I’ve been reading (and enjoying) James K.A. Smith’s new volume Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, which is the first volume of three in a series he is doing entitled the “Cultural Liturgies” series. I’ve just started it, but I wanted to throw out what seems to be his main premise for discussion. In short, Smith wants to argue that in both Christian education (often focused on “worldview formation”) and evangelical church practice, pedagogy has sought to utilize a misguided anthropology. The focus, says Smith, has been on persons as thinking-beings or believing-beings, rather than, with Augustine, on persons as loving-beings.
By emphasizing persons as lovers, Smith wants to put more weight on the embodied reality of persons, pushing against the prevailing view in certain sectors that we are simply minds trapped in meat. It also means that Smith has grown allergic to Christian discipleship and education as simply information formation – helping people to think according to Christian ideals – rather than a formation of one’s loves to follow the sum of the commandments.
I want to focus on this argument more later, but I thought that this would be a good place to start discussion. I think Smith is right, and I think it is a particularly important point that we are not called to make people lovers, but to help form and direct their loves. In other words, the key question for education is what has formed the students’ love, and what is that love is directed towards. Everyone loves an equal amount, as it were, but that love is often forged in the depths of self-love and cultural assumptions rather than Christian, and therefore necessarily kingdom, visions of reality.