“Desiring the Kingdom” is Finished!

A big part of my blog silence over this summer stems from the fact that I’ve been holed up, hermit-like, trying to finish my next book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation. Today I’m rewarding myself with a day off because, thanks be to God, it’s done! I submitted the manuscript to my patient and gracious editor this past week. I’ve been so mired in this for so long, my initial response was “good riddance!” But I hope that when I get the galleys back, I’ll have gained sufficient critical distance to make some further improvements. I have an overwhelming sense of the inadequacies of the book; but at other times, when I’ve gotten feedback from others, I also have a bit of hope that it might be helpful. (This is the first volume of a trilogy, so I have two follow-up volumes to fill in some gaps. This first volume is meant to be an overview of the argument accessible to students and practitioners; the follow-up volumes will be more scholarly monographs.)

The animating impetus of the book is rethinking the shape and practices of Christian education, particularly in Christian colleges and universities in North America (I recognize that these are strange beasts to those in Europe and elsewhere). In particular, I’m pressing the limits, even distortions, that attend “worldview”-talk which tends to now dominate Christian higher education. Such worldviewism, I suggest, continues to reduce Christianity to an intellectual system that can be grapsed apart from the church and is then “taught” as information to be merely transferred from one head to another. In contrast, I argue that Christian discipleship is a matter of formation, not mere information–and that “Christian” education should be fundamentally a matter of shaping our love, our desire, to be oriented to the shape of the kingdom of God. And such formation happens not primarily via the heady, cognitive “lectures” (whether in our Protestant sermon factories or our Christian college classrooms) but through embodied practices that seep into our imagination and get hold of our gut, our heart, our kardia.

In short, I’m suggesting that before we can ever articulate a Christian “worldview,” we are engaged in the practices of Christian worship. Drawing on Charles Taylor, I argue that the practices of Christian worship “carry” within them an “understanding” of the world that is better described as a “Christian social imaginary.” Thus Christian education needs to be more integrally and intimately connected to the church and her worship then has generally been the case in North American Christian higher education.

There’s also a correlate to this analysis: that cultural practices and institutions are not just venues for conveying “messages” or “abstract values;” rather, they constitute liturgies which function as pedagogies of desire bent on getting us to love rival kingdoms, visions of human flourishing that are antithetical to the biblical vision of shalom.

I paste here the Table of Contents which provides a bit of a map of the book, which should appear in the late spring of 2009 from Baker Academic:



Beyond “Perspectives”: Faith and Learning Take Practice

Making the Familiar Strange: A Phenomenology of Cultural Liturgies
The End of Christian Education: From Worldview to Worship (and Back Again)
Picturing Education as Formation in Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier
Elements of a Theology of Culture: Pedagogy, Liturgy, and the Church


Chapter 1
Homo Liturgicus: The Human Person as Lover

From Thinking Things to Liturgical Animals
From Worldviews to Social Imaginaries
From Spheres to Aims: Liturgical Institutions

Chapter 2
Love Takes Practice: Liturgy, Formation, and Counter-Formation

Why Victoria’s In on the Secret: Picturing Discipleship at the Moulin Rouge
“Thick” and “Thin” Practices: Ritual Forces of Cultural Formation
Formation, Mis-Formation, and Counter-Formation: Liturgies Secular and Christian

Chapter 3
Lovers in a Dangerous Time: Cultural Exegesis of “Secular” Liturgies

“Reading” Culture Through the Lens of Worship
Consuming Transcendence: Worship at the Mall
Marketing (as) Evangelism: Picturing the Liturgy of Consumerism in The Persuaders
Sacrificial Violence: The “Military-Entertainment” Complex
Cathedrals of Learning: Liturgies of the University
Picturing the University’s Liturgies in Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons
Apologetic Excursus: The Persisting Witness of Idolatry
Picturing Resistance in 1984


Chapter 4
From Worship to Worldview: Christian Worship and the Formation of Desire

The Primacy of Worship to Worldview
The Sacramental Imagination: Resisting Naturalism and Supernaturalism
Picturing the Sacramental Imagination in Graham Greene and Anne Sexton
Excursus: The Shape of Christian Worship

Chapter 5
Practicing (for) the Kingdom: An Exegesis of the Social Imaginary Embedded in Christian Worship

Liturgical Time: Rhythms and Cadences of Hope
Call to Worship: An Invitation to Be Human
God’s Greeting: Hospitality, Community, and Graced Dependence
Baptism: Initiation into a Royal Priesthood/Constitution of a New People
Song: Hymning the Language of the Kingdom
Confession: Brokenness, Grace, Hope
Law: Order, Norms, and Freedom for the Good
The Creed: Situating Belief
Prayer: Vocalizing Desire
Scripture and Sermon: Re-narrating the World
Eucharist: Supper with the King
Offering: Kingdom Economics
Sending: The Great Commission as Cultural Mandate
Worship, Discipleship and Discipline: Practices Beyond Sunday

Chapter 6
A Christian University is for Lovers: The Education of Desire

A New Monasticism for the University: Why Christian Colleges Should Corrupt the Youth
Christian Education Takes Practice: Three Monastic Opportunities
Excursus: Christian Worship as Faculty Development: From Christian Scholars to “Ecclesial” Scholars