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Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

by Smith, James K. A.

Baker Academic 2013

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Overview

How does worship work? How exactly does liturgical formation shape people? And how does the Spirit marshal the dynamics of such transformation? In this volume, James K. A. Smith expands and deepens the analysis of cultural liturgies and Christian worship he developed in his acclaimed Desiring the Kingdom. Drawing on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Pierre Bourdieu, this volume helps readers understand and appreciate the bodily basis of habit formation and how liturgical formation—both secular and Christian—affects one’s fundamental orientation to the world. Worship “works” by leveraging one’s body to transform his or her imagination, and it does this through stories understood on a register that is closer to body than mind. This has critical implications for thinking about the nature of Christian formation and the role of the arts in Christian mission.

Students of philosophy, liturgical studies, and theology will welcome this work—as will scholars, pastors, worship leaders, and Christian educators. Imagining the Kingdom includes analyses of popular films, novels, and other cultural phenomena, such as The King’s Speech, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, the iPhone, and Facebook.

With Logos Bible Software, this volume is completely searchable, with Scripture passages appearing on mouseover and linking to your favorite Bible translation in your library. This makes this text more powerful and easier to access than ever before for scholarly work or personal Bible study. With the advanced search features of Logos Bible Software, you can perform powerful searches by topic or Scripture reference—finding, for example, every mention of “liturgy” or “habit.”

Key Features

  • Analyzes and emphasizes the importance of worship
  • Illustrates how secular liturgies form and deform Christians
  • Cites numerous historical and contemporary sources

Contents

  • Introduction: A Sentimental Education: On Christian Action
  • Part One: Incarnate Significance: The Body as Background
    • Erotic Comprehension
    • The Social Body
  • Part Two: Sanctified Perception
    • “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live”: How Worship Works
    • Restor(y)ing the World: Christian Formation for Mission

Praise for the Print Edition

This book is a thought-provoking, generative reflection on the imagination-shaping power of Christian worship practices. Smith describes and demonstrates how practices, perceptions, emotions, and thought interact and how together they can be shaped in cruciform ways. What an ideal book for crossing boundaries among academic disciplines and between the academy and the church.

—John D. Witvliet, professor of worship, theology, and congregational and ministry studies, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Imagining the Kingdom is a fit successor to Jamie Smith’s remarkable Desiring the Kingdom. The new book is, like its predecessor, learned but lively, provocative but warmhearted, a manifesto and a guide. Smith takes Christians deeper into the artistic, imaginative, and practical resources on which we must draw if we wish to renew not only our minds but also our whole beings in Christ.

—Alan Jacobs, Clyde S. Kilby Chair Professor of English, Wheaton College

In this wonderfully rich and engagingly readable book of ‘liturgical anthropology,’ Smith makes a persuasive case for the thesis that human beings are best understood as worshiping animals. It has important implications at once for practical theology’s reflection on religious formation, liturgy, and pedagogy and for philosophical theorizing about just what religion is. And it develops as an engaging and lively conversation among an astonishing mix of people: imagine Calvin, Proust, Merleau-Ponty, Augustine, Wendell Berry, Bourdieu, and David Foster Wallace all in the same room really talking to each other about being human and how to think about it!

—David Kelsey, Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology Emeritus, Yale Divinity School

Jamie Smith shows us that the Gospel does not primarily happen between our ears but in all the movements of the body by which we are formed and in turn form the world. I know of no more thorough and sophisticated account of how secular liturgies form and deform us and how Christian liturgies can help. Though sophisticated, Smith’s book is also a delight. Its pages are filled with great poetry and insights from films, novels, and everyday life. Smith shows how we encounter God with our whole selves and how God carries us even when we don’t know what is going on.

William T. Cavanaugh, senior research professor, DePaul University

It is heartening to set one’s eyes on Jamie Smith’s bold and creative endeavor to awaken Christians, Protestants in particular, to the centrality of worship in even, nay especially, our moral lives. Smith’s acute insight into the false and lying stories and liturgies generated by the dominant powers of our economy makes his case for a reclamation of worship within the churches compelling; for this thoughtful book is rightly concerned with a restoration of the Christian imagination rooted in habits of virtue.

—Vigen Guroian, professor of religious studies, University of Virginia

Arguing that we are guided primarily by imagination, which is primed through the conduit of the body, Smith maintains that the structure of church liturgies matter deeply in providing a counterweight to the liturgies of self-centeredness promoted in the larger culture. . . . Smith uses literature, poetry, philosophy, and film to make a compelling case that it would behoove churches and seminaries to attend more closely to imagination and aesthetics rather than doctrine as central to developing an other-oriented Christian desire.

Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Title: Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works
  • Author: James K. A. Smith
  • Series: Cultural Liturgies
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 224

About James K. A. Smith

James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. Smith is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and is editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition