A few weeks ago I wrote a post on some of the concepts found in James K. A. Smith’s book “Desiring the Kingdom.” A few days ago I cam across a helpful review of the book on Reformed Forum’s podcast “Reformed Media Review.” They were a little more critical of the book than I was in my post, but I think they gave some helpful points to think about with reference to the ideas in the book. You can find that review here.
In their review, they appreciated Smith’s attempt to view man as one who is first and foremost a lover and a worshiper. They also appreciated the analysis of what Smith calls our culture’s “liturgies” and the exploration of how Christian liturgy and action affects us spiritually.
On the other hand, they had two major critiques of the book. In both of them they were pushing back on Smith’s view that action is formative to worldview and thought rather than vice versa. Their first critique is that it is ironic that Smith tries to convince the reader that act comes before reflection by writing a book. That is, Smith wants to show how our habits and liturgies precede and form our loves and thoughts, but if that is true, why start with a book format, which is inherently intellectual in nature? If Smith is right, they reason, isn’t this starting at the wrong end? In addition, their critique was also that Smith’s idea seems to go contrary to the focus of Scripture, namely that renewed minds lead to new loves and actions (they referenced Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12).
I think these are helpful things to point out. I mention the review because my post was overall pretty positive, and this review raises some important concerns that I think give a more complete picture of some of the issues involved in this topic. It was certainly helpful for me. I still am very interested in examining this topic because as a conservative Christian of the Protestant variety, I believe that what we do as believers flows out of our salvation, faith and regeneration. On the other hand, I am interested in how these works that come from our faith (or, negatively, works that stem from our unbelief) might have a formative effect on us. I think Smith’s writing and the discussion that is flowing from it is a helpful catalyst for looking at this from a different angle.