Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation

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In the first of a forthcoming three-volume theology of culture, James K Smith argues for something of a paradigm shift regarding the relationship between Christian education and worship, between Christian theory and -Christian practice and between Christianity and culture itself. In short, Smith believes before we articulate a worldview, we worship.

Desiring the Kingdom by James Smith

Smith unpacks this contention in three fundamental movements. Drawing on his Reformed tradition, Smith critiques informational approaches that treat humanity as static containers for ideas rather than believing animals with commitments and trusts. Smith goes on, arguing that we are creatures ori- ented towards loves which form pre-rational understandings, many of which are centered in our imaginations, our affections and somewhat sur- prisingly our bodies. In a rift echoing Augustine, Smith affirms that to be a human is to love, and it is our ultimate loves that define us.

Such loves re- veal our.

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies)

This vision of human flourishing which captures our imagination and is instilled in our bodily practices operates as our vw apl. R kingdom. Drawing on sources as diverse as Aristotle, contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor, and recent work in cognitive psychology, Smith persuasively argues that not only our affections and imaginations but also our non-reflective bodily practices contain this implicit. In his second movement, Smith brings his anthropological insights to bear on cultural practice.

Noting that practices are not equally. Smith contends even the thinnest of practices are not neutral, since all practices are eventually hooked into thick practices. What concerns Smith is the way much world- view talk among Christians ignores the formative role of thick practices. In other words, because Christians have been trained to detect merely cogni- tive elements, most Christians are easily and unwittingly established in per- niciously formative practices with their own affective, identity-oriented, embodied.

More so, many practices mistakenly viewed as neutral have strong religious connotations. At this point Smith, in a way sure to make some readers uncomfortable, begins naming names.

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Smith uncovers the liturgical nature of a trip to the mall, sporting events, certain patriotic behaviors and the various comportments of the university. While relevant to all of those interested in the formative process, this section will be of special interest to pastors, worship leaders and spiritual directors.

Smith rightly considers this section the apex of his book, demonstrating that Christian worship is packed with formative power as a dense, charged and culturally revolutionary event that is a crucial part of forming a distinct bRAFS simultaneously echoing Augus- tine and Yoder. Sensitive to his Neo-Calvinist heritage, Smith is quick to emphasize that all abstention is for counter-cultural activity, not anti-cul- tural posturing.

Smith goes on to talk about the essential relationship of the spiritual disciplines to corporate worship before calling the Christian uni- versity to reconnect herself to the thick practices of the church.

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For only as the Christian university draws deeply from the formative power of ecclesial liturgy, reconnecting Church, chapel and classroom, can she regain her true formative power. Smiths book is highly readable, offering helpful sidebars featuring illustrations from contemporary film and literature as well as a number of figures, making the text accessible to students and teachers alike. Yet Smith offers a convincing and fresh articulation of these within his uniquely Reformed anthropology, cultural theology and view of liturgy.

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Author: R o bert S. Title: doctoral student.


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Desiring the Kingdom : Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation

Humans-as Augustine noted-are "desiring agents," full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love. James K. Smith focuses on the themes of liturgy and desire in Desiring the Kingdom, the first book in what will be a three-volume set on the theology of culture. He redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship.

Students of philosophy, theology, worldview, and culture will welcome Desiring the Kingdom, as will those involved in ministry and other interested readers.

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