Item description for Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age by J. Richard Middleton & Brian J. Walsh...
Overview Here is the book for those who wonder what postmodernism is and how biblical Christians might best respond to its challenges. In this book the authors survey postmodern culture and philosophy, offering lucid explanations of such difficult theories as deconstruction.
Publishers Description Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year The carnivalesque, pluralistic culture in hich we live can be seen as a consequence of the breakdown of modernity (which touted itself as the "greatest show on earth"), combined with a recognition of the socially constructed character of reality. Since the old construction has been discredited and is in a process of decomposition, the season is open on the construction of new realities which are produced with the speed and ease of temporary circus tents being raised. Far from witnessing the erosion or even eclipse of religious belief that the Enlightenment so confidently predicted, the eclipse of the Enlightenment has resulted in a veritable smorgasbord of religions and worldviews for our consumption. So Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh colorfully describe our postmodern setting. In this book they survey postmodern culture and philosophy, offering lucid explanations of such difficult theories as deconstruction. They are sympathetic to the postmodern critique, yet believe that a gospel stripped of its modernist trappings speaks a radical word of hope and transformation to our chaotic culture. The book for those who wonder what postmodernism is and how biblical Christians might best respond.
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Studio: InterVarsity Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.96" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.76" Weight: 0.8 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2000
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830818561 ISBN13 9780830818563
Availability 0 units.
More About J. Richard Middleton & Brian J. Walsh
J. Richard Middleton (PhD, Free University of Amsterdam) is professor of biblical worldview and exegesis at Northeastern Seminary, Roberts Wesleyan College, in Rochester, New York. He is the coauthor of Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be and The Transforming Vision.
Reviews - What do customers think about Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age?
Making the Bible safe for Eisogesis Sep 3, 2004
This book purports to be both a critique of Postmodern culture and a Biblical path into the future. In the end it is an almost total acceptance of the postmodern revolt against enlightenment rationalism, complete with the implication that the Christian church of the last few centuries is hopelessly absorbed into that "enlightenment project".
While the authors do a bit of critique of the fringes of radical PM, they have totally woven themselves into the garment. True to the more radical positions of the PM movement, the assumption is that that we have two choices and only two - Modernist arrogance or Postmodern subjectivity. While they authors accept the PM notion that all "totalizing" systems are evil, they blindly swallow the most totalizing and destructive notion of all, that we are hopelessly locked into subjectivity about anything and everything.
In addition, regular usage of left of center code words such as "victim", "oppressor", "violence" and "terror" show the real cards the authors are holding. If you have a position of power or influence it is assumed you MUST be an oppressor, you have no choice because of your Western Enlightenment cultural arrogance. If you suggest you know something truly, you are part of the enlightenment system "totalizing" intellectual constructivism and thus of violent oppression. Simply asserting that something is true is an act of intellectual violence, which crushes the dignity of someone else whose viewpoint is different.
Their solution is to embrace the metanarrative of the Biblical story, in which the oppressed and suffering Israelites are rescued from Egypt, or in which Christ's identification with the poor and oppressed lights a path to radical equality. So they suggest a third alternative in a Biblical Metanarrative, but even that solution assumes the very philosophy they supposedly are critiquing.
In the end, though much is said about the Bible, since nothing can be deemed objective, the Bible cannot be used to test and evaluate the validity of Socrates, Bacon, Derrida, Foucault or anyone else. Scripture is just another story that may be intriguing and in fact unique because it seems to suggest answers that are not "oppressive" to the "marginalized". The proposed answer is to subjectively enter the "story" of the text and creatively write new chapters of the history of salvation based on what is in the end, very squishy and uncertain estimations of what God might be doing.
Thus PM eisogesis is imposed on the text. The Old Testament is not a story of human rebellion against God and honest records of triumphs and failings of fallen humans, rather it is reinterpreted from a PM viewpoint as a story of God's actions to right injustice and thwart the oppression of the marginalized by the unjust rulers. In the NT Christ's resurrection has more to do with identifying with the poor and oppressed than any 2000-year-old orthodox sense of atoning for personal sin.
The difference between these ramblings and the prophetic (though not flawless) analysis of someone like Francis Schaeffer is that Schaeffer rejected BOTH modernist rationalism AND the growing rejection of and "escape from" reason. As fallen and finite beings we can never know exhaustively or perfectly, but we can know sufficiently and truly - objectivity is imperfect, but not an illusion.
This inability of PM thinkers to see culture and personal perspective as an influence on but not a complete destruction of objective reality is frightening. It is also silly. Try as the PM advocates might to deny reality, it ends up crashing down on them eventually.
I suppose I could go down to my bank and suggest to the officers there that my perception of my account balance is quite different from their totalizing linguistic construct. As they try to toss me out on my ear, I could protest that their objective reading of the data is hopelessly enmeshed in their modernist illusions of objectivity and certainty and such totalizing views of mathematics and western economics are oppressive and violent to my freedom and dignity and economic well being. I could suggest that they should identify with my oppressed state. Of course the violence they would do to me at that point would go beyond language games. And the objective reality of my actual account balance would not bend to my subjective construction of it.
Modernism may need correcting, but intellectual suicide is not the answer.
What is truth? Feb 9, 2004
To a certain extent, the title says it all. The truth is stranger than it used to be. Who would have ever guessed that there would be a book that takes both the postmodern intellectual paradigm and the evangelical sense of the Bible seriously? And yet, here it is. Perhaps this is a testament to both the resilency of the Bible in the face of even the most monumental of paradigm shifts in cultural and intellectual history, as well as an admission on the other hand that postmodernity is 'here to stay', and the differing intellectual pieces that make up postmodernism must be addressed, not ignored.
