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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 ...

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Displaying 1–27 of 27 comments

John Mulholland

October 23, 2013  8:16am

This paragraph from the intro does not instill confidence in the report. "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." How bizarre - all of our behavior is driven by ideas, which prompt choices about where to work, study, live, churches to attend or not, etc. Now, it is true that we may not commit our bodies to the ideas we have and the choices we then make, but that then means we do not underestand what is required to become a basketball player, or teacher, or physicist, et al. Dallas Willard talks a lot about training, connecting our bodies to our ideas, but he does not mean that ideas do not drive behavior, only that daily behavior depends on embedding those ideas in our daily habits and life.

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Paul Schryba

June 05, 2013  11:43am

'the marketplace' is nothing but an abstract term for the result of many individual choices. What individuals value is reflected in their choices. 'The marketplace' reflects no values, other than what people place in it. To buy from sweat shops and businesses that place no value on environmental destruction, is to value sweat shops and environmental destruction. Jesus clearly states that we are to seek the kingdom of God first- work is to incarnate love and service, to meet material needs, and not to 'maximize material gain'. The material is to be subservient to the 'spiritual'. In what I can see of your view, man's actions are not free choices, but dictated by 'economic law'. That is not a 'Christian' view of man.

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Paul Schryba

June 05, 2013  11:28am

Jim: Thank you for your comments. Roger: You continually paint the world into a 'black-white' dichotomy, socialist-free market capitalist, and seem incapable of comprehending that someone could oppose your viewpoints without being a 'socialist'. As an academic, you seem to continually view the world through the narrow lens of your own discipline-economics- without considering the broader context in which 'economics' rests. It is the 'biosphere' that provides for man's material well-being; but that same biosphere also supports our biological life. Trees don't just provide board feet of lumber for man's 'use'-they also anchor the soil, provide habitat for other forms of life, and convert CO2 to 02 in the closed system of the earth. None of those last gifts of trees is now currently adequately figured in the 'market price' for lumber. Man's material use (economics) also does not exist apart from human psychology and choice; (cont.)

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Jim Ricker

June 04, 2013  8:23pm

Roger, you can have the last word. Once again you demonstrate how Xians can be just as bad as non-Xians in talking about something they know nothing about but can find a quote to serve their purpose. Continuing to do it only demonstrates your desire to be 'right' more than correct. And since we KNOW Luddites didn't hate technology, we find that you continue to perpetuate a myth so you can still attempt to prove you're 'right' (instead of correct). Rational and understanding conversation on this matter is impossible with you unfortunately - you demand to remain ignorant and use more pull-quotes you got from someone else instead of your own actual knowledge and understanding. As DA Carson quotes his father saying, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” Grace and Peace

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Roger McKinney

June 04, 2013  1:38pm

Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion – put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. That's the end of the poem. But of course, Berry can't consider all of the facts because he desperately keeps himself as ignorant as possible.

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Roger McKinney

June 04, 2013  1:36pm

Sure, Berry, like the Luddites, doesn’t hate technology, just and and every application of it, a distinction without a difference. The quote I posted below and this one from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Movement” sum up his gaia loving, anti-economics, old hippie mentality: So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the

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Jim Ricker

June 03, 2013  8:09pm

Excuse me Roger but your retorts are again, based on false information. 1 - Luddites were NOT against technology, they were against HOW it was being used (or abused from their point of view). Luddites embraced technology (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/What-the-Luddites-Really -Fought-Against.html) (http://westerncivguides.umwblogs.org/2012/04/24/luddism-during-the-industr ial-revolution/) (http://www.learnhistory.org.uk/cpp/luddites.htm). 2 - reading a Wiki entry (an source that is about as trustworthy as most politicians and NEVER accepted by educational institutions due to that very reason) instead of actually reading Berry's works and KNOWING what he espouses instead of believing what SOMEONE ELSE tells you is proving my original points (that you don't know and you assumed what you wanted to and did so from your own biased viewpoint based on your preconceived economic and political desires). In other words, you made my points for me.

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Stan Wiedeman

June 03, 2013  4:55pm

Having struggled with the ritualistic nature of the disciplines lately, I have been reticent to pursue their practice. Smith has offered an exceptionally refreshing explanation of the disciplines that motivates me to enter into their practice more regularly again.

