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You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (Brazos Press) review: PART ONE -- ON SALE at BookNotes

smith small head shot.jpgYou Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgI want to ease into a review of James K.A. Smith's important new book, a book that I am very, very impressed with, and found to be a joy and of great value, the much-anticipated You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit just about to be published by Brazos Press ($19.99.)  It will be shipping shortly and we will have it on sale at $17.99 very soon.

(We are still taking pre-orders of it, at the 20% OFF extra discount as when we first announced it late last year. or again early in 2016. Those early birds got the pre-order extra discount. See below to get that extra discount, even now, and get to join in an exclusive on-line chat with Mr. Smith, compliments Brazos Press. Extra discount good until the book releases mid-March..)

This new book is truly wonderful and so very important, and it is for me significantly connected to my own journey, my own years of reading and being formed by conversations with others about related themes, and somewhat related authors, so I want to place the release of this James K.A. Smith book within a certain context.  There are other contexts and other stories that could be told about this stellar new work (it is dedicated to worship scholars Robert Webber and John Witvliet, about which I will comment when I review it in earnest) but for those who read BookNotes and care about our bookstore work here, I wanted to offer this particular rumination about one or two pieces, so to speak, of the book's backstory, tributaries, if you will, that have flowed into it and brought Smith to this important point in his career.

I will review the book itself in the next BookNotes, but wanted to share this essay as a preamble to my review. I hope it is stimulating and a bit provocative, helping you come to appreciate the book's importance.  Maybe this is even consistent with the theme of the book - I might convince you to buy it by inviting you to feel warmly about it because it has a story we might care about and a trajectory that captures your imagination. We are what we love, after all, and I love this stuff. I am not saying this with a wink or in irony; not at all. I hope you love good books and big ideas, even ones that, well...

Take a deep breath, and let's begin.

In a remarkable book just out in paperback called How I Shed my Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood Jim Grisley notes how he quietly absorbed racism in the 1960s in his small North Carolina town, without really being explicitly taught about white supremacy, and, in his words, how he "inhabited a universe where certain things simply weren't imaginable." 

Like a black girl kissing a white boy in 7th grade in 1967 in North Carolina, or a white boy liking other boys; few talked about it, and but almost everybody got the message.  Some things just aren't done.  They couldn't even imagine it.

subversive 2nd.jpgWhen reading that line I immediately thought of the powerful collection of essays by Brian Walsh called Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time (Wipf & Stock; $15.00) which invites us to see deeply into our culture and its ideologies, its idols and dysfunctions, its pains and sorrows. Walsh makes the case persuasively that our very imaginations are held captive by the world and, given discipleship imperatives like those found in Romans 12:1-2, we must find out how to become "non-conformed" to these ways of seeing and being in the world that so profoundly hold us captive.

I have told the story before, but it bears repeating here. I thank you for indulging me a bit of reminiscence that I think will set the stage for my review of what I think is probably the most important book of 2016.

Let me explain.

TORONTO

When in the mid-1970s Beth and I were hanging around the campus ministry organization the CCO (the Coalition for Christian Outreach) we studied mimeographed notes from what we ICS_(Toronto)_logo,_RGB_150x100.gifcalled a "Perspectives Class" that we got from Toronto's Institute for Christian Studies which we sensed would be transformational for our lives and our organization. A Dutch philosopher and campus worker who I mention in my chapter in Serious Dreams: Big Ideas for the Rest of Your Life (Square Halo; $13.99), the late Dr. Peter J. Steen, had given them to us. More or less, these notes eventually became the core of the book The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (IVP; $18.00) which you may know is one of the books on my list of those that most influenced me.

