As I mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot of James K A Smith lately. I find his emphasis on our bodiliness tremendously stimulating — especially in tackling the challenge of how to co-operate with God’s Spirit so we increasingly embrace a kingdom vision for our flourishing.
But I’ve also been vaguely troubled his (Augustinian) emphasis on the centrality of our loves in all this — and how our ‘thick’ practices and habits can gradually carve new channels for our affection to travel along.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for rightly-ordered loves. And for working hard at how to train our hearts.
I’m fully convinced that sin is fundamentally a worship issue rather than a worldview issue.
That’s why I agree with Smith that the widespread assumption that change and growth in Christian maturity comes primarily by getting things straight in our heads definitely needs displacing.
No one grows as a Christian (or becomes a Christian) simply by gaining more information, having more truth laid out before us, or developing a more consistent and well-rounded Christian worldview.
That’s just not how the spiritual dynamics of growth (or conversion) work.
But it’s in thinking about how we actually do grow and change that I start to hesitate.
Because at its heart I think maturing spiritually is a matter of faith. A question of trust. That’s why the write to the Hebrews says what he does about the necessity of faith for entering God’s rest.
So I’m with Tullian Tchividjian on this one:
Love is absent to the degree that faith is missing. If I’m not trusting that everything I need in Christ I already possess (lack of faith), then I will be looking to take from you rather than give to you (lack of love). I’ll be concentrating on what I need, not what you need. I’ll be looking out for me, not you.
In the original context Tchividjian is talking about our ‘horizontal’ love for one another. But I think it also makes sense to say this of how to kindle the rightly-ordered love for God that alone can power our spiritual growth.