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Roger McKinney

June 03, 2013  1:35pm

I read the Wikipedia entry on Wendell Berry to see if he might be someone worth reading. I think not. He is clearly anti-technology, anti-economics, and anti-progress, in other words, a modern day Luddite. Any claim that he is not an ascetic is just dishonest. Here is a quote from his “The Failure of War”: “Let us have the candor to acknowledge that what we call “the economy” or “the free market” is less and less distinguishable from warfare. For about half of the last century, we worried about world conquest by international communism. Now with less worry (so far) we are witnessing world conquest by international capitalism. Though its political means are milder (so far) than those of communism, this newly internationalized capitalism may prove even more destructive of human cultures and communities, of freedom, and of nature. Its tendency is just as much toward total dominance and control.” BTW, the capitalism he hates so much reduced world poverty by 50% in the last generation.

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Roger McKinney

June 03, 2013  1:09pm

Yes, you bore false witness because you claim I wrote something that I did not write. Nevertheless, since you are an expert on Berry, what about Berry’s writing caused the dissonance in Smith’s mind, because Smith does not say and you refuse to say in any of your posts. And yes, I intended to insult Smith by using “intellectual” because I think he is a false intellectual. You seem to think that lame insults are a good defense of both.

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Jim Ricker

June 01, 2013  8:53pm

Roger, I bear not false witness. You worked with an assumption that is based on your viewing of life through a capitalistic and democratic set of glasses. With this comment from you "Why is their dissonance, unless Berry preached an unbiblical asceticism as the mark of true spirituality? " this proves you 1. have not read Berry and 2. ASSUME that the only way Smith could see a dissonance between being Costco and reading Berry is that Berry is preaching what? You present the either/or argument without knowing what Berry writes and espouses but ASSUME it MUST be something ascetic for there to be any dissonance. No false witness here, just presenting exactly what you wrote. And your using quotation marks in referring to Smith as an intellectual is an insult and I would be willing to venture that you have never read Smith's works. Spouting off ignorantly about what you don't know (Berry's beliefs and views espoused) and insulting Smith's work (w/o understanding) is not biblical.

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Roger McKinney

May 31, 2013  3:44pm

I think the writings of many Christian “intellectuals” betray their uncritical adoption of socialist assumptions. The great economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Most of our contemporaries are highly critical of what they call "’he unequal distribution of wealth.’ As they see it, justice would require a state of affairs under which nobody enjoys what are to be considered superfluous luxuries as long as other people lack things necessary for the preservation of life, health, and cheerfulness. The ideal condition of mankind, they pretend, would be an equal distribution of all consumers' goods available.” Christian “intellectuals” seem to agree: we should all live in misery and self-loathing until not one poor person is left on the planet. In other words, wealth is not a blessing from God; it’s a curse.

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Roger McKinney

May 31, 2013  11:58am

Jim, neither is bearing false witness godly. I did not criticize Berry because I haven't read him. I commented on the fact that Smith found the mall incongruous with Berry's writing. Why would he find incongruity unless he bound in Berry a prescription for a more ascetic form of life than what the mall offered?

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Jim Ricker

May 30, 2013  7:40pm

Berry is nothing close to an ascetic and if you had ever read Berry's work (agreeing or disagreeing is irrelevant), you would not have made such statements about him or 'intellectuals' having unreasonable demands not in line with Scripture. Taking the time to actually read Berry or Smith would go a long way to undersanding before speaking instead of speaking ill in an ignorant fashion. It isn't godly to speak ignorantly and make false statements and give false impressions of others.

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Roger McKinney

May 29, 2013  1:07pm

Zeal without knowledge is just as big a problem as knowledge without worship. The Bible condemns both.

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matt rizzo

May 27, 2013  5:12pm

Thinking your way to God is one thing, but one should never neglect sound reasoning when understanding the holy scriptures. Obviously the source to such sound reasoning and wisdom is the fear of the Lord. I personally love getting involved in Christian forums to discuss matters of faith. We need more sites like http://www.christianitytoday.com and http://www.logos-think.com

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Roger McKinney

May 27, 2013  7:58am

What people like Smith miss is that God will not allow Christians to renew the planet and correct all injustice until the people of this planet end their rebellion. Injustice, environmental degradation, war, disease, famine, poverty, oppression, and injustice are the consequences of that rebellion and part of God's judgment on rebellious people. It is a merciful judgment intended to encourage people to repent and end their rebellion, the the way is narrow and few people respond.