The-Transforming-Vision-9780877849735.jpgcreationregained.jpgWhen I announced The Transforming Vision (along with the more succinct and less audacious Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview by Steen's good friend Albert Wolters) at the 40th anniversary of Jubilee a few weeks ago in front of 3500 eager college students, naming it a true Jubilee Classic, I was not kidding. The Transforming Vision was the first major book that systematically explored the full-orbed Biblical perspective that could be called a Christian worldview, and how the false division of life into hermetically sealed off compartments (sacred/secular) that was presumed, breathed in the air of our churches and culture, holding captive our imagination, arose from an unfaithful accommodation to pagan Greek dualism by the early church. In succinct chapters painted with a broad brush, Walsh and his co-author Richard Middleton showed how medieval and even reformation-era theologians continued to accept--sometimes explicitly, sometimes tacitly - this assumption: God really only cared about some things (prayer, church, theology, evangelism, the soul) and other more worldly concerns (politics, art, science, sports, urban planning, economics and such) were of lesser concerns, or at least could be considered as "secular" and disconnected from the heart of discipleship. (As one prof at a Christian college railed to his class in those years after hearing Walsh lecture, "There is no such thing as a Christian view of economics!"

(Regarding my claim that this was the first book of its kind, you can study for yourself the fascinating genealogy of the word weltanschauung -- world and life view/philosophy of seeing -- and learn how it was first used by Christian writers in the magisterial history of the subject by David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans; $34.00) and consider the later struggle to use it wisely in After Worldview edited by J. Matthew Bonzo and Michael Stevens (Dordt College Press; $13.00.) Both books are important, foundational resources.)

SECULARIZATION RESULTS FROM DUALISM: NATURE EATS UP GRACE

In The Transforming Vision, Walsh & Middleton quoted Francis Schaeffer, who was still alive, drawing on Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd, observing that if theologians presume a dichotomy between nature and grace, sooner or later, "nature eats up grace." Or, in other words, if God doesn't really care about, and the Biblical worldview doesn't really given an account for or offer normative principles for the stuff of culture such as economics or science or civic life, then faith is increasingly made small, marginalized, rendered toothless, and the idols of the age - unmoored from the Bible and Christian conviction - grow and become the dominant force of society. We turn away from culture saying it is "the world" or "the devil's territory" or, seemingly more benign, "it is what it is" and don't allow the gospel to truly have its way in transforming the world.  The Kingdom isn't seen as "creation regained" but as escape to heaven and some inner comfort, and, subsequently, the world develops as it does and we wring our hands.

(As John Stott used to say, though, we shouldn't blame meat for rotting; we should blame the preserving salt for not doing its job! Let those who have ears, hear!)

AND A PITHY  DORTHY SAYERS QUOTE

heaven is not my home Paul Marshall.jpgAnd, anyway, as Dorothy Sayers is said to have said, who wants to commit to a religion that is disinterested in most of real life? That's a good question!  Or as Paul Marshall, also at ICS in those years, wrote in his wonderful collection of pieces about Christian living in various sides of life and culture, Heaven Is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God's Creation (Thomas Nelson; $15.99) such a constricted, narrow view of religious life ends up just being boring. How can we conjure much enthusiasm for a faith that disregards so much about life in God's world?

We experience the deformed textures of the world as we now know it in part because of our capitulation to this dualism - God doesn't really care about the stuff of life, it was commonly assumed in the middle of the 20th century evangelical churches.  We can't even imagine serious hope for the real world.  The secularizing spirit of the increasingly influential and brazen admen coupled with the often outright disdain for the world in our churches created a toxic faith orientation that was more gnostic than Biblical and allowed distortion and dysfunction to run amuck in society without much substantive challenge.  Such compromised faith and cultural apathy lead to an ethos in most churches about which Episcopal poet Malcolm Boyd could write that we may study the Hebrew prophets but wouldn't have the imagination to recognize one if he stepped in front of us.

The Transforming Vision not only offered very helpful study on the Biblical narrative (creation-fall-redemption-restoration - in a way that caught the attention of a young Bible scholar named Tom Wright, btw) but critiqued the rise of scientism, technicism, economism, the chief idols that reduced the multi-dimensional goodness of God's creation to stuff that can be managed. And it made a case for students to be a bit more attentive to the philosophies that informed (deformed?) their majors and invited them to be a bit more rigorous in their reflections about their callings. 

