Doing What Everyone Else Does, Plus Jesus: A Critique of the "Christian Worldview"
I finished reading James K.A. Smith's book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation a couple weeks ago. I would have to say that it is the best book I've read this year (so far). The book does a wonderful job at challenging the popular conversations surrounding "Christian Worldview" talk without being over critical while at the same time offering an attractive alternative. Smith argues throughout the book that centering the Christian faith around something like a "worldview" has many pitfalls. Again, it should be noted that Smith is not advocating that we abandon the concept of developing a "Christian Worldview" but suggests that such a center cannot hold.
The reason such a center cannot hold (according to Smith) is because its philosophical anthropology (what kind of creatures humans are) is fundamentally flawed. When we center the Christian faith around a "worldview" or a "Christian perspective" we are essentially saying that Christianity is a set of beliefs or a certain perspective on the world. This assumes that humans are merely believing creatures. This sort of anthropology takes little account of the fact that humans have bodies and live in a world. Instead it focuses on the realm of ideas which cannot often separate itself from the daily practices of life. Within this vein Smith does well to point out that a majority of human activity takes place on a "pre-cognitive" level. Most actions that humans undertake throughout the course of their daily lives is not "thought through." Rather than our beliefs and thoughts playing a large role in the majority of decisions and actions humans make most of our actions are carried out at a pre-cognitive level.
Ultimately, Smith points out (along with Augustine) that, at our core, humans are desiring creatures before we are thinking creatures. It is what we desire (not necessarily what we believe) that has the strongest affect on the actions and choices we undertake.
In the final chapter of the book Smith offers somewhat of a sweeping summary of his thought while also offering a bit of an indictment of the results of a "worldview-centric" Christianity:
When Christianity is reduced to the intellectual elements of a Christian worldview or a Christian perspective, the result is that Christianity is turned "into a belief system available to the individual without mediation by the church." "Such a strategy," Hauerwas notes, "assumes that what makes a Christian a Christian is holding certain beliefs that help us better understand the human condition, to make sense of our experience." Such a transformation of Christian faith into a belief system unhooks Christianity from the practices of Christian worship and thus keeps its distance from the radical revisiting of society that is implicit in Christian liturgy. Christianity "is not beliefs about God plus behavior. We are Christians not because of what we believe but because we have been called to be disciples of Jesus. Becoming a disciple is not a matter of a new or changed self-understanding but of becoming a part of a different community with a different set of practices." But the domestication of Christianity as a perspective does little to disturb or reorient our practies; rather, it too often becomes a way of affirming the configurations of culture that we find around us—we just do what every else does "plus Jesus." (pg. 219-220)
The core of the matter comes down to a very apparent reality Smith brings up at the end of that quotation. When Christianity is reduced to a "worldview" then Christianity tends to become domesticated to such an extent that it simply affirms the culture that surrounds it.
Food for thought.