Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Over the past twenty or so years, publishers have turned out a steady stream of Christian worldview books, which together have altered the conversation over the relationship between faith and cultural activities in God’s world. Most of these have sought to reshape a “Christian mind.” From Harry Blamires and Francis Schaeffer to Nancy Pearcey and Al Wolters, there has emanated a growing library of writings dedicated to fashioning a Christian worldview from which to approach all of life.I cannot help but note that as we change the models of how we "do" church to look more consumeristic, we, that no amount of "worldview thinking" will change the essential slippage that we see in faith.
But are such efforts adequate to the realities of living in the real world?
This is something that philosopher James K. A. Smith understands well and it forms the thesis of his Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. We are not simply thinking beings. We are not even believing creatures, as important as this facet is. We are, rather, desiring beings, motivated in a basic visceral way by what we love. We do not necessarily consciously decide what or whom to love; we are in fact shaped by certain rituals, by pedagogies of desire that form us without our even being aware of them. We are habituated to desire certain things by the larger culture, and it is Smith’s task to get us to recognize these secular “liturgies” and how they work themselves into our hearts. Following Augustine’s insight, Smith asserts that we inevitably worship what we love. We are homo liturgicus – liturgical man.
Furthermore, human beings are teleological creatures, structurally constituted by God to seek and follow a particular vision of the good life. Either we seek the kingdom of God or we pursue a counterfeit kingdom, and we do so as members of a community in the grip of what Charles Taylor calls a social imaginary. A social imaginary is more basic than a worldview, with the latter’s focus on the cognitive element. To be sure, the cognitive is important, but it is not the place to begin if we hope to understand our deepest motivations. We must instead focus on what we are passionate about, what drives our deepest longings. These are in turn shaped by the various liturgies in which we are caught up.
Smith shows us how these liturgical rituals work in our lives by asking us to pretend we are Martian anthropologists, looking afresh at something as mundane and familiar as the shopping mall and the university. If we look at the mall as a centre of pilgrimage, as a grand cathedral with numerous side-chapels (stores) and icons (advertisements) stationed at the entrances, we become conscious of the role of the rituals of shopping in shaping our desires, culminating in the “sacramental” act of the purchase of the desired good, which, we are trained to expect, will bring happiness and salvation.
The absence of the liturgical in the evangelical church would, under this thesis be aiding the slide, not stopping it.
We are called to be fully renewed and totally transformed. As a old Young Life hand I like the idea of "attractional" ministry, but we keep forgetting that the idea is not to match the world's idea of attractive, but to become so like Christ that His beauty and winsomeness cannot be avoided. We should be setting new standards for what it means to be attractive, not conforming to the worldly ones.
The avoidance of the liturgical for the sake of attractiveness is, by this thesis the problem, not the solution.
What to do? Simple as leaders of faith, we should let Christ permeate us - on every level. Koyzis goes on to discuss this in detail.
"It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me."