Comments 6

  1. You may be onto something, Donald. Given its largely anodyne conclusions, it’s hard to account for the explosion of vituperation about The Benedict Option (BenOpt). Perhaps pre-theoretical imaginaries and affective stances explain matters. Also, based on some interactions with a few of the players, thin-skinned personality types are also in play. Finally, playing the identity-politics card is also tediously common today.

    But back to your point. The roots of both one-kingdom-every-square-inch neo-Kuyperianism (emphasizing the “now” over the “not-yet”) AND Christians-as-exiles (the “not-yetters”) are biblical. Most folks go with the one they like, the one that makes them feel good, without acknowledging that each is as biblical as the other. When to deploy which large-scale metaphor requires prudential wisdom, which is regularly in short supply. Yet–now–recognizing our own affective bias would be a good place to start

    1. Thanks for this, Scott. This proved to be an interesting opportunity to apply a theory that I’ve been cooking up about certain metaphors we use for discipleship and how they can affect the way we talk about theology, particularly public engagement. I agree that the best place to start is to learn to name some of those biases, in this case, not to reject them, but, given the various valid Biblical views out there, to at least discern when we might be failing to communicate because of them.

  2. Thanks. I wanted to better understand the book and the controversy, but didn’t want to slog through the book. This was very helpful.

    1. I’m glad you found this to be helpful, Carol. The book’s not too much of a slog, really, but it’s not perfect, either.

  3. Enjoyed the review, Donald. I find your idea about operative metaphors intriguing and even enlightening. Would you find some of the philosophical basis for this reasoning in Smith’s work (i.e. “Imagining the Kingdom”)? It sounds like you are using some Augustinian anthropological framework when using words like “feel” and “imagination” (i.e. our loves shape us more than our thoughts).

    I did not read your scholarly article about operative metaphors, but I have pondered why kingdom imagery in Christian churches, schools, and institutions leads to certain amounts of bifurcation. In my own experience, I have found that a decent amount of disagreement has a lot to do with how Christians interpret Genesis 1-3. And, this disagreement is not necessarily focused on the origin debate but more so on how we view the meaning of Creation and the Fall. A few questions that I find lead to certain levels of disagreement: Are Christians more “agents of reconciliation” tasked with regaining creation or “pilgrims in exile” looking to lead quiet, faithful lives in community? What are the effects of the Fall on Creation? What does the Fall mean for humanity?

    Maybe it is telling that I even capitalize the “f” in Fall as to which side of the pilgrim/agent metaphor I feel is more helpful. In any regard, thanks for writing a thoughtful review.

    1. Hi Cole,

      I’m glad you found the review useful. I developed my theory as part of wrestling with questions of how we view discipleship while leading the senior worldview course here at Dordt. That course previously assigned part of Desiring the Kingdom (now using You Are What You Love), but yes, I do draw a little from Imagining the Kingdom as well. In that last book, Smith quotes extensively from Mark Johnson’s “The Meaning of the Body” which argues that our understanding is often couched in terms of metaphor (e.g. relating emotional intimacy to physical proximity – “We’re close.” “He seems distant.”) I suspect that something similar is true when it comes to how we give concrete direction to a more abstract concept like discipleship, embodying it within a metaphor that has an implied narrative arc to it that helps us imagine the role we should play.

      I’m not full Augustinian in that I wouldn’t say our loves shape us MORE than our thoughts, but I do think that our desires and our unconscious interaction with the world around us play a primary and often underestimated role in who/what we are.

      As to the fall issue, a related theory that I have is that there are a number of tensions within Christianity which have some of the attributes of what J.I. Packer calls an antinomy. That is, they have the appearance of contradiction while both are equally true. For instance, I think the kingdom/exile distinction lies largely along whether one thinks primarily in terms of the “already” or the “not yet.” A similar pseudo-antinomy that I see is exactly what you mention with the Fall, that is, Creation is both made good and yet fallen in sin. It seems very difficult to emphasize both the fundamental goodness of Creation and the permeating effects of the Fall in a way that does justice to both. I think “living in the world, but not of it” can pose similar challenges, and I think many debates within Christianity can be boiled down to some of these fundamental tensions.

      I hope to get a chance this summer to write more extensively on both topics, but it’s always encouraging to me when people find my initial thoughts in this area helpful.

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