I have mentioned in earlier posts that I think Smith overstates his case with practices, particularly with practices that are done without a real depth of meaning. Here is what Smith says:
I recognize that some might be uncomfortable with this claim, since it seems to suggest that there can be some sort of virtue in ‘going through the motions.’ On this point, I’m afraid I have to confess that I do think this is true. While it is not ideal, I do think that there can be a sort of implanting the gospel that happens simply by virtue of participating in liturgical practices (this is in the ballpark of the principle of ex opere operato)” (167 fn. 29).
I just don’t buy it. You can see my previous post for thoughts. I just don’t see how this meshes with Jesus’ comment, channeling Isaiah, that people honor him with their lips but their hearts are far from him. Any change that does take place in “going through the motions” is superficial. It seems to me that Smith gets a bit alarmist concerning practices, and sets up a philosophical discussion rather than a theological one which ends up naturalizing the topic, but I’ll leave that for my full review.