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Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology

(Cultural Liturgies #3)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  343 ratings  ·  72 reviews
In this culmination of his widely read and highly acclaimed Cultural Liturgies project, James K. A. Smith examines the political through the lens of liturgy. What if, he asks, citizens are not only thinkers or believers but lovers? Smith explores how our analysis of political institutions would look different if we viewed them as incubators of love-shaping practices--not m ...more
Paperback, 251 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Baker Academic
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Humans are primarily creatures of love, not merely creatures of thinking. This is one of the primary insights James KA Smith has made throughout his three books in his Cultural Liturgies series. Drinking deeply from the well of modernity, too many Christians uncritically accepted that we primarily approach the world as thinkers. From this, if you want to change a person the place to start is to change their mind. Smith argues that it is in our liturgy - our practices of worship - that we are tru ...more
Alex Strohschein

One of the dangers of challenging yourself to read 75 books in a year is that it can make you read too fast to appreciate a book. This is only exacerbated if your reading of the book is fragmentary and even WORSE if you are not reading it alongside someone else so you can digest and discuss the book together. I might be guilty of a "poor" reading of 'Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology,' as a result.

This is the final volume in James K.A. Smith's masterful Cultural Liturgies trilog
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice conclusion to a remarkable trilogy. While each volume seems to have to have it's own eclectic style and concerns, this seemed to me to be the most eclectic of the three. I began this trilogy now around 5 years ago and to finish it now I can see how it has shaped my thoughts on things like theological anthropology, and ecclesiological practice. This book strikes an interesting note as it touches on the intersection between ecclesial practices and "politics"—understood as the day in, day ou ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summary: A theology of public (and not just political) life exploring both how public life is "liturgical" and the church "political" and the possibilities and limits on engagement in the life of the "city of Man" for those who identify their hope and citizenship with the "city of God."

The 2016 election season in the U. S. underscored how vitally needed is a "public theology" among Christians in the U.S., both to shed light both on the outcome, and the path forward. But this is not new. People h
Michael Nichols
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book I’ve desired to read for about the past three to four years. Someone finally wrote it. (I was starting to worry I’d have to write it myself). Chapters one and two bolster the political nature of the church. Then chapters three through six work out the implications for Christian participation in earthly politics. Smith sketches what it might look like to do politics in a hopeful key, from a place of cruciform authority rather than sheer power.

In brief, Smith takes the concept of
Jul 22, 2017 marked it as to-read
Watch Smith's video comment here. A Baptist reviews it here. ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awaiting the King is the third and final installment in James KA Smith’s Cultural Liturgies series. In this final book, Smith considers what it looks like for Christians to engage in a democracy. Given the state of political tension in America, Smith’s book is timely.

The foundation for Smith’s answer is found in an Augustinian anthropology. Smith believes that when we consider ourselves as those who are fundamentally shaped by our hearts and not our minds that the way in which we engage our wor
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the brilliant insights of Smith’s book (and others in the trilogy) is that we are worshiping creatures whose hearts are formed and deformed by the million competing liturgies to which we are exposed. In the past, I've envisioned myself as keeping politics at arm's length. I had no use for its "liturgies." I've come to realize, more and more, not only the impossibility of such insular living but the abdication of my responsibility in doing so. What this books calls for is an awareness and ...more
Nathan Sexten
May 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
The argument of the book felt a little looser and thus harder to track in this one. Also it took me way too long to finish it, pointing to part of the problem I think. Hence four stars. But otherwise it was still fantastic as part of the cultural liturgies project.
Dan Salerno
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever heard of a reviewer posting a disclaimer at the start of their review?

After reading James K.A. Smith’s AWAITING THE KING (the third volume in his Cultural Liturgies series) I feel obligated.

First, I’m not a theologian. Second, I’m not from academia. Third, I’m pretty sure I’m not within the target audience that Professor Smith had in mind when he began his ambitious project.

