by James K.A. Smith
Baker Academic (2009), Volume 1 of Cultural Liturgies, Paperback, 238 pages.
This book is not (as its author is first to admit) theoretically ground-breaking, but Smith provides a first-rate application of theory to Christian practice. The theory is what theologians refer to as “theological anthropology” a theologically-grounded understanding of the human person. Smith’s premise is that (per Augustine) we humans can best be understood in terms of what we love — that we are “desiring animals”. And the burden of his argument is that contemporary capitalism and popular culture have understood that truth better than we Christians.
Smith’s background, and his primary audience are from the Reformed tradition, but his influences include other Christian traditions, and his argument speaks to us all. It is always interesting for a Catholic to read an evangelical Protestant’s views on liturgy — particularly important here since he takes up Eastern Orthodox Theologian Father Alexander Schmemann’s influential presentation of liturgy as formative, and offers a cultural analysis of things like shopping as “cultural liturgies”. Not the final word, but a very interesting read!
Diocese of Hamilton
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