James Smith new book

I have been reading Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies)by James K.A. Smith. Smith sees Christian education as really spiritual formation. I wanted to note his ideas, of which I’ve interjected my own of what he calls philosophical anthropology.

How we think about education is linked to how we think about human persons. Too much of our thinking about education sees it as a matter of disseminating information precisely because it assumes that human beings are primarily thinking things. This understanding has moved into the Christian educational process. Christian education has adopted a picture of human beings that owes more to modernity and the Enlightenment than it does to the holistic, biblical vision of humans. In particular, Christian education has adopted a philosophical anthropology that sees humans as primarily thinking things. The result has been an understanding of education largely in terms of information; more specifically, the end of Christian education has been seen to be the dissemination and communication of Christian ideas rather than the formation of a peculiar people. This has been most articulated in terms of a Christian worldview.

A Christian worldview is primarily a set of doctrines or a system of beliefs or a set of implicit ideas. This construction creates a Christian faith that is dualistic and reductionistic. It reduces the Christian faith primarily to a set of ideas, principles, claims and propositions that are known and believed. The goal of this is to create ¢â‚¬Å“correct¢â‚¬ thinking. This relies on the description of Descartes: thinking things that are containers for ideas. This generates a rationalistic view of self where we are not only reduced to thinking things but are seen as things whose bodies are nonessential containers for our minds. This also creates our dualistic approach: There is a distinction between our bodies and minds and neither affects the other.

Humans, however, are fundamentally desiring creatures. We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed, and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our heart and aim it to certain ends. Humans are primarily lovers, not thinkers or believers.

Being a disciple of Jesus, therefore, is not primarily about getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into the mind in order to develop the correct behavior. It is a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly ¢â‚¬“ who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. We are made to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship.

Christian education should be a ¢â‚¬Å“hearts and mind¢â‚¬ strategy. Christian education should be a holistic endeavor that involves the whole person, including our bodies, in a process of formation that aims our desires, primes our imagination, and orients us to the world ¢â‚¬“ all before we begin to think about it. It is a formation process that develops disciples by putting the body through a regiment of repeated practices that get hold of a person¢â‚¬â„¢s heart and aims that person¢â‚¬â„¢s love toward the kingdom of God.

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