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Roger McKinney

May 26, 2013  7:07pm

Rick, good post! Smith: “The biblical vision is not just a vision of my own personal salvation. It is God's renewal of all things. The end we hope for is shalom, the flourishing of all creation. That means reordering injustices and the disordered social life.” Smith thinks US Christianity has failed because we haven’t transformed the world? The Bible says the nature groans because it has been under a curse since the fall. Mankind suffers from a lack of renewal because most of it is in complete, willing rebellion against the Creator. None of that will change until Christ returns, yet Smith expects a tiny minority of Christians, less than one in seven in the world, to change all of that? We have in “intellectuals” like Smith people who set up unreasonable demands and then condemn Christians for not living up to them. Why can't "intellectuals" be happy with the standards set by the Bible instead of creating new unreasonable burden to make people feel guilt?

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Roger McKinney

May 26, 2013  7:06pm

“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.” Why is their dissonance, unless Berry preached an unbiblical asceticism as the mark of true spirituality? Christian “intellectuals” are impossible to please. The decry the poverty in the world then when God blesses people as he has Americans they complain about the blessings.

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Rick Dalbey

May 25, 2013  9:35pm

Pilgrim if you hate Christians so much, if you hate the rituals, taking communion as Jesus instructed, hate water baptism, hate getting saved as the 3000 did at Peter's first sermon, then why even comment here? If the Bible cannot be relied on, if Christians are so evil why do you keep hanging around the edges haranguing. If you don't want to be saved, you certainly don't have to. Christianity is working. Maybe not for you, but it is the fastest growing religion on the planet. I don't know why you think Christians are ignoring and walking around those that are suffering, alone or abused. There are more Christian charities, relief agencies, food programs, adoption agencies than, well, than atheist charities.

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Eui Young Chon

May 24, 2013  11:55pm

Probably one of the best interviews I've read recently- asking and answering just the right questions at just the right time- highly relevant, and expressed in a way that indeed captures the imagination of those hoping also to have a closer relationship with God. "I'm worried that we absorb a sensibility from secular liturgies that makes us buy the story that our salvation is in novelty...The postmodern future of the church is in remembering things that we've forgotten." YES! "Christian belief as the way we navigate the world—not what we confess" "[ Pierre Bourdieu] thinks your body believes things that your mouth could never articulate…inheritance is not owned by Constantinople or Rome or Canterbury.” Spiritual ownership- at the core of human life, away from legalism and territoriality. Yet, there must be leaders with the right interpretation of inheritance in Constantinople, Rome, and Canterbury. "Worldview is a gateway for me...” YES! He said it- "reductionist versions that tend to overly intellectualize Christianity." There is a need for appreciation of other aspects and dynamic levels of the work of the Church that actually create, add flesh, breathe in life, and bring to fullness within that ideological space it allows and promotes. "I invoke the conscription metaphor to recognize that in fact, we are recruited to visions of the good life apart from our conscious choosing. It's not a question of whether you're being conscripted to some vision of the good life; it's which vision of the good life.” (i.e. resist the competition from the commercial commoditization of our souls) " It shouldn't be coercive, but it is not just presenting information and then leaving the decision to them. It's not really just a decision; it's whether you have been enfolded into the right story." YES! Especially PKs should read this. "It is sad that the notion of the erotic has been co-opted by pornography. For Augustine, eros meant much more. Augustine's understanding is that agape is rightly ordered eros toward God." The right and mature interpretation of the word "erotic"! Why hand over to godless perverts the right to interprete and control the meaning of this word? "The biblical vision is not just a vision of my own personal salvation. It is God's renewal of all things. The end we hope for is shalom, the flourishing of all creation…The only way that we can have our imaginations primed to pursue the biblical vision of justice is to be regularly immersed in the practices of Christian worship…That keeps us anchored." YES! What differentiates people is all to do with intention! Passion for justice to take its proper place but not encroach and stamp out other aspects of the biblical vision and thereby exacerbate the suffering! There is indeed something more to worshipping the God of love through our lives.

