James K. A. Smith: Praise

Initial praise for Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith, who teaches at Calvin College:

This philosophical theology of culture is the first of a three volume Cultural Liturgies series, and its chief aim was birthed out of a “desire to communicate to students (and faculty) a vision of what authentic, integral Christian learning looks like, emphasizing how learning is connected to worship and how, together, these constitute practices of formation and discipleship.”

I believe this book is going to be received with a hearty “Amen” and that Christians enrolled and employed at universities and colleges will find Smith’s chief aim both consonant and challenging.

Smith, philosopher that he is, wants the reader to slow down and consider the central role of formative/liturgical practices. With much insight he states that, “Because our hearts are oriented primarily by desire, by what we love, and because those desires are shaped and molded by the habit-forming practices in which we participate, it is the rituals and practices of the mall—the liturgies of mall and market—that shape our imaginations and how we orient ourselves to the world.” This is a very compelling and very well phrased statement, no doubt about that. It reminds me of what the historian Eugen Rosenstock-Huessey said over six decades ago in Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man: “Our passions give life to the world. Our collective passions constitute the history of mankind. . . . The heart of man either falls in love with somebody or something, or it falls ill. It can never go unoccupied.”

Love is at core of this book. Smith acknowledges, “human creatures are lovers before and above all else, and that the people of God is a community marked by a love and desire for the kingdom of God.” To be human is to love and to give oneself entirely to the desire for the object of one’s love, and that is why Smith believes when Christians desire the kingdom of God it “might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking-head world of the 700 Club.” Which is why Smith so eloquently says: “The end of learning is love; the path of discipleship is romantic.” And so Smith delves into Romantic Theology, and he asks us to come along.

Mounds of praise for Smith’s new book