I attended the 2nd Annual C3 Conference - (Christ:Church:Culture) in Nashville these past few days. The Conference is sponsored by St. George's Institute in Nashville, TN. Here is an excerpt from one of the plenary speakers, Jamie Smith, author of Desiring the Kingdom. You can check out the Institute and other blog posts from the Conference here: St George's Institute.
Much of what we do has roots in levels that go much deeper than our thinking. That is a key learning for Jamie Smith, even though as a philosopher he spends much time dealing with thought. Much of our action, he said, "is not the output of our conscious thought." On levels we often do not understand, we react and respond. As quickly as the eye sees a situation, our perception immediately forms our response, long before we can consider the facts or the pros and cons.
These deep roots of perception and response, he went on to say, are driven by our character. "We live into the stories we've observed," he said, "more than the principles we've absorbed." We shape character by living into the stories we've absorbed, much more than we live out the knowledge that we have learned.
Smith went on: "If we are going to act redemptively and creatively, we need to learn to perceive the world in a new way." Again, stories are crucial here. We need to be informed by stories that form us. And if we are not intentional, there are all sorts of stories out there that will capture us instead.
Even shopping at the mall, which he likened to "today's cathedral of materialism," carries powerful messages. It plays to our emotions and tries to convince us what the "good life" looks like.
We can perceive other story lines where our neighbor is not to be loved, but instead is seen as a threat or competition. Or we can be formed by the stories of God and humans as image bearers of God."
Smith also made a distinction between formation and information. More than any time in history we can find all the information we want with endless downloads, and Google searches. But while content may increase our knowledge, it doesn't capture our imagination; it doesn't result in formation.
But as we allow ourselves to be captured by God's story, and let his story form our story, we will find our imaginations recreated and recruited for "the true story of the whole world."