In a way the book was channeling into the late 20th century the insights of Dutch theologian and political leader Abraham Kuyper from a century previous who insisted that Christ's Lordship over all areas of life should lead to a public faith lived out with grace and holiness amidst a pluralistic society. Kuyper famously balanced "common grace" (realizing the goodness of the creation and the ways even those hostile to Biblical religion do many good things) and the antithesis between God's Kingdom of light and all other agendas and religious-like forces. (Can anyone say "resident aliens"?)  A transforming vision of God's missional project of redeeming creation which rejects as unbiblical the false dualism of sacred vs secular will free us to "think Christianly" about all of life and create social initiatives of distinctively Christian witness alongside more secularized projects of those in the world.

KUYPER AND BEYOND: REFORMING THE SOCIAL ARCHITECTURE

Such Kuyperian "world formative" believers will work for alternative labor unions based on reconciliation, media outlets that are fair and profound, Christian universities, faith-based businesses, Biblically-influenced counseling centers, art galleries guided by Christian insights into aesthetics, science think-tanks rejecting the religion vs science model, journals that invite conversations about Christians in philosophy, firms seeking normative, responsible views of technology and engineering, will work vigorously for environmental concerns and the like. Maybe even there could be a "third way" Christian political party like what Kuyper started in Holland. Churches will enable their members to take up vocations in the world as thoughtful, informed, change agents, seeking their own spheres of influence for the sake of pointing to God's Kingdom, not merely church growth.

abraham-kuyper-short-personal-introduction-richard-j-mouw-paperback-cover-art.jpgIf you are so inclined, you might benefit from pondering Prime Minister Kuyper's famous lectures given at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898 which are still in print under the title that doesn't do it justice, Lectures on Calvinism (Eerdmans; $18.00) or the very lovely little recent book called Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction by Richard Mouw (Eerdmans; $15.00) to connect those dots.  Smith himself has written about these things and their significance. I love his fabulous collection of essays, reviews, and articles found in Discipleship in the Present Age: Reflections on Faith and Culture (Calvin College Press; $14.99) discipleship in the present age.jpga book we are happy to letters to a young calvinist.jpgstock, or his more specific introduction to gracious, broad Kuyperian themes -- and Augustinian as well -- in his set of lovely pastoral letters to young Reformed Christians called Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition (Brazos Press; $14.99.)   I once (okay more than once) quipped that that particular little book might be subtitled "moving from Piper to Kuyper."

JUBILEE -- NO DUALISMS to TRANFORM EVERYTHING

The CCOs Pittsburgh Jubilee conference developed in the late 70s out of this heady mix of reading philosophy, doing cultural criticism, seeking the "integration of faith and scholarship" and exploring what it meant to be faithful Christians at least somewhat in the line of Kuyper - not pietistic dualists who rejected culture nor heterodox liberals whose churches tended to accommodate to secularization and the spirit of the age. (See this extraordinary short booklet celebrating the impact of 40 years of this yearly gathering and you'll see in an instance what I mean. Do you know anybody doing quite this kind of work with young adults??)

Although Jubilee offers lots of basic, fairly conventional Christian content for young collegiate believers and is known for its commitments to social justice, racial reconciliation and promoting short term mission projects of all sorts, at its heart is this rejection of dualism.  "Everything Matters" it shouted a few years ago. "Transform Everything" was the slogan this year. A year ago when Richard Middleton preached Sunday morning drawing on his stunning, Biblical book A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic; $26.99) he came away from the event and wrote a blog post showing an old "no dualisms" button he found somewhere, having heard that was once a slogan among CCO staff. 

truth is stanger than.jpgAnd here is why I remind you of this: after The Transforming Vision found its way into the world Walsh and Middleton followed it up with a major work called Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (IVP Academic; $22.00) which explored how insights from postmodernity might deconstruct standard-fare evangelical instincts and how a raw immersion in a more knowingly Biblical story (including big themes of injustice and exile and lament) could offer to the broken pomo culture not easy answers of heaven after death, but costly discipleship that points to God's amazing grace that would bring social renewal and cultural restoration and hope-in-history.

