You Can’t Think Your Way To God

Christianity Today has published an interview with my friend James K.A. Smith, the philosopher, editor of Comment, and writer of many books, including two that I use in my classes: Desiring the Kingdom and Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?.

The title — and Jamie’s argument — is that you can’t think your way to God. The embodied liturgies and rituals of the Christian life “teach” us in ways that are different from, say, a sermon or lecture.

I understand that evangelicals tend to see ritual as self-management and exertion—as “works.” If that’s all that ritual is, then we should be critical of it. But don’t think of ritual and disciplines as expressions of the self. Think of them as what Craig Dykstra calls “habitations of the Spirit.” Spiritual disciplines aren’t about showing that we’re trying to pursue God. These are gifts that the Spirit inhabits. They are rituals that God invites us into to live into the power of the Spirit. They are the way that you put on Christ.

We evangelicals tend to think of worship as only an expressive activity. Because of that, we’ve lost the downward, God-initiated, formative aspect of worship. Whereas if you recover the sense that God’s initiative is at work, then the rituals and the disciplines are invitations to live into God’s power, not ways for us to spiritually show off.

Definitely read the whole thing — it’s his thesis from Desiring the Kingdom and its follow-up, the recently published Imagining the Kingdom, in a nutshell. Surprising and thought-provoking.

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