We all - whether naturalists, atheists, Buddhists, or Christians - see the world through the grid of an interpretive framework - and ultimately this interpretive framework is religious in nature, even if not allied with a particular institutional religion.
-James K.A. Smith
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APAJames K.A. Smith Quotes. (n.d.). Jar of Quotes. Retrieved , from JarofQuotes.com Web site: https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=we-all-whether-naturalists-atheists-buddhists-christians-see-world-through-grid-interpretive-framework-ultimately-this-interpretive-framework-is-religious-in-nature-even-if-not-a
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It is precisely this refusal of the Cartesian paradigm that characterizes Radical Orthodoxy, which seeks to reanimate the account of knowledge offered by Augustine and Aquinas. On this ancient-medieval-properly-postmodern model, we rightly give up pretensions to absolute knowledge or certainty, but we do not thereby give up on knowledge altogether. Rather, we can properly confess that we know God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, but such knowledge rests on the gift of (particular, special) revelation, is not universally objective or demonstrable, and remains a matter of interpretation and perspective (with a significant appreciation for the role of the Spirit's regeneration and illumination as a condition for knowledge). We confess knowledge without certainty, truth without objectivity.
James K.A. Smith
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It's not that we start with beliefs and doctrine and then come up with worship practices that properly "express" these (cognitive) beliefs; rather, we begin with worship, and articulated beliefs bubble up from there. "Doctrines" are the cognitive, theoretical articulation of what we "understand" when we pray.
James K.A. Smith
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Worship, then, needs to be characterized by hospitality; it needs to be inviting. But at the same time, it should be inviting seekers into the church and its unique story and language. Worship should be an occasion of cross-cultural hospitality. Consider an analogy: when I travel to France, I hope to be made to feel welcome. However, I don't expect my French hosts to become Americans in order to make me feel at home. I don't expect them to start speaking English, ordering pizza, talking about the New York Yankees, and so on. Indeed, if I wanted that, I would have just stayed home! Instead, what I'm hoping for is to be welcomed into their unique French culture; that's why I've come to France in the first place. And I know that this will take some work on my part. I'm expecting things to be different; indeed, I'm looking for just this difference. So also, I think, with hospitable worship: seekers are looking for something our culture can't provide. Many don't want a religious version of what they can already get at the mall. And this is especially true of postmodern or Gen X seekers: they are looking for elements of transcendence and challenge that MTV could never give them. Rather than an MTVized version of the gospel, they are searching for the mysterious practices of the ancient gospel.
James K.A. Smith
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If I have so far argued that Foucault is a kind of closet liberal and thus deeply modern, I need to be equally critical of evangelical (and especially American) Christianity's modernity and its appropriation of Enlightenment notions of the autonomous self. Indeed, many otherwise orthodox Christians, who recoil at the notion of theological liberalism, have unwittingly adopted notions of freedom and autonomy that are liberal to the core. Averse to hierarchies and control, contemporary evangelicalism thrives on autonomy: the autonomy of the nondenominational church, at a macrocosmic level, and the autonomy of the individual Christian, at the microcosmic level. And it does not seem to me that the emerging church has changed much on this score; indeed, some elements of emergent spirituality are intensifications of this affirmation of autonomy and a laissez-faire attitude with respect to institutions.
