[Common Places] A Conversation about Cultural Liturgies: An Interview with James K. A. Smith
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.
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…
[Common Places]: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology: Helps from James K. A. Smith
Introduction: 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…
[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 2)
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…
[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 1)
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…
[Common Places] James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom: A Gospels Perspective
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.
[Common Places] On Cultural Liturgies: A Theological Analysis
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.
The 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…