But, as they helpfully showed, the Bible's own story isn't one of God bringing instant healing and spiritual revolution, let alone one of breaking promises with the creation and destroying it so we can live in a disembodied, ethereal heaven for eternity, but is a story in which we are called to take up vocations of prophetic denunciation of the idols of our age, serving as salt and light in but not of the world and thereby being a counter culture which bears witness to new creation. (I don't know exactly where Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman got the great phrase "counter culture for the common good" that they have used for years, as I noted in my review in our last post about their new book Good Faith, but it may have resonance with these themes from Walsh & Middleton and ICS and Kuyper and James K.A. Smith.)  Our being somehow in solidarity with the pains of the world is what allows us to be Christ-like and a true counter-culture.

In other words, as Truth Is Stranger... explored, we are called to enter in to the suffering of God's world and follow the upside down Kingdom of a King whose seemingly not-so-royal coronation is on a cross and whose crown is one of bloody thorns.

And that, my friends, is hard to imagine.

CAPTURED IMAGINATIONS? CAPTURED HEARTS?

subversive 2nd.jpgWhich is why I was glad when Brian published that small collection of lectures, papers, sermons -- one given at Jubilee in the mid-80s -- that I mentioned earlier, called Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time (Wipf & Stock; $15.00.) These powerful, astute, demanding essays explored Biblical texts and contrasted the spirit of the age,  drew on the lyrics of Bruce Cockburn, mourned the agonies of creation, decried the plight of the poor often abused by the neo-colonialism of the US empire, and once again exposed as unbiblical the still too-often otherworldliness of most churches. A more recent new edition adds a prophetic, inspiring chapter exploring our current situation among God's people and within the world at large.  I was thrilled to hear just the other week that N.T. Wright (who wrote the forward to it) is using it in an on-line course he is teaching on Christian and biblical worldviews.

The heart of that potent book, though - that our tears of lament and protest against the idols of the age will prove subversive, eroding trust in the untenable promises of those false gods of modernity - is explored in light of one major truth, a truth hinted at in Transforming, made a bit more explicit in Truth Is Stranger and explored directly in Subversive, and it is this: changing our ideas alone will not generate the sorts of reforming Christian vision for life that Biblical faith demands. Getting a theology (or worldview) right simply isn't enough. (It is also why Brian wrote an amazingly insightful, learned, passionate and entertaining book exploring the lyrics of rock singer Bruce Cockburn called Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination (Brazos Press; $22.00.) Poetry, music, and the arts can help us "see" things, allow us to be touched by them, using the right side of our brains, helping us mature our imaginations. As Cockburn sings of poets in Maybe the Poet "you need him and you know it."  Merely assenting to the ideas of a so-called Christian worldview, even one that unmasks dualisms and is grounded in a healthy reading of the Bible using the themes of creation, fall, redemption, restoration, will not truly bring the revival and renewal and Biblical grit that we need to make a difference in the world.

Because, you see, our imaginations are held captive.  Adopting better, bigger ideas in place of bad, constricted ones may help a bit, but -- as Walsh said bluntly in Subversive, after having written books himself about the need for a Christian worldview, which now Smith echoes and significantly develops -- this just isn't radical or effective enough.

We have muted the subversive, idol-challenging, big-picture, transforming vision of the gospel not only because we have thought bought bad ideas, but because we just can't see it.

We might even say that our hearts just aren't in it.

WAIT FOR IT....

Which is to say this: (wait for it, wait for it...) we really, really need this powerful, important new book by James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.