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Pilgrim Progress

May 24, 2013  11:06pm

(part III continued) But first you will have to get rid of the rituals,the "smells and bells," and all the things you do to demonstrate that you are indeed superior, Blessed, Chosen, or The Elect. You aren't. That's Fear Based, Culturally Xenophobic Thinking, and much more like Voo Doo than you know. Baptism, Blessings, Getting Saved, Drinking Jesus' Blood?.....all that is empty, narcissistic "look at me, I'm Holy" ritual. All we really need, are Brave Leaders who will take us, our money, out time, and our devotion, out into the street, the gutters, the "bad neighborhoods" and all the places Jesus would have gone, willingly. We don't want your Piety, your Doctrines, or your smug assuredness. And we don't want anymore really, really Theologically Sound Reasons to discriminate, judge, or worse, simply ignore and walk around those who are suffering, alone, or abused. Until you can do that, we want no part of your "Christianity."

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Pilgrim Progress

May 24, 2013  10:51pm

(part II continued) When we pointed out that you hardly EVER went out into the street to help the Dispossed, Poor, Troubled and Unwashed, you told us it was enought to put our money in the plate, support Missionaries, pray, drive a nice car to the nice new Churches, and pretend that we had actually HEARD, much less followed Christ, in all his words and deeds. You also taught us that God would reward US for our loyalty and piety, while he was busy punishing all those who disagree with US. That was the last straw. Many of us always found the Rituals a clever diversion from our smugness, piety and.... laziness. While Christ and his faithful followers were out feeding people, we had very, very good reasons to actually not Give A Damn. And don't pretend that supporting Missionaries is an act of charity or even genorosity. It is not. That is Corporate Marketing Strategy, based on the Carrot And Stick Techniques. If you want your children to come back, they might....

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Pilgrim Progress

May 24, 2013  10:41pm

Finally! We are getting closer and closer to the honest, bottom line question; "Why is Christianity NOT working?" It is not working because it refuses to change. Not because it will not "give up" or "abandon" it's Core Beliefs, but simply because Christianity will not LIVE their very own stated beliefs. Let a former Fundamentalist and Calvinist tell you WHY you lose 85% of your very own children. It wasn't the Devil. It wasn't even the dreaded Secular Humanists, Communitst, Pinkos, or even Gay Liberationists. It was Christianity itself. Not because you didn't indoctrinate them, or falied to pray enough, or even that you were short on threats, shaming, shunning, or disinheriting. You did all that, and you did it well. Probem is, your children live in the reality of a world where they will not join you in demonizing "The Other." They have noticed your very own hypocracy (continued)

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Roger Wasson

May 24, 2013  5:28pm

It's a wonder he can even distinguish worship from heartburn without THINKING there's a distinction between the two. DEFINING is THINKING. If you really want to avoid thinking your way to God, stop trying to define things in the first place. In traditional logic, DEFINING is the first act of the INTELLECT. And dispense with the logical connectives in your language. That way, no one will accuse you of trying to argue your way to God or worship---or anything else for that matter. Intellectual laziness with dignity is the real Jesus here. No wonder youth is abandoning Christianity. Christian "leader" reaction? More pizza!

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Bill Guerrant

May 24, 2013  5:06pm

I enjoyed the interview. The AA comment was particularly interesting to me. I heard Peter Rollins recently made a similar argument. He claimed, if I remember correctly, that AA is the best Christian denomination. I would have liked more about his Wendell Berry/Costco moment. I suppose I'll have to read the book to get that. His book "Who's Afraid of Postmodernism" is excellent and makes the case for liturgy in a postmodern world (among other things).

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Jay Lehman

May 24, 2013  1:00pm

I heartily agree with this author that the majority of our behavior is controlled by our loves, much more than by our knowledge. The apostle Paul emphasizes over and over in I Corinthians that love not only trumps knowledge in our practice of oneness in the body, but love trumps knowledge as a motivator to action. That is why I cringe when a chruch youth group emphasizes engaging the culture by participating in what is basically the culture's "trash". It leads our students to "love some other kingdoms and some other gods" to quote the author.

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Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies)
Baker Academic
2013-02-15
224 pp., $17.85
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