Monday, July 19, 2010

Desiring the Kingdom: Book Review

“Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.” This advice, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, is often heard today, also in our circles. It is usually quoted to remind Christians of the need to combine verbal evangelism with a truly Christian lifestyle, but it is also used in attacks on what are seen as intellectualist tendencies in the Protestant tradition. St. Francis’ words then serve to show that practice must come before doctrine, knowledge of the heart before knowledge of the mind, and discipleship before abstract teaching.

In his book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic, 2009), Calvin College philosopher James K.A. Smith joins the debate in support of the second usage. His thesis is that human beings are primarily desiring creatures rather than “thinking things,” and that Christian education must therefore focus not first of all on the inculcation of ideas, but on the development of the proper desires – that is, desires that are directed to God’s Kingdom. For a review of this informative and provocative study see our “Collected Papers”; a direct link is here.