Word and Worldview

I've started working on my third year dissertation. From the proposal:

Do ideas move the world? How much does the mind matter? In the tradition of Christian ‘worldview thinking’ originating with figures like Arthur Holmes and James Sire, and used extensively at a popular level by others such as Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, the mind and ideas matter a great deal. In Pearcey’s terms, the culture war is just the surface appearance of the real conflict: “a cosmic struggle between worldviews.”

However the usefulness of the worldview model has been criticised on the basis that it relies on an overly intellectualistic anthropology (treating humans as ‘brains on legs’).

This criticism appears in one particular form in the work of James K. A. Smith. In his Cultural Liturgies project he seeks to explore the implication of treating human beings as fundamentally ‘lovers’ rather than ‘thinkers’ (an Augustinian approach, he claims). Consequentially, he seeks to uncover the greater role that “cultural liturgies” (defined broadly as any ritual which concerns ultimate meaning) play in forming human beings. His positive proposal advocates a greater appreciation of the power and place of liturgy in Christian discipleship.

However, there is consequently (and deliberately) a notably reduced place in Smith’s thought for preaching (compared with, for example, the Reformation tradition in which Smith claims to operate). This raises significant questions for Smith’s project.

Do the shape of his proposals match the New Testament’s account of the ‘how’ of Christian formation? How does Smith account for the central role that ‘the Word’ and preaching play in the Reformed account of the life of the church? And expanding this theme, how is our underlying anthropology affected by the central place of a proclaimed verbal Word in salvation history?

I intend on posting the best of the material that I am interacting with as I go along.

Tom Underhill

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