James Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom” – a pre-review

Today I received part B of my birthday present from my wife, Ligia: the much awaited (and anticipated on this blog) book by James K. A. Smith, “Desiring the Kingdom. Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2009).

Naturally, I started reading as soon as I opened the package from the Book Depository. It is certainly a gripping book, with a no less gripping main idea – namely that education is primarily about formation (the ordering of our loves – in augustinian fashion) than about information; affectionate rather than cognitivistic. Thus, we are formed through our participation either in Christian liturgy (the term Smith uses synonymous for worship) or “secular liturgies”. More on the book later. For now I just wanted to comment on the fact that, while I appreciate how he unpacks his terms and delineates his thesis, it really bugs me how often he uses “animals” to refer to human persons without having explained, at least in passing, why he employs this loaded term rather than “people” or “persons”. Although he references his use of “animals” by mentioning the works of Alisdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals and Christian Smith’s Moral Believing Animals (p. 40), no substantive apologetic is given. Travin Wax, in his review of Smith’s book confesses a similar concern. From these first 40 pages that I have read I understand he is ultimately trying to reconfigure a Christian anthropology which conceives persons as embodied, liturgical (i.e. worshipping) beings as lovers rather than “thinking things” (the cartesian picture which held us captive). And I applaud this endeavour, but, for the life of me, I can’t imagine why he would write about poeple as “animals”.

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