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Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Cultural Liturgies) Paperback – November 7, 2017
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From the Back Cover
A Political Theology of Culture
"Smith has written an essential guide to social life aimed at his fellow Christians but essential reading for all of his fellow citizens. His core insight, that the human being is created to pursue solidarity but must then be ceaselessly formed and re-formed to achieve and sustain it, is at least as bracing a critique of modern politics as it is a critique of the deficiencies of political theology."
--Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs and author of The Fractured Republic
"With characteristic verve and clarity--as well as honesty and nuance--this climactic volume of Smith's trilogy offers a broadly Augustinian perspective on public life that takes us beyond genealogy and modernity criticism. It is a much-needed intervention in evangelical political thought. Appreciative yet critical of contemporary alternatives, Smith offers a liturgical and missional focus that represents a distinctive contribution from a leading public theologian."
--Eric Gregory, Princeton University
"Negotiating his way through the mass of confusions known as political theology, Smith has written a superb book that develops a constructive and nuanced position in the Reformed tradition. He has done so, moreover, by engaging in conversations with Oliver O'Donovan and Jeff Stout. This is a book that should be read widely by anyone interested in addressing the fundamental questions of church and politics."
--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School
"In this masterful work, Smith engages an impressive array of conversation partners as he explores the implications of the liturgical theology of culture he's developed throughout his Cultural Liturgies project for the public realm. The result is a constructive work of political theology that helps us imagine how to firmly root our political engagement in Christ while giving careful attention to the complex realities of our time."
--Kristen Deede Johnson, Western Theological Seminary; coauthor of The Justice Calling
"In Awaiting the King, Smith sets out to reform Reformed political theology. With his usual clarity, creativity, and verve, he accomplishes just that, hitting the right notes of both affirmation and critique by refocusing political theology on the polis of the church and its formative liturgical practices. Awaiting the King is a satisfying final movement in Smith's Cultural Liturgies symphony and a crucial contribution to the wider conversation in political theology."
--Peter Leithart, president, Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama
About the Author
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he also holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He is the editor of Comment magazine and is a popular speaker. Smith has authored or edited many books, including Imagining the Kingdom, Who's Afraid of Relativism?, and the Christianity Today Book Award winners You Are What You Love, Desiring the Kingdom, and Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?
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Yet even on its own Awaiting the King is a phenomenal work, and the issues he engages and parses are fascinating, intriguing, and convicting. He does excellent work pointing towards why Christians can have such different political leanings (as Liberal or Conservative). His penultimate chapter also delves rather deeply into the liturgical foundation for racial inequality (and even white supremacy). That chapter alone is worth more than the price of the book, and it (along with every chapter in the book) swelled my "to read" book more than I fear I can afford.
Why would you want to read this? His liturgical analysis of political theology is incisive and enlightening. As a pastor, his notes on the pastoral role in political theology at the local level was challenging and convicting. Have you ever asked yourself how someone could go to church and yet not look much different than their atheistic coworker? He addresses that in this book as well. There is much more he deals with, but an overriding concern is definitely the church (and the believer's) relationship with and posture towards politics.
Who is this book for? It is definitely a more academic book. Footnotes out the wazoo (which is worth at least one bonus review star in my opinion). I would highly recommend this book for pastors, even if you might not agree with some of his conclusions. But the journey of engaging the issues he raises and grappling with his logic and conclusions will better enable you to teach and lead your people. Also, if you are at all interested in politics and public theology, I would highly recommend this book, because it will challenge your perspective and push you to engage an Augustinian approach to public theology.
All in all, I found this book to be downright excellent. I am somewhat of a fan of Smith's, so take that with a grain of salt. I do not agree with him on everything, but he challenges my scholarship and my practice of liturgical theology and I am a better scholar for it.
From the introduction: "I want to encourage us to overcome a narrow fixation on certain modes of electoral politics and realize that much of what constitutes the life of the polis is modes of 'life in common' that fall outside the narrow interests of state and government--and certainly well beyond the purview of the cable news fixation of presidential politics. So a Christian account of our shared social-economic-political life might be described more properly as a 'public' theology--an account of how to live in common with neighbors who don't believe what we believe, don't love what we love, don't hope for what we await." Timely, academic but accessible.