Guest / Limited Access /
You Can't Think Your Way to God
Image: Photo by John Harrison

If there's one refrain coming from James K. A. Smith these days, it's that Christians can't think our way into the kingdom. It may sound strange for a philosopher (at Calvin College) to downplay the role of thinking, but Smith is quick to see the inconsistencies between what we think and what we do. Indeed, he recently caught himself reading the Christian farmer-philosopher-poet Wendell Berry while sitting in the food court at Costco. Smith was struck by the dissonance. Berry is an apostle of mindful and earth-friendly food production and consumption, while Costco is the symbol of American supersized consumption.

When we try to think our way out of such inconsistencies, our behavior keeps coming back to bite us. That's because behavior is not driven by ideas. It is a bodily thing that reflects the way we order—or disorder—our loves and desires.

In 2009, Smith published Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic), in which he argued that in order to help college students put their desires in proper order, Christian higher education needed to incorporate worship and spiritual practices at a foundational level. This year, Smith published a follow-up, Imagining the Kingdom, designed to provide a rationale for, as the subtitle has it, "how worship works." In the book, he interacts with two French theorists—Pierre Bourdieu and Maurice Merleau-Ponty—to understand how human beings use bodily rituals to shape their desires. Former CT editor in chief David Neff talked with Smith about how rituals—both religious and secular—shape our beliefs and affections.

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhen We Love Outrage More Than People: Starbucks Cups and You
When We Love Outrage More Than People: Starbucks Cups and You
It's not Starbucks' job to share the love of Jesus. It's your job.
TrendingHow 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
How 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
Survey: Two in three evangelicals were attending monthly or more at the time of their first abortion.
Editor's PickGood Behavior Matters After All
Good Behavior Matters After All
How I discovered God's plan to reach a lost and sinful world.
Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies)
Baker Academic
224 pp., $18.11
Buy %%var.bookTitle%% from Amazon
Christianity Today
You Can't Think Your Way to God
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.