Here’s the play-by-play, for those who have been asleep.

Brett McCracken wrote a book, which Jamie Smith reviewed.  I replied to Jamie Smith, who offered the below reply to me.  I post it here in the interest of fairness to Professor Smith.  And because it’s a good reply.


I’m late to the dance here, and haven’t generally been responding to blog traffic about my review, but you and I share some common concerns, so I hope you don’t mind just one interjection from me. Of course, we don’t have to agree on these issues, but perhaps I could clarify a couple of things:

1) First, I would note that any careful reader of my review will find that I do agree with McCracken on some points, even a very basic point–viz., that evangelical concern for “relevance” is an idol that primes us for assimilation. Further, I also agree that his book is, to some extent, a just critique of what I call “posers.” So it’s not like my review some sort of scorched earth rejection. This is also why it’s just false of you to suggest that I somehow think contemporary ideas/trends get a “free pass.” No one who has read my work could suggest that, and I know you’ve read at least some. So that puzzled me. More to the point, there’s not a jot or tittle in the review that suggests what you claim in the end of your post.

2) If I’m guilty of ad hominem, then McCracken’s book is ad hominem from beginning to end. You seem to suggest I’m guilty of ad hominem for my little bit of “psychoanalyzing.” (A lot of people seem to think that any critique which is strident must be ad hominem, but that’s clearly false.) But as one commenter already noted, in fact I was basing this on clues within the book, and also trying to account for McCracken’s cynical voice. Furthermore, if my conjecture is ad homimem, then Hipster Christianityis one long train of the same, since McCracken seems to think he knows the interior motivations of his peers. In short, he does his own psychoanalyzing.

3) Your post seems to ignore the core critique in my review, namely McCracken’s lingering individualism and his naive (or lack of) theology of culture.

FWIW. Yours in hopes for close and careful readings, Jamie.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I think you are being far too generous: that’s not a good reply.

    I agree that ad hominem is an overused claim. But when you resort to psychoanalysis rather than to addressing the claims of the book, that is clearly a rebuttal that is “to the man.” (I also liked the tu quoque he tacks on with his “if . . . then . . .” construction: “. . .if my conjecture is ad homimem, then Hipster Christianity is one long train of the same, . . .”

    Also, if the “core critique” is that McCracken has a “naive (or lack of) theology of culture” then why didn’t he explain that in more detail rather just throwing it out as an assertion?

    There is nothing wrong with Professor Smith’s review if it is merely a gut-level emotional reaction. But if he thinks that everyone has misconstrued his review because they didn’t give it a “close and careful reading” then he might want to read it himself.


    1. I have to agree with Smith. His entire review was about McCracken’s lack of a theology of culture. It wasn’t just some assertion thrown out with nothing to support it.

      (And, BTW, your charge of him using a tu quoque argument is odd seeing as how it is quite obvious that Smith doesn’t think he committed an ad hominem.)


  2. @Carter: um, I’m going to assume you didn’t read my review. Because if you didn’t, then my answer will be found in the review itself. If you DID read my review and still make these points, then there’s nothing I can do to help you.


  3. […] Orthodoxy offers a roundup of links related to Jamie Smith’s critical interaction with Hipster […]


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