What motivated me to read King’s volume is a deep interest in the current political climate in the US, and the role th
Melody Schwarting
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: r-2020, r-nf-religion
Awaiting the King brings Smith's Cultural Liturgies series to a satisfying conclusion. He helpfully reframes discussions surrounding church and state, Christianity and politics, and like dichotomies. As always, he returns to Augustine, showing a new dimension of his political theology that I'd missed until now.

Smith's whole thesis is that humans are primarily creatures of love, and that our liturgies (habits/rituals) form our loves. I really love this theological anthropology, because it is the
In James K.A. Smith's 3-volume series "Cultural Liturgies," he has argued that all human beings (not just the religious) are religious. All humans have a notion of the "good life" and engage in "worship" and "liturgical practices" to get to that telos. Though the Reformation and Enlightenment taught that we are creatures of reason, we are actually creatures of desire. Since we are creatures of desire, our own desires are shaped and molded by systems with their own liturgical practices: consumeri ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Preachers are often cautioned to steer clear of politics, and yet the biblical story is very political. Jesus himself was executed as political figure. The Romans didn't care about intricacies of Jewish theology, but they did pay attention to claims of being a king. So, Pilate had him executed. The prophets of Israel often stepped on the toes of the political establishment. So it goes. Politics and religion have long been connected, even if the relationship is often tenuous. This leads us to the ...more
Smith is a scholar for whom I have great respect. I have not had the chance to read the first two volumes of the Cultural Liturgies series, but I am planning on it. "Awaiting the King" is a volume that can stand on its own, especially if you have read some of Smith's other work. "You Are What You Love" remains one of my favorite books, and serves as a nice appetizer for "Awaiting the King."

In this newest volume, Smith examines the idea of public theology. To do so, he engages in significant co
Oliver Pierce
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been slowly making my way through this one as I've had the chance this semester. While I'm not completely on board with James K.A. Smith's overall project, this might be my favorite book of his. It is a engaging, entertaining, and yet deeply philosophical read and timely given cultural/political climate at large. Worth a read if you are theologically or politically minded...especially so if you are both.

"Central to a Christian political posture is waiting...we don't bring about the kingdom
Justin Edgar
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Smith, and I loved this book. I wrestle with so many of the things that Smith talks about in this book, related to politics, political action, the role of faith, cynicism, doubt, skepticism and hope. I think chapters 3 and 4 provided some tough sledding through O'Donovan and his thought, but I think the work was worth it. Chapters 1, 2 and 6 were money all the way through. An important book! ...more
Andy Littleton
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is deep, nuanced, and very interesting. I do wish it were more readable and accessible. Perhaps Smith will provide a “You Are What You Love” political edition, simplified for the somewhat educated among us. That would have been more helpful to myself and my fellow elders at church.
John Rakshith Prabhakar
A refreshing thinker and a brilliant writer! His thinking in the Cultural Liturgies series is well presented. However, I found the books in the series quite redundant. He does, however, build on his thinking on each of the books that keeps the reader engaged even when I find myself not fully agreeing.
David Goetz
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Probably 3.5 stars.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political, religion
There were a lot of good ideas in Awaiting the King but Smith's writing style was overly academic and opaque. In that sense it was a missed opportunity; a more accessible version of his cultural liturgy series could be a very relevant book (or books) to American Christians. ...more
John Medendorp
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Incredible conclusion to an amazing series. Smith’s call to engage in the life of the earthly city with hope instead of fear, faith instead of empiricism, and love instead of posturing are wise words for all Christians. We do not build the kingdom, we patiently await the coming of our victorious King.
Tim Hoiland
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this final installment of the heralded Cultural Liturgies trilogy, James K.A. Smith invites us to reexamine the way we approach politics – and, even more, the ways politics "disciple" us. Continuing his ongoing engagement with Augustine, Smith argues that we are liturgical creatures, shaped for better and worse by rites both within and outside the church. For those of us who are persuaded of "the good of politics" but recognize all the ways governments and citizens fall short in this time bet ...more
Daunavan Buyer
James K.A. Smith has done it again! This book is a difficult but amazing read. Recommended for those who want a deeper understanding of politics and the church.
Ian Caveny
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, masterworks
In a world where the Christian theologians, pastors, and laymen routinely communicate co-opted political stances, where televangelists preach the "gospel" of the Religious Right or where T.V. pastors preach the "gospel" of the Christian Left, and, yet, where Christian engagement in "politics" is often reticent, fraught with overcomplexities, and, in the end, discarded, James K.A. Smith's final entry in his Cultural Liturgies project is a breath of fresh air. Side-stepping altogether the monastic ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clear and concise look at Christian political engagement. The third volume of his Cultural liturgies trilogy, it focuses on political engagement. He uses ‘political’ in the broad sense of civics and actions within the polis.

