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James K.A. Smith (Ph.D., Villanova University) is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, where he also holds the Gary and Henrietta Myker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He is the editor of Comment Magazine. Smith has authored or edited many books.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – You are What You Love: To Worship is Human
Chapter 2 – You Might Not Love What You Think: Learning to Read “Secular” Liturgies
Chapter 3 – The Spirit Meets You Where You Are: Historic Worship for a Postmodern Age
Chapter 4 – What Story Are You In? The Narrative Arc of Formative Christian Worship
Chapter 5 – Guard Your Heart: The Liturgies of Home
Chapter 6 – Teach Your Children Well: Learning By Heart
Chapter 7 – You Make What You Want: Vocational Liturgies
You are What You Love
Western civilization, and Christianity as a result, has been held captive to an anthropology that privileges intellectual cognition over other aspects of human personhood. Modern culture regularly assumes that “you are what you think.” As such, education and discipleship is often reduced to simply transferring, storing, and retrieving knowledge. Smith challenges this reductionism first by pointing out biblical texts that place a greater focus on the “heart” as the seat of human motivation and action, and secondly by looking at pre-modern thinkers like Augustine who shared a similar focus on the heart rather than the head.
By “heart” Smith means that our desires, wants, longings and worship provides a better set of ideas to describe what actually defines and motivates people. Far from remaining in a state of intellectual stasis, people are better conceived as in a dynamic movement “toward something” and “for something.” As Smith states, “It’s not just that I ‘know’ some end or ‘believe’ in some telos. More than that, I long for some end.” Furthermore, our longings and desires terminate not in some “individual nirvana” but in a complete “social vision” of the good life, of human flourishing, and rightly ordered relationships. We desire a “kingdom come.” To be fully human is to have these ultimate longings or, as the subtitle of the chapter reminds us, “to worship is human.”
Importantly, by aligning human nature more closely to our ultimate vision of the “good life,” Smith is not replacing n focus on emotions over reason. Rather, these deeper longings or worship pursuits operate underneath our emotion and reason, often unconsciously guiding both. It is because our loves are often unconscious that Smith introduces the importance of habits to discover, reform, and redirect these loves. Smith connects habits to the classical idea of “virtue.” Virtue, traditionally understood, does not describe moral principles as it does moral practices that are learned and have become “second nature.”
The biblical, and indeed classical, notion of behavioral change occurred in the context of training our loves in the right direction. The primary methods toward this change came through “imitation” (e.g., Eph. 5:1) and “practice.” The reason why changing our desires involves discipline and changing habits is because we are embedded in a world that is constantly informing our habits in directions opposed to the biblical vision of finding our ultimate good in God alone. In Smith’s terminology, these habits, whether they originate in the church or in the secular culture, are “liturgies” that train our hearts to worship what is offered to us. Smith’s goal is to expose opposing secular liturgies and awaken the church to its task of reforming christian discipleship through liturgical awareness and practice.
You Might Not Love What You Think
The chapter opens with the film Stalker by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky in which the main characters are given access to a room where their deepest desires will be fulfilled. However, at the last moment the characters realize that…[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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You Are What You Love