[Common Places] A Conversation about Cultural Liturgies: An Interview with James K. A. Smith

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors of Common Places on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

As a conclusion to our series of engagements with James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project, Michael Allen and Scott Swain interviewed him regarding the series thus far and concerning its concluding volume. In so doing Smith addresses anthropological, liturgical, formational, and pedagogical matters.

Were there any autobiographical factors (which you’d be willing to share) that led you to write Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom?

James K. A. Smith: A big impetus was an invitation and prodding from my colleague, John Witvliet, who directs the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Around here, at Calvin College and in the Kuyperian tradition more broadly, we’ve been talking about “worldview” for a hundred years. John’s challenge to me was to reconnect worldview to worship, and thereby reconnect the college—and…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theology of Worship

Sue Rozeboom on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

Open book on wooden deck The Christian tradition has ever regarded worship worthy of theological reflection. Though the formal theological sub-discipline of “liturgical theology” did not emerge until the twentieth century, the Christian church has always exhibited an awareness of the significance of exercising theologia secunda—second order reflection—on theologia prima—first order encounter of the living God in worship. When the apostle Paul (1st c.) spoke sharply to folk in Corinth about their lack of Table manners, he was doing liturgical theology (1 Corinthians 10-11). When Basil the Great (4th c.) argued in On the Holy Spirit for the divinity of the Spirit based in part on Trinitarian liturgical tropes, he was doing liturgical theology. Example after example could be offered. Worship…

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[Common Places]: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology: Helps from James K. A. Smith

Scott Swain on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

Holy_Grail_Tapestry_-The_Arming_and_Departure_of_the_KniightsIntroduction: a philosophical handmaiden to liturgical anthropology

How might theological anthropology benefit from James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies series? I suggest that Smith’s project offers theology a philosophical handmaiden to the liturgical anthropology of Romans 6:17: “Thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were delivered.”

The shape of homo liturgicus (1): inside out

The Apostle Paul’s word of gratitude in Romans 6:17 envisions the baptized human being as a worshipping animal, what Smith calls homo liturgicus. To be human, according to this vision, is to be the kind of creature that is moved from the inside out. Christian obedience flows “from the…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theological Anthropology

Ryan Peterson on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

Open book on wooden deck Some of the most influential works in theological anthropology are books not primarily about theological anthropology. For example, Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and Athanasius’s On the Incarnation provide overarching narratives that reveal the logic of the gospel from a specific vantage point. A key aspect of these accounts is the anthropological material—they rehearse and interpret the creation of human persons, the fall of humanity into sin, the means and effects of human reconciliation with God, and the union with God that comes from this reconciliation. Both works provide a compelling narration of the Christian gospel aimed at leading readers to the God of the gospel. Irenaeus and Athanasius model theological anthropology in action, showing why the most compelling Christian anthropologies have been developed in works focused…

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[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 2)

Matthew Drever on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.


As we saw in the previous post, Smith claims an Augustinian starting point. But the phenomenological framework he uses leads to basic differences with Augustine and the Platonist framework he utilizes. These differences compound when we turn to a more detailed examination of Smith’s cultural liturgies project. We see this, for example, in Smith’s use of imagination, which he draws on to replace conscious, rational thought as the primary bridge between our wider reality and our subconscious desires. While Augustine acknowledges that imagination mediates between the world and our experience of it, it is for him as much a liability as a benefit. The imagination can be productive and beneficial as, for example, in his discussions of the incarnation, the goodness of material creation, and the vital role of…

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[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 1)

Matthew Drever on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.


In James K. A. Smith’s rich cultural liturgies series we find an Augustinian voice that on its face resonates in harmony with the fifth-century Bishop but, as one probes deeper, offers a provocative counterpoint to Augustine. Smith claims Augustine as his source of inspiration at various points, going so far as to say that the three intertwined proposals in Desiring the Kingdom on theological anthropology, Christian education, and church liturgy all have their fundamental source in Augustine. On these proposals, however, Smith offers a fascinating blend of Augustinianism and contemporary phenomenology that is at once neither straightforward Augustine nor phenomenology.

Smith’s claims on the nature of the human person are a good place to start because they anchor his wider project on Christian liturgy. Smith’s stated goal is to…

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[Common Places] James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom: A Gospels Perspective

Jonathan Pennington on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,,.


Michael Allen introduced this series of Common Places on J. K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project by noting that at its heart, Smith’s project is to show us that it is indeed the heart, not the head that lies at the root of why we do what we do. We are lovers before we are knowers (both chronologically and logically). Our loves are developed in profound ways by our habits, more than just by our thinking. Thus, as Christian educators and leaders we should be cognizant of the liturgies we partake in and that we produce for others, as these are what lie at the heart of people’s way of being in the world.

Cultural Liturgies 1Smith’s books are well worth…

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[Common Places] On Cultural Liturgies: A Theological Analysis

Michael Allen on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

With a new year comes an opportunity to venture into fresh territory with old resolve. For Common Places, this journey begins with a series of books: the Cultural Liturgies project by James K. A. Smith of Calvin College. While he holds the Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, his ongoing series of books has raised a number of significant questions about the place and nature of worldview in the Christian intellectual culture.

Cultural Liturgies 1The Cultural Liturgies project already includes two volumes. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation offers a new vision for Christian education and formation that centers around desire, love, and the practices that shape them. Its sequel, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, seeks to flesh out a philosophical anthropology to…

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