You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgYou Are What You Love makes the case that we come to embrace new ways of living out the faith not only by being lectured to, by reading books, by thinking well - not even by thinking well about the stuff I'm writing about - but by coming to care deeply for these things with our affections, which are shaped, Smith wants to say, mostly and most decisively, by ritual and liturgy and embodied habits. To live out a transforming Christian vision, we need to somehow learn to "learn by heart" and be transformed by the stuff we do, that in turn effects our desires and imaginations. In that sense, true change happens not, as the spiritual formationists put it, simply from the inside out, but from the outside in.  Rituals and habits shapes our tastes, our affections, we love what we do, and we are, then, what we come to love.  We aren't primarily thinkers but we are lovers.  That is how God made us.

THINKING IN TONGUES

Smith studied with Walsh & Middleton in those years that Transforming Vision and Truth Is Stranger Then It Used to Be and Subversive Christianity were being debated and written.  As a Pentecostal kid from a small town in Canada, Jamie Smith came alive when realizing he could honor God - he could worship God--as he studied philosophy.  He describes this in an exceptionally interesting reflection in the first great chapter of his serious, philosophical book Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy (Eerdmans; $19.00.) Yes, Smith the neo-Calvnist Kuyperian postmodern philosopher whose new book is about liturgy is also Pentecostal. 

WHO'S AFRAID OF POSTMODERNISM?

One might surmise that Smith's interest in postmodern philosophy was stimulated at ICS on 220 College Street in Toronto, as he observed there the deep discussions between their brand of "all of life redeemed" neo-Calvinist philosophy and the more rationalistic theological dogma promoted at places like Westminster Seminary or Ligonier, and was around Walsh and scholars who's afraid of postmodernism.jpglike James Olthius as they began to dig deep into postmodern philosophy. Think of Smith's own important little book, based on lectures given at L'Abri, called Who's Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church (Baker Academic; $19.99.) These and his other books on postmodernism do not drift off into weird radical theology or the slippery trendiness of some in the emerging church conversations, yet give a rousing call for historically orthodox believers to engage and in some ways embrace insights from continental philosophy.  Which surely includes rejecting the straight-jacket of faith in autonomous reason that seems so prevalent in many theological circles and, he might say, distorted some of our best theological traditions.

I am not a philosopher (by any stretch) and I don't really know the details of Smith's journey, but I think I can can suggest this much: he is, in some important ways, working out the fundamental concern of Walsh & Middleton in their early books that have meant so much to me, a concern that insists that to be Biblically wise we should reject favoring the rational and systematic and modernist methods by honoring the God-given role of the imagination, the heart, the desires. 

THE BIG SPRAWLING STORY OF MODERNITY

Modernity - that big, sprawling worldview and societal movement linked to the intellectual principles demanding faith in Reason promoted by the secularizing and violent French Revolution at the time of the Enlightenment - left little room for the role of the imagination: everything that mattered (and, for the more extreme thinkers, everything that truly existed) could be measured, counted, named, reduced to some objective Fact.

Theologians - especially those of the late scholastic Catholic era and the seminal Protestant reformation - were so influenced by this modernist worldview, this unbiblically narrow view of knowing and truth, that theology became increasingly abstract, systematic, detailed, debated, becoming something so technical and considered so important that it was worth killing for. People could be burned at the stake for having some nuanced detail wrong about an obscure bit of theological arcana. Later, one could be arrested for reading the wrong novels. It is not the only story, but for some, novels and art was suspect. I know of a otherwise thoughtful Christian woman who disapproved of us selling fantasy novels because, well, this wasn't logical or true. Showing her Madeline L'Engle's The Rock That is Higher: Story As Truth or Calvin Seerveld on Biblically-inspired aesthetic theory didn't help. She was, in her fundamentalism, a child of the Enlightenment and only facts mattered.

