The Team


Laura Smit

Laura Smit received her BA in Philosophy and French at Calvin College, her MDiv at Calvin Theological Seminary, and her PhD in Medieval Philosophy and Theological Aesthetics at Boston University. Her dissertation was on aesthetic knowing in the theology of Bonaventure. She has been teaching theology at Calvin College (now University) since 1999. She is also currently an ordained pastor in two denominations – ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians and The Christian Reformed Church in North America. Here is how Laura describes her journey toward understanding beauty:

“I was raised in a Christian tradition that did not have much place for beauty. We did care a lot about music, but even when the music was beautiful, I had the clear sense that I was not supposed to focus on that. As an adult, I have concluded that the Reformed tradition doesn’t need to be this way, that the refusal of beauty, of contemplation, of transcendence… these prejudices are not inherent in the Reformed tradition, but can mostly be traced to 19th-century liberal theology that told a crazy story about the need to de-Hellenize the gospel. Despite having been taught such a lot of silliness throughout my life, especially in college, I still held on to a love of beauty, even though I couldn’t always name it. I credit C. S. Lewis with that, because through the Chronicles of Narnia he got to my imagination before all that other education could take root. When I became a pastor, I found that my congregation naturally wanted to connect their spiritual lives with imagination and creativity. Eventually I figured out that the common thread in all the things we were groping after was not art but beauty. When I went to graduate school to think about these things more deeply, I fell into the medieval tradition, where I discovered that most Christians throughout history have thought that connections between beauty and faith were both obvious and important. I’ve been teaching theology at Calvin University for over 20 years, and I find that teaching theology through the lens of beauty is the best way to reach my students with the relevance, power, excitement, and pure attractiveness of Christian theology.”

Jim Turner

Jim Turner received his BA in mathematics from Boston University and his PhD from MIT. He is currently a Professor of Mathematics at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here is how Jim describes his journey seeking to understand beauty:

“My interest in beauty and its relationship to the human understanding of mathematics began when I was fond of reading fantasy and science fiction works in High School that featured stories in which characters encountered parallel worlds, or realities with unusual geometries. Coupled with the geometry classes I was taking, this inflamed my passion for learning mathematics. In college, after embracing Christ Jesus as my savior, I began seeking ways to view the mathematics that I was learning with a theological understanding of creation. In graduate school, as I was working on my doctoral thesis, I became interested in my personal experiences of illumination and wonder experienced at the moments of significant discoveries. Each of these continued to motivate me to articulate the human pursuit of mathematical knowledge in terms of the beauty displayed within the order of reality and grounded in the creative activity of the Triune God.”