A: Having taught in various university
settings—at the University of the
Western Cape, the Stellenbosch
University, but also for semesters
as a visiting professor at the
Universities of Marburg and
Heidelberg—I find Princeton
Seminary’s residential community
and strong sense of belonging to
be new, supportive, and enriching.
The residential community, daily
worship, and spiritual life are unique
to the Seminary and differ from my
experiences at secular universities.
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