In many ways, churches and their theology became as much a curse as a blessing and while church leaders fought (think, especially of the nearly one hundred years of war in Europe related to religion in the late 1500s into the middle of the 1600s) some of the culture went to hell in a hand-basket - and, the glories and good that were developed were disassociated with the grandeur of God. This itself is a shame and a scandal, but there you have it.  You know what the makers of parts for atomic bombs, GE, used to say: "We bring good things to life." Yikes!

DESCARTES STILL IN THE BACKGROUND

You probably know how eventually theologically liberalism ran this into the ground and how American fundamentalism responded; in the US in the 20th century churches were more or less divided into liberal vs conservative camps with all manner of troubles ensuing.  Some of these conflicts and debates were very important, but behind them all seemed to be this larger, usually unquestioned story of the modernity of the Western world. By the end of the last century some had discovered inner spirituality, some had become progressive agents of social justice, some continued to argue theology, sometimes helpfully, sometimes brutally. Church and worship styles came and went, but everybody seemed to still live in the background of a story that said, in Descartes's famous phrase: "I think therefore I am."

NOT A BRAIN ON A STICK, BUT LOVERS;  NOT DATA BUT YADA

Smith deconstructs this problematic view of what kind of creatures humans are. Descartes worldview and the subsequent rationalism of modernity said we are primarily thinkers, "brains on a stick" in Smith's colorful summary. And he also critiques what it means to truly know something (again, the modern view is that knowing is merely assenting to raw data absorbed into the mind as facts.) In a set of much discussed books (Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom -- see below, or search our BookNotes for times I've reviewed them) Smith shows - drawing on the insights he learned from Walsh and Middleton and Al Wolters and Calvin Seerveld and James Olthius at ICS, who were all influenced in those years by Kuyper and Dooyeweerd - that in the Bible the human heart is the center of the human person, not the mind, and that the Biblical word for knowing is yada - the same Hebrew word used to describe sexual intercourse.

Ahh - I helped the CCO a decade or more ago do a series of conferences about wholistic engagement with "heart and mind" that we called Yada, Yada, Yada. And if you don't believe me that this stuff is interesting and vital and consequential, see Esther Meek's small book called A Little Manuel for Knowing (Cascade; $14.00) which invites us to covenantal views of true, wise, deep, knowledge or the chapter called "Knowing is Doing" in Steve Garber's beloved Visions of Vocation (IVP; $16.00.).

With this view of the human person (rejecting Descartes and the modernist illusion of Man the Thinker) and this view of authentic knowing (rejecting the modernist illusion that there are neutral facts one can conquer and thereby truly know in one's mind alone) Smith is working way outside of the box of conventional assumptions, pressing us to think hard about very basic stuff -- what really is the human person, what do we most desire, what is the nature of the heart, what does it mean to really say we know something, how do we change as people and as a society -- from what he considers to be a more Biblical, theologically sound perspective.

the fall of interpretation.jpgSmith has for a long time in his many books explained that a Biblical vision of of the person is more than a "brain on a stick" and our knowing is something more wholistic/spiritual than mere objective assent to raw data. His first major work was on Augustine and hermeneutics  and was called The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic. (Baker; $22.00.) It is an important book, and it should be better known among us.

Especially in his last two recent books, though, and this brand, brand new one Smith helps us see - importantly - that knowing something is not merely intellectual, that we are people who imagine our way into new ways of living, and our imagination is held captive by our loves, that which we most care about. The defining question -- as Augustine said in the earliest centuries of the church -- is less about what we believe, but what we love.

jamie-teaching-seminar.jpgLook: Dr. Smith is a philosopher and writer of books and journalist and college professor - one of the most intellectually robust people I know! - so he surely isn't promoting anti - intellectualism or doing an end-run around the life of the mind. Of course he is writing a book about all this so just get over that seeming irony.

