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The Grain of the Universe

Desiring the Kingdom

One of the myriad reasons it's important to believe in a Trinitarian Creator is the fact that the pattern of the universe begins to take form rather than fall apart on the grounds of subjectivity (i.e. - Evolution, Platonism, Gnosticism). Moreover, when a Trinitarian Creator gives his laws we can trust that these laws do not run against the way He has made the universe to operate but with the grain of the Universe. It is this sentiment that James K.A. Smith captures so well in his book Desiring the Kingdom. In the fifth chapter of the book Smith works his way through the liturgical practices of the church to show the many different ways in which they form a peculiar people.

Having already written of "The Call to Worship," the "Greeting and Hospitality," and the "Singing and Hymns" Smith turns his attention to the reading of the Law. Smith makes an important distinction (much misunderstood in our day, particularly in reformed/pietist circles) that the reading of the law can come from passages of both the Old and New Testaments. Smith points out that the teachings of both Jesus and Paul are replete with commands of how Christians should act. Smith then goes on to point out how a public reading of the law that Christians should be following has profound formative power in shaping the Christian people, the church:

The reading of the law is a displacement of our own wants and desires, reminding us that we find ourselves in a world not of our own making—which is why all our attempts to remake it as we want (as if we ourselves could be little creators) are not only doomed to failure; they are also doomed to exacerbated suffering. The announcement of the law reminds us that we inhabit not "nature," but creation, fashioned by a Creator, and that there is a certain grain to the universe—grooves and tracks and norms that are part of the fabric of the world. And all of creation flourishes best when our communities and relationships run with the grain of those grooves. Indeed, the biblical vision of human flourishing implicit in worship means that we are only properly free when our desires are rightly ordered, when they are bounded and directed to the end that constitutes our good. That is why the law, though it comes as a scandalous challenge to the modern desire for autonomy, is an invitation to find the good life by welcoming the boundaries of law that guide us into the grooves that constitute the grain of the universe and are conductive to flourishing. (pg. 176)

Far from disparaging the commands of God by ignoring them (like many reformed/pietists) or calling people to earn their salvation through adherence to a moral code (like Moral Therapeutic Deists), Smith shows that the purpose of the law is to subvert any claim on autonomy and direct the community of the church into a lifestyle that is aimed at the way the world is truly suppose to be; aimed at the Kingdom.

Food for thought.


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