Excarnational Christianity

The other day I watched an interview of James K.A. Smith by Erdmans Publishing that I have embedded below. It’s about 25 minutes long and can get a little dense at times but overall I enjoyed the interview and think you might too if you have the time. The content of the interview was on Smith’s newest book How (not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. The interview covered a lot of ground in discussing the nature of belief in a modern & post-modern world. Throughout the interview Smith offered some wonderful insights. One thing in particular that I thought was really intriguing was the part of the interview where the topic of excarnation was discussed.

By definition “Excarnation” is,

The process by which religion (and Christianity in particular) is dis-embodied and de-ritualized, turned into a “belief system.” Contra incarnational, sacramental spirituality.

One of Smith’s main concerns about the modern & post-modern expressions of Christian belief is excarnational tendencies. He believes that much of modern evangelicalism has reduced the idea of church to a lecture hall where the faith of Christianity is disembodied from any sacramental ritual.

This is a concept that I have been grappling with myself for the past little while now. What role does ritual have in Christian formation? How should we view the modern evangelical disdain toward the idea of ritual? Is ritual avoidable?

These are all questions that I plan to dive deeper into in the coming months and years. I’ve posted the interview below and it starts at the point when Smith is about to discuss excarnation. The discussion moves on around the 10:30 mark to a different topic but for about the first 2:30 minutes of viewing there is some really good stuff.

Food for thought.


Postscript – I haven’t read the book but here it is:



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