Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Club :: Desiring the Kingdom :: Chapter 1 part 1

 book club

(For the next several months I will be participating in this book club on Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies), hosted by Mystie at Simply Convivial. If you missed my earlier posts you can find them here)

In chapter 1 Smith begins by exploring the question of the relationship between education and the Christian life. If education is supposed to form our students, why does it often fail to form them as persons who embody their beliefs in Jesus Christ? Part of his answer for this is the idea that our educational model is based on a faulty understanding of what human beings essentially are. He elaborates quite a bit on the types of pedagogy that result when we look at the human person as merely a thinker or the human person as merely a believer. His point is that emphasis on thinking or believing alone is just not enough. His solution is to understand the human person as a lover:

...human persons are not primarily or for the most part thinkers, or even believers. Instead, human persons are - fundamentally and primordially - lovers. (p.41)

We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed, and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends. 

...we are liturgical animals - embodied, practicing creatures whose love/desire is aimed at something ultimate.  (p.40)

I will write about the idea of human persons as lovers in the next post, but for now I want to focus on the idea that we are "embodied, practicing creatures". We cannot be reduced to mere thoughts, or mere beliefs because our God created us with physical bodies to live in a physical world. We are not abstract beings like the angels - we are concrete creatures whose bodies are as much a part of our makeup as our hearts and souls. We were not made to be separated from our bodies. Separation of the soul from the body is the result of sin and that result is death, plain and simple. It is not some kind of liberation or freedom that we should strive for.

Our thoughts and beliefs and our bodies are so intimately bound up in each other that separation would, in fact, be very difficult. Our thoughts influence our beliefs, our beliefs determine our actions and our actions in turn make us who we are.

I once heard a priest give a sermon in which he included a great picture of how these things are bound together. He gave the example of our belief in gravity as an idea which influences our actions. When we wake up in the morning, and get out of bed, we swing our legs over the edge of the bed (or drag them over as the case may be) and put our feet on the floor, fully expecting to stay on the ground when we do so. We believe that gravity will keep our feet on the floor and we act based on that belief. We would not have that belief unless we had experienced the effects of gravity again and again over the course of our lives. First came the action, then the belief, which strengthened the action and made it into a habit. Our action influenced that belief, our rational thought has confirmed it and our belief continues to further that specific action.

Believing is good. Thinking is good. Action is good. But they need to be bound together and action seems to be the one that drives the other two and gives them their potency (or lack thereof). Our actions bring our beliefs and our thoughts together and give them life. As parents and educators we need to be aware of what our own actions say about what we believe and what we think. Our children will become what they behold - and what can they behold better than that which they have living, breathing, sensory, physical contact with?


  1. Becoming what you behold! The perfect tie-in to this chapter!

    Yes, acting and believing and habits are all bound up together. Good thoughts.

  2. the quote our children will become what they behold is so powerful! It really makes you think about your own actions

  3. Ack! I tried to comment on this post a few days ago, but I was on my Kindle and it wasn't cooperating.

    I do love how NOT gnostic he is. As a child, I was around a number of people whose view of Heaven and eternity was essentially gnostic--basically we'd be disembodied spirits forever--and I always felt guilty that this freaked me out a little. I mean, aren't we supposed to look forward to Heaven? I was so relieved when I read the Bible myself and realized that disembodiment wasn't the end of the story!


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