Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning

By David I. Smith; James K. A. Smith | Go to book overview

Keeping Time in the Social Sciences:
An Experiment with Fixed-Hour Prayer
and the Liturgical Calendar

James K. A. Smith


Introduction: Orienting Convictions, Pedagogical Hypotheses

This experiment was an exercise in trying to get my practice to catch up with my theory. Theoretically I have been convinced that Christian education is not just about the transfer of information but also about a task of formation — the formation of the kinds of persons that constitute a “peculiar people.” In short, Christian education is not just the communication and dissemination of Christian content but the formation of a people who are defined by a certain set of desires or passions which are themselves defined by a certain telos — namely, the shape of the coming kingdom.1

More specifically, I’m convinced that at the heart of this task is the “conversion of the imagination”2 enacted through intentional practices that are tactile, bodily, repetitive, and “narratival.” We are narrative, liturgical, desiring animals whose actions and orientation to the world are driven much more by pre-cognitive imaginative construals of the world than by cognitive, intellectual perceptions of the world.3 Our dispositions

1. All education, I would suggest, is formative (even modes of education which don’t take themselves to be such). The question is, To what telos is a given set of educational practices aimed? I’m not suggesting that only Christian education is formation. Rather, what would make a constellation of education practices “Christian” would be the telos to which they’re aimed (which would, in turn, inform the narratives assumed by a Christian education). To think about Christian education as formation is to highlight the ends of education.

2. Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005), p. viii.

3. See my discussion of imagination and “social imaginaries” (following Charles Tay-

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