His main point is engagement with politics is not one way. Politics shapes us through, you might have guessed, liturgy. If you’ve read the other two volumes, you know his main thesis is we are shaped by liturgy not by rationality. By that he means we are shaped by the ritua
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This review was originally published in 2018 in the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics, Volume 6.

Awaiting the King is not the book that James K. A. Smith expected to write when he began his Cultural Liturgies trilogy. His Desiring the Kingdom (2009) and Imagining the Kingdom (2013) advanced a theological anthropology of homo liturgicus – humanity as imaginative, narrative, and liturgical animals, shaped by habits and practices in which visions of the good life are always already embedde
An important book, and the third in Smith's cultural liturgies series. Here he emphasizes how worship is a political act, where Jesus is honoured as the coming King of creation, which immediately relativizes the politics of our own society.

Politics, he reminds us, is not just government, but can include all that happens in public commons, as part of civil society. Habits of relating and working together. We need to address not just politics and government, but “society”—that system of globalized
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am exceedingly glad to have found Smith's political work. His work has opened up a whole new world of scholarship, tangential to the worlds which which I have engaged to date. I found myself rejoicing through much of this work, at the terse insight with which Smith writes. This work is not for the faint of heart; I would describe it as a very difficult read. Its high scholarly tone, remote vocabulary, and pithy, compact paragraphs combine to necessitate much focus and a measured reading rate.

Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture, theology
It's hard to put into a short summary the depth and breadth of what Smith covers in this book. First, the reader should understand that this is the final in a trilogy of books (Cultural Liturgies) by Smith which advocate and engage liturgical theology. If you haven't read either Desiring the Kingdom or Imagining the Kingdom then some key points of his arguments or chapters may seem to lack a foundation (or justification) which was established in those works.

Yet even on its own Awaiting the Kin
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, politics
I was worried I'd feel like I'm coming in in the middle of a conversation. I haven't read the preceding books in Smith's Cultural Liturgies series. I'm also not as steeped in Kuyper or Augustine as the ideal reader would be, and I'm totally unfamiliar with Oliver O'Donovan, the key figure in this work. Even so, it's easy enough to get up to speed, and there's plenty to reward the work in this book.

The answers to the various issues raised in this project aren't simple. Smith finds a spot that's n
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Other books in the series

Cultural Liturgies (3 books)
  • Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
  • Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

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“Our most revolutionary political act is to hope” 1 likes
“One of the functions of Revelation [or of worship] was to purge and to refurbish the Christian imagination. It tackles people’s imaginative response to the world, which is at least as deep and influential as their intellectual convictions. It recognizes the way a dominant culture, with its images and ideals, constructs the world for us, so that we perceive and respond to the world in its terms. Moreover, it unmasks this dominant construction of the world as an ideology of the powerful which serves to maintain their power. In its place, Revelation offers a different way of perceiving the world which leads people to resist and to challenge the effects of the dominant ideology.” 0 likes
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