How does worship work? How exactly does liturgical formation shape us? What are the dynamics of such transformation? In the second of James K. A. Smith's three-volume theology of culture, the author expands and deepens the analysis of cultural liturgies and Christian worship he developed in his well-received Desiring the Kingdom. He helps us understand and appreciate the bodily basis of habit formation and how liturgical formation--both "secular" and Christian--affects our fundamental orientation to the world. Worship "works" by leveraging our bodies to transform our imagination, and it does this through stories we understand on a register that is closer to body than mind. This has critical implications for how we think about Christian formation.
Professors and students will welcome this work as will pastors, worship leaders, and Christian educators. The book includes analyses of popular films, novels, and other cultural phenomena, such as The King's Speech, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, and Facebook.
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. Smith is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and is editor of the well-received The Church and Postmodern Culture series (www.churchandpomo.org).
This book is a thought-provoking, generative reflection on the imagination-shaping power of Christian worship practices. Smith describes and demonstrates how practices, perceptions, emotions, and thought interact and how together they can be shaped in cruciform ways. What an ideal book for crossing boundaries among academic disciplines and between the academy and the church.
-John D. Witvliet,
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College, and Calvin Theological Seminary
Imagining the Kingdom is a fit successor to Jamie Smith's remarkable Desiring the Kingdom. The new book is, like its predecessor, learned but lively, provocative but warmhearted, a manifesto and a guide. Smith takes Christians deeper into the artistic, imaginative, and practical resources on which we must draw if we wish to renew not only our minds but also our whole beings in Christ.
Clyde S. Kilby Chair Professor of English, Wheaton College
In this wonderfully rich and engagingly readable book of 'liturgical anthropology,' Smith makes a persuasive case for the thesis that human beings are best understood as worshiping animals. It has important implications at once for practical theology's reflection on religious formation, liturgy, and pedagogy and for philosophical theorizing about just what religion is. And it develops as an engaging and lively conversation among an astonishing mix of people: imagine Calvin, Proust, Merleau-Ponty, Augustine, Wendell Berry, Bourdieu, and David Foster Wallace all in the same room really talking to each other about being human and how to think about it!
Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology Emeritus, Yale Divinity School
Jamie Smith shows us that the gospel does not primarily happen between our ears but in all the movements of the body by which we are formed and in turn form the world. I know of no more thorough and sophisticated account of how secular liturgies form and deform us and how Christian liturgies can help. Though sophisticated, Smith's book is also a delight. Its pages are filled with great poetry and insights from films, novels, and everyday life. Smith shows how we encounter God with our whole selves and how God carries us even when we don't know what is going on.
-William T. Cavanaugh,
senior research professor, DePaul University
It is heartening to set one's eyes on Jamie Smith's bold and creative endeavor to awaken Christians, Protestants in particular, to the centrality of worship in even, nay especially, our moral lives. Smith's acute insight into the false and lying stories and liturgies generated by the dominant powers of our economy makes his case for a reclamation of worship within the churches compelling; for this thoughtful book is rightly concerned with a restoration of the Christian imagination rooted in habits of virtue.
professor of religious studies, University of Virginia; author of The Melody of Faith
In the second of three volumes on a theology of culture, Smith (Desiring the Kingdom) urges churches to move beyond pursuing liturgy as a means to an end and instead to understand the embodied aspects of worshipkneeling, standing, singing, the repetition of creedsas ends in themselves. Through liturgical practices, worshippers develop habits that turn them toward enacting Gods shalom kingdom in the world. Arguing that we are guided primarily by imagination, which is primed through the conduit of the body, Smith maintains that the structure of church liturgies matter deeply in providing a counterweight to the liturgies of self-centeredness promoted in the larger culture. Churches that rely too heavily on word alone, or which conform to a mall-culture ethos, threaten to deny people the holistic formation a classic church liturgy provides. Smith uses literature, poetry, philosophy, and film to make a compelling case that it would behoove churches and seminaries to attend more closely to imagination and aesthetics rather than doctrine as central to developing an other-oriented Christian desire. (Feb.) 2012 Reed Business Information