• How to Inhabit Time

  • Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now
  • By: James K. A. Smith
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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How to Inhabit Time

By: James K. A. Smith
Narrated by: Michael Page
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Publisher's Summary

Many Christians are disconnected from the past or imagine they are "above" history, immune to it, as if self-starters from clean slates in every generation. They suffer from a lack of awareness of time and the effects of history—both personal and collective—and thus are naive about current issues and fixated on the end times.

Popular speaker and award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that awakening to the spiritual significance of time is crucial for orienting faith in the twenty-first century. He encourages us to cultivate the spiritual discipline of memento tempori, a temporal awareness of the Spirit's presence—indebted to a past, oriented toward the future, and faithful in the present. To gain spiritual appreciation for our mortality. To synchronize our heart-clocks with the tempo of the Spirit, which changes in the different seasons of life. Integrating popular culture, biblical exposition, and meditation, Smith provides insights for pastoring, counseling, spiritual formation, politics, and public life.

©2022 James K. A. Smith (P)2022 eChristian

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Embracing time is part of embracing our humanity

James KA Smith has greatly influenced me over the years. Desiring the Kingdom helped me think about how culture forms us and how we need to pay attention to cultural formation as part of spiritual formation. Imagining the Kingdom oriented me toward spiritual formation as practice, not information acquisition. You Are What You Love I have read twice and can be thought of as a popular level combination of the first two Kingdom books. Still, it also gives language to how spiritual formation works, which I find helpful in my work as a spiritual director. The Fall of Interpretation was part of several books that helped me grapple with hermeneutics and epistemology. The primary thought of our finitude as a feature of our created humanity and not solely as a result of our sin has been significant. As I have said many times before, I am not reformed. Still, if I were to be, it would be because of books like Letters to a Young Calvinist, which presents reformed thought as fundamentally oriented around covenant instead of TULIP or election. Said another way, reformed theology is about ecclesiology more than soteriology. But really, it is a book about Christian maturity. This introduction is already too long, but there are more books of Smith's that I have read and influenced me, and I will keep reading him because his writing has so influenced me.

How to Inhabit Time is hard to describe. Like pretty much all of Smith's books, it is oriented toward spiritual formation. It is written at a more popular level than some of his books, but also still has a lot of discussion of philosophy. It is more memoir oriented and confessional than any of his other books. (I hope that Smith will write a fuller memoir or autobiography at some point. I know quite a bit of his story from reading his books, articles, interviews, and talks, but I think there is more.)

How to Inhabit Time wants to remind the reader that time is essential. Similar to the point of Fall of Interpretation, time is a marker of our created finitude. The fourth chapter about embracing the ephemeral may not make intuitive sense, but it makes experiential sense when you realize that all things will pass away. Accepting that all things will pass away reframes how we think of time and can free us from being bound by concerns of time and legacy.

Part of what I love about Smith is that while he is a philosopher, he isn't oriented toward philosophy for the sake of philosophy but toward philosophy as a way to think about spiritual formation and the limits of reason detached from practice in helping us to think about God and faith.

I did see complaints about discussions of history, race, and justice in a few other reviews in How to Inhabit Time. This is not a book on social justice broadly, but the negative comments prove his point that we can only see the present well if we understand it contextually within history. So many current political and social disagreements are rooted in having a different understanding of our history. That is not to say that all issues are differences in framing our history, but these are theological and philosophical issues, not just historical ones.

I picked up How to Inhabit Time as an audiobook because it was on sale for 1/3 of the price of the kindle book. I have several of Smith's books on audiobook. And I am always mixed on that as a choice. On the one hand, I pretty much always finish audiobooks. But, on the other hand, I know Smith's voice from listening to so many talks and interviews, and I wish he would narrate his books. Other people narrating when I know the voice of the narrator always grates at me. I almost always buy a print copy of his books because I want to highlight or reread the book.

Like many of Smith's books, this is a book that I think will benefit from a second (or third reading), not because it is a challenging read but because Smith is dealing with modes of thought, not just ideas. Modes of thought are not easily changed and require very slow and wide turns. It is more like turning a cargo ship than spinning on roller skates.

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BLM advocacy drags it down

Too much social justice messaging, but good material to be had outside of that.

1 person found this helpful