James K.A. Smith
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The church's theology bought into this ahistoricism in different ways: along a more liberal, post-Kantian trajectory, the historical particularities of Christian faith were reduced to atemporal moral teachings that were universal and unconditioned. Thus it turned out that what Jesus taught was something like Kant's categorical imperative - a universal ethics based on reason rather than a set of concrete practices related to a specific community. Liberal Christianity fostered ahistoricism by reducing Christianity to a universal, rational kernel of moral teaching. Along a more conservative, evangelical trajectory (and the Reformation is not wholly innocent here), it was recognized that Christians could not simply jettison the historical particularities of the Christian event: the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, there was still a quasi-Platonic, quasi-gnostic rejection of material history such that evangelicalism, while not devolving to a pure ahistoricism, become dominated by a modified ahistoricism we can call primitivism. Primitivism retains the most minimal commitment to God's action in history (in the life of Christ and usually in the first century of apostolic activity) and seeks to make only this first-century 'New Testament church' normative for contemporary practice. This is usually articulated by a rigid distinction between Scripture and tradition (the latter then usually castigated as 'the traditions of men' as opposed to the 'God-give' realities of Scripture). Such primitivism is thus anticreedal and anticatholic, rejecting any sense that what was unfolded by the church between the first and the twenty-first centuries is at all normative for current faith and practice (the question of the canon's formation being an interesting exception here). Ecumenical creeds and confessions - such as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed - that unite the church across time and around the globe are not 'live' in primitivist worship practices, which enforce a sense of autonomy or even isolation, while at the same time claiming a direct connection to first-century apostolic practices.
James K.A. Smith
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By calling into question the very ideal of a universal, autonomous reason (which was, in the Enlightenment, the basis for rejecting religious thought) and further demonstrating that all knowledge is grounded in narrative or myth, Lyotard relativizes (secular) philosophy's claim to autonomy and so grants the legitimacy of a philosophy that grounds itself in Christian faith. Previously such a distinctly Christian philosophy would have been exiled from the 'pure' arena of philosophy because of its 'infection' with bias and prejudice. Lyotard's critique, however, demonstrates that no philosophy - indeed, no knowledge - is untainted by prejudice or faith commitments. In this way the playing field is leveled, and new opportunities to voice a Christian philosophy are created. Thus Lyotard's postmodern critique of metanarratives, rather than being a formidable foe of Christian faith and thought, can in fact be enlisted as an ally in the construction of a Christian philosophy.
James K.A. Smith
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By using repetition, images, and other strategies - all of which communicate truths in ways that are not cognitively or propositional - marketing forms us into the kind of persons who want to buy beer to have meaningful relationships, or to buy a car to be respected, or buy the latest thing to come along simply to satisfy the desire that has been formed and implanted in us. It is important to appreciate that these disciplinary mechanisms transmit values and truth claims, but not via propositions or cognitive means; rather, the values are transmitted more covertly... This covertness of the operation is also what makes it so powerful: the truths are inscribed in us through the powerful instruments of imagination and ritual.
James K.A. Smith
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The question of the relation between modernity and postmodernity revolves around the issue of 'legitimation.' Modernity, then, appeals to science to legitimate its claim - and by 'science' we simply mean the notion of a universal, autonomous reason. Science, then, is opposed to narrative, which attempts not to prove its claims but rather to proclaim them within a story.
James K.A. Smith
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All discourses and disciplines proceed from commitments and beliefs that are ultimately religious in nature. No scientific discourse (whether natural science or social science) simply discloses to us the facts of reality to which theology must submit; rather, every discourse is, in some sense, religious. The playing field has been leveled. Theology is most persistently postmodern when it rejects a lingering correlational false humility and instead speaks unapologetically from the the primacy of Christian revelation and the church's confessional language.
James K.A. Smith
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But should we accept this negative view of power? Is power all bad? Specifically, can Christians share in this devaluation of power and discipline as inherently evil? Can we who claim to be disciples - who are called and predestined to be conformed to the likeness of the Son (Rom. 8:29) - be opposed to discipline and formation as such? Can we who are called to be subject to the Lord of life really agree with the liberal Enlightenment notion of the autonomous self? Are we not above all called to subject ourselves to our Domine and conform to his image? Of course, we are called not to conform to the patterns of 'this world' (Rom. 12:2) or to our previous evil desires (1 Peter 1:14), but that is a call not to nonconformity as such but rather to an alternative conformity through a counterformation in Christ, a transformation and renewal directed toward conformity to his image. By appropriating the liberal Enlightenment notion of negative freedom and participating in its nonconformist resistance to discipline (and hence a resistance to the classical spiritual disciplines), Christians are in fact being conformed to the patterns of this world (contra Rom. 12:2).
James K.A. Smith
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