How does worship work? How exactly does liturgical formation shape us? What are the dynamics of such transformation? In the second of James K. A. Smith's three-volume theology of culture, the author expands and deepens the analysis of cultural liturgies and Christian worship he developed in his well-received Desiring the Kingdom. He helps us understand and appreciate the bodily basis of habit formation and how liturgical formation--both "secular" and Christian--affects our fundamental orientation to the world. Worship "works" by leveraging our bodies to transform our imagination, and it does this through stories we understand on a register that is closer to body than mind. This has critical implications for how we think about Christian formation.
Professors and students will welcome this work as will pastors, worship leaders, and Christian educators. The book includes analyses of popular films, novels, and other cultural phenomena, such as The King's Speech, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, and Facebook.
In the second of three volumes on a theology of culture, Smith (Desiring the Kingdom) urges churches to move beyond pursuing liturgy as a means to an end and instead to understand the embodied aspects of worship kneeling, standing, singing, the repetition of creeds as ends in themselves. Through liturgical practices, worshippers develop habits that turn them toward enacting God's shalom kingdom in the world. Arguing that we are guided primarily by imagination, which is primed through the conduit of the body, Smith maintains that the structure of church liturgies matter deeply in providing a counterweight to the liturgies of self-centeredness promoted in the larger culture. Churches that rely too heavily on word alone, or which conform to a mall-culture ethos, threaten to deny people the holistic formation a classic church liturgy provides. Smith uses literature, poetry, philosophy, and film to make a compelling case that it would behoove churches and seminaries to attend more closely to imagination and aesthetics rather than doctrine as central to developing an other-oriented Christian desire.