Top Five Books of 2017: #2

Each day this week I'm going to post one book that made my top 5 list in 2017, building up from number five to number one. I'd love to see what your favorite books of the year have been as well, and I welcome your comments!

#2 You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith

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While I have heard friends rave about Smith's Desiring the Kingdom trilogy, I never got around to reading any of them, and am grateful for this more accessible condensation of his ideas. Smith is a philosopher at Calvin College, and he convincingly argues that the Enlightenment's conception of human beings as primarily "thinking" creatures, or "brains on a stick," is deeply flawed. Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" is the epitome of this view of humanity. Smith says we aren't primarily thinkers, though that is a crucial aspect of our humanity, but lovers. The things we love control us more than our thoughts. For instance: everybody knows that diet and exercise are the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy body. Yet in spite of such widespread knowledge, very few put this into practice. Why? Because we are more controlled by our desire for food and comfort than what we know intellectually to be good for us. Our habits are more telling of what we love and worship than our knowledge. One can be the most orthodox and biblically astute Christian out there and be wracked with lust, greed, anger, pride, and a whole host of other sins, because increased information doesn't automatically equate to life transformation. Jesus didn't come to make well-informed disciples who aren't any different from the world around them. He came to transform our lives and renovate our hearts. This is a kick in the rear for someone like myself who likes to read and think. The call of discipleship isn't a call only for more information (though much of modern discipleship seems to be based purely around learning new things intellectually), but to grow in love with Jesus and with neighbor through worship, service, and holy habits. Jesus wants to take our loves from being disordered (desiring the wrong things) to being properly ordered. This is a timely, challenging message, and Smith lays out ways we can grow in loving God, particularly through inspiring worship at church and family discipleship. You Are What You Love snags #2 on my list.

 

Stephen Fincher

Tanner United Methodist Church, 19607 Huntsville Brownsferry Road, Tanner, AL, 35671

Pastor in Tanner, AL with my wife Laura.