“Thinking in Tongues” by James K.A. Smith

I have to admit that I’m not quite sure how to describe James K.A. Smith’s book “Thinking in Tongues.” This hesitation does not come from a dislike or a disinterest in the book; rather it comes from a desire to do it justice while allow my heart to shine through.

You see, I could review this book on a purely intellectual level while using fancy $5 words like narrative epistemology.

Or I could simply tell you the story of how this book made me feel…. Interestingly enough, the book itself points the way forward through this dilemma:

“Because of an emphasis on the role of experience, and in contrast to rationalistic evangelical theology (which reduces worship to a didactic sermon, and conceives of our relation to God as primarily intellectual, yielding only “talking head” Christianity), Pentecostal spirituality is rooted in affective, narrative epistemic practice. According to this model, knowledge is rooted in the heart and traffics in the stuff of story.”

And, yes – I am aware that some of you will look at the above quote and quip about the use of fancy words in my attempt not to do so…but please, bear with me ok – ‘cause I am reviewing a philosophy book here! 😛

Now, where was I?

God has been taking me on a journey deeper into my heart and emotions these last six months while at the same time returning me to my roots. Having grown up in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches, I have always had an awareness of the supernatural and the miraculous power of God.

I have seen peoples legs grow out, folks bound to wheelchairs get up and walk; I have prayed over those with diabetes and seen them healed; I have casted out demons and fought the forces of evil through the Blood of Jesus; I have seen God power up electronic equipment despite science and technology.

These are ‘normal’ things….the abnormal things for me were things like exegesis, philosophy, epistemology, ecclesiology, and inaugurated eschatology. These were the things that, why around me in various practical forms, where never discussed or talked about explicitly.

Starting during college and lasting for the next ten to twelve years, I followed a desire to learn everything I could about God, the Bible, theology and history. At first this desire was good and pure – seeking simply to understand and to be able to give back to greater body of Christ.  Recently however, I found myself desiring to learn so that I could put a diploma on the wall….as a former seminary professor recently told me, you are digging in the trash can looking for scraps while ignoring the feast behind you.

God used James Smith’s book, “Thinking in Tongues”, to give me permission to connect my mind and my heart in a way that I have never done before. Both are to be trusted; both are to be respected and used for the Glory of God.

This ‘new’ permission can be seen most readily on Sunday mornings as I preach. It used to be that I kept my heart locked up while I taught as I did not want to be accused of emotionally manipulating the congregation. I thought I had to be stoic and calm (or calmer) while preaching/teaching…

The problem was God did not make me stoic…He gave me a passion and an energy that comes out when I’m excited – and seeing how I get excited at the strangest things, like inaugurated eschatology, history, bass amps, and narrative epistemology…well, it just makes for an interesting service. 😀

It just goes to show that following Jesus is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do… one step at a time – always towards Him.

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