Still, as a scholar, he is adamant: most Christian theologians - and, in the late 20th century, even many of us who promoted the need for a Christian worldview! -- have too closely tied our invitation to "think Christianly" and have a Christian orientation and Kingdom vision to a view that assumed that if we just got our facts right, if we thought differently, if we learned the right stuff, read the right books, critiqued the false ideas, rejected dualism, attended conferences of the missional sort, and paid attention, learned the "Biblical meta-narrative" and understood "creation regained" and the like,  well, we'd start thinking God's thoughts and living in God's ways. The Kingdom might come if only we got rid of the bad ideas and adopted the right ideas about a Christian worldview and learned to articulate them in an orderly, clear-headed fashion.

As I might say in my review of You Are What You Love when I get to it in the next BookNotes, I think Smith maybe overstates this tendency, and that only some who talked about worldview talked about it in that reductionistic, modernist, rationalist manner.  But his point is well taken, nonetheless.  Many of us - liberals and conservatives, activists and pietists, progressives and orthodox, worldview thinkers and dualists, scholars and more practical folk -- somehow really believe (deep down) that if we just learn the right stuff and assent to the right assertions, then we can apply the right Bible principles and change our lives and maybe change the world.  

But, as we might ask nowadays, "how is that working out for you?"

As we will see, in You Are What You Love James K.A. Smith offers a very different approach to spiritual formation and cultural engagement and he greatly, greatly values the role of the local church and its educational and worship ministries to form us into the kinds of people that are able to be "a counter culture for the common good."

As you may know, Smith has developed very complex - some might say at times nearly tedious - arguments for how we know with the heart, and are truly most deeply shaped and formed by rituals (for better or worse, rituals from the world or from the church, thin, unsubstantial ones or thicker, lasting ones) in his last two books, part of what is being called the "Cultural Liturgies" series.

DESIRING THE KINGDOM, IMAGINING THE KINGDOM, AND...

imagining the kingdom cover.jpgdesiring-the-kingdom.jpgProfessor Smith's first major work on all this was Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic; $22.99) and the second was Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Baker Academic; $22.99.) Within a year or so we are told there will be a third one in the "Cultural Liturgies" series, most likely called Embodying the Kingdom. These two are major works, and many have found it valuable to wade through them, both, perhaps with others.  I know some who say they are the most important books they have ever read in their lives.

Into this effort of much writing and speaking about "secular liturgies" and inviting us into a more imaginative view of worldview - he adopts Charles Taylor's "social imaginaries" - and promoting a storied view of how what he most love shapes how we live, Smith has realized the need to offer a book that has a less philosophical tone, fewer academic footnotes, and is more accessible and practical in its appeal. Much of his concern comes back to how we do church, so we wanted to write a book for pastors and church leaders, with more advise given to generate conversations in the local parish.  You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit is that book although I am very glad to tell you that it isn't merely a "dumbed down" short version of the first two.

You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgIn the last few months I tended to describe it that way, in brief, that that is what it would be, just a simpler version of his two others in the "cultural liturgies" project. Now that I have read it, though, I think You Are What You Love deserves to be known as its own unique and stand-alone book - again, not just a simplified edition of previous works. It is marvelous, interesting, thought-provoking, moving, inspiring. Yes, he is re-visiting some portions of Desiring... and Embodying... but even for those that read and understood those volumes, this book is going to be fresh, good, helpful material.  I can't wait to tell you about it.

As I said, I love this stuff.  I hope you care.  This is really, truly, life-changing -- good for the heart and the mind, and the hands and feet as well.  I'll tell you more about it soon.

FREE VIDEO CHAT WITH JAMIE SMITH ABOUT THE BOOK IF YOU ORDER NOW

jkas-features3-bkr.jpg

Click here to see a bunch of quotes about the book, a wonderful, short video clip of Smith talking about the book, and an opportunity to pre-order it through us at an extra discount, 20% OFF and to thereby get access to a special on-line conversation with Jamie next month. This is a special way of saying thank-you to you, with thanks to Brazos for their generous partnership.

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