In Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, James K. A. Smith asserts that we are not merely, as Descartes suggested, "thinking things" but rather "liturgical animals" who require the formation of our desires. Whether in stadiums or malls, Smith argues, our desires are constantly being formed and consequently constructing our identity. Christian educators, Smith maintains, tend to form their pedagogical approach on the Cartesian model, an approach that is not only an error, but a fundamental misunderstanding of human existence. The only way to counter this approach is not to aim merely at the education of the brain--but at the formation of the kardia (heart). The "secular" culture (according to Smith) does this well through the repetitive (liturgical) exercise of appealing to our hearts by way of our passions.
This, in Smith's mind, is true education, because it is formation. Therefore, education is not "foremost about what we know, but about what we love." If this is the case, then, "[b]eing a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines" but about being a person "who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love." When love is primary the door is open to envision education as a formative process "that involves the whole person, including our bodies, in a process of formation that aims our desires, primes our imagination, and orients us to the world." Only with this approach can education result in a wonderful and creative expression of worship.
Creative, insightful, and exceptionally challenging, Desiring the Kingdom is a welcome critique, and assertion of a new pedagogical approach. It takes account of all facets of human existence, and seeks to shape and form the desire of the heart toward love of neighbor, and love of God.
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