You Can't Think Your Way to God
You describe Christian belief as the way we navigate the world—not what we confess. How do those two relate?
I wrote that in a context where I engage social theorist Pierre Bourdieu. He had an expansive notion of belief. He thinks your body believes things that your mouth could never articulate. The orthodox Christian tradition was launched with the Incarnation of God in Christ, the apostolic witness, and the Scriptures. But we inherit that rule of faith in two ways: first, in the creeds and confessions of the church (the articulated, explicit aspects of the faith), and second, in the liturgical heritage that hands down the know-how of the faith—our practices, our disciplines, our liturgical forms. Ideally, there's a feedback loop between those two things. If you had just the creeds and confessions without the practices of Christian worship, you would never get the full inheritance of what the Spirit has passed on to us. That inheritance is not owned by Constantinople or Rome or Canterbury. Rather, it is a common universal heritage of the body of Christ that can be renewed for any who call themselves Christians.
Many of the people who shaped modern evangelicalism were worldview thinkers: Carl Henry, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson. Yet you sound critical of using "worldview" as a way of relating to the broader culture.
Worldview is a gateway for me. I'm especially indebted to Schaeffer and to the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. Worldview language helped me see the expansiveness of Christ's claim on all of creation. I don't want to jettison it. I just think there are reductionist versions that tend to overly intellectualize Christianity. Worldview analysis isn't enough to account for the dynamics of our cultural immersion.
If you buy into a certain version of worldview that makes it central, you'll think action is the logical conclusion from the ideas and beliefs that you have in your mind. That's a naïve account of what actually generates behavior. In the history of the church, the spiritual disciplines were never just an informational process. They were formational disciplines that tried to capture our imaginations, not just inform our thinking.
Is there a way to get spiritual know-how apart from engaging in the spiritual disciplines?
I don't think so. 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.