Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K A Smith, 238 pages
In this book, the first volume of his Cultural Liturgies series, Smith argues that religion is not a matter of assenting to a certain set of intellectual propositions, of choosing the correct doctrines. Nor is it the possession of a set of underlying pre-rational beliefs and presuppositions. Rather, life, and especially the religious life, is a matter of what we value, that is, what we love. Because we are embodied beings, this is not a matter of logic, but of practice, that is, of liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi. Worship is itself a form of education, of paideia.
There is nothing revolutionary in these statements, indeed, this view has a long history stretching back to Aristotle. Long neglected as a result of Enlightenment abstraction, in the twentieth century it was rejuvenated by thinkers as diverse as Martin Heidegger, Alisdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor. Smith compellingly synthesizes the thought of these and other figures, not only conveying their insights but also peppering his commentary with approachable exemplars and interesting discussions (such as when he ponders whether Moulin Rouge is more authentically Christian than "The 700 Club").
Smith approaches his subject from within the Reformed tradition with an eye to its application in the Christian college environment, but neither of these factors makes the book less useful to members of other Christian groups or those outside the academy. Entertaining and enlightening in equal measure, this book is truly remarkable.