Authors Middleton and Walsh ask in the first chapter four key questions, that they put in context of the controversy over honouring the discovery of Columbus in 1992. Whereas in the not-too-distant America, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to the New World would have been heralded as an historical success, in the growing postmodernity sensibility, the varying interpretations of Columbus (the destruction of Native America, the original intention of colonialism and resource exploitation, the fact that others had in fact 'discovered' America first, etc.) made sure than no particular view held sway. This was new -- we no longer knew who we were. Who are we? Where are we? What's wrong? What's the remedy? These are the key questions, and in typical postmodern fashion, they are deceptively simple in construction, and nearly impossible to answer completely.
Whereas modernity saw society as always in progress, a sense of continuing evolution toward the better, postmodernity saw the failures of this -- empires fall and don't always lead to better situations; science cannot in fact answer all questions and solve all problems; reason and intelligence and individuality are not the unqualified 'goods' that the Enlightenment made them out to be. But not only is our worldview different, but how reality is constructed and deconstructed is different (can there be a book on postmodernism that does not reference Derrida? If there were, would it be worth anything?). The self becomes de-centered, and objective history and society gives way to narrative -- Middleton and Walsh reference Alistair MacIntyre's significant work 'After Virtue', which, while far from being a postmodern book, anticipates much of postmodernism's interest in recovering useful aspects of the ancient and pre-modern. One of the concerns of postmodernism in relation to narrative is the distrust of the universalising and totalising nature of metanarratives, i.e., making all things fit into one story, usually told one way.
The authors an interlude serving as a bridge between the two primary sections of the text, here to examine a few crucial points, one of which being an obvious problem -- if postmodernism is suspicious of metanarrative, how can Christianity and its attendant scriptures have any real authority, being one of the greater and more powerful metanarratives in human history?
Middleton and Walsh suggest that metanarratives may be pharmacological in nature -- take enough and it is a remedy, take the wrong dose, and it is poisonous, even fatal. One thing vital to the biblical project of the authors is that this become not just a story, but our story, something that we not only believe and espouse, but inside of which we dwell. Referencing such biblical scholars as Brueggeman and Trible, Middleton and Walsh acknowledge the need to be honest about the diversity within the scriptures and the sometimes terrible texts included.
There is an overall chiastic structure to the book, akin to various biblical passages in both testaments. Middleton and Walsh look for internal norms and guidance from scripture -- while these might be arguable, they correctly identify that postmodernism in-and-of-itself does not provide a norma normans. One criticism of Middleton and Walsh's overall approach is that they tend to see postmodernism as more monolithic than in fact it is; perhaps this owes more to the structure and limitations of the text than to their actual views.
Ultimately, Middleton and Walsh look at the biblical texts in ways that probably become too liberal for most strive to see the Bible as an inerrant text. However, it would be hard for anyone to say that the biblical text is not taken seriously, both as a normative document and as a living embodiment of God's word. Perhaps God is, in God's own self, postmodern, defying conventional notions of foundation and totalising -- the fact that God created things that are not God might speak to this.
A fascinating text.
Authors Give Away Too Much Apr 16, 2003
Middleton and Walsh demonstrate a solid knowledge of the postmodern (poststructuralist) critique of truth. And they are correct is asserting that this critique must be dealt with as Christians, not dismissed. I would even join them in agreeing that truth, though it may exist, cannot be known without the uncertainty generated by our contextualized perspectives on truth.
However, I disagree with the step that Middleton and Walsh take in casting the claims of Christianity as therefore preferable over other claims because of the salutary benefits of Christian claims. In other words, the inaccessibility of truth may result in power-backed claims to truth winning out over the truth claims of the weak simply because it's all about power, but I don't agree that Christianity should therefore get positive points because it is the religion of the weak and marginalized.
That's rhetoric, or sophistry. Christianity deserves an audience for its claims because many of its claims reflect the completely legitimate conclusions to be drawn from a real story that began long ago and continues today. That is the story of the relationship between God and man. This story is recounted by many people - by Jewish leaders during Seder meals, by the Biblical authors, by Brian McLaren in his recent book The Story We Find Ourselves In, and so on.
Each of these people bring their perspectives to their retelling of the story, but the story exists in external reality just as much as your computer screen does. The story must be engaged with - to completely deny the story requires doubting consciousness and thereby doubting the presence of reality. And that's a legitimate conclusion, as long as your honest about its implications for your life.
The humility that a poststructuralist brings to discourse over the stories that comprise reality, a humility generated by awareness of one's perspective, is what animates a postmodern approach to Christian theology. Middleton and Walsh's approach is animated by the rhetorical strategies of those who seek to capitalize on the newfound inaccesibility of truth by portraying their truth claim as more beneficial or salutary than others.
A good start on postmodernism Nov 3, 2000
Walsh and Middleton, famed for their work on The Transforming Vision, have continued in their endeavor to wrestle with Christian faith in light of our present culture.
By starting off with an excellent overview of how we came to be in the state we now know as "postmodernity", Walsh and Middleton write a scathing attack on modernity. The reader becomes relived when we can appreciate that in fact there are many good things to which we may bid farewell in modernity. The concept of the autonomous, objective self is replaced by cultural and worldview lenses. Here is where Walsh and Middleton are strongest and where this is in many ways a continuation of The Transforming Vision - they employ the concept of the "Wordview" to show that Christianity is also one among many worldviews.
How this worldview is enacted in culture is the second part of the book. Ultimately, it is not just a "view" but a perspective that is told through stories - narratives. The Christian story is a narrative through which we continue to live out.
This is where the more dubious idea of the "biblical metanarrative" is described in the book. Postmodernity is precisely a rejection of ANY metanarrative, particularly the modern metanarrative of the objective, autonomous human who can manipulate nature and know truth objectively. And it is a metanarrative that has often co-opted Christian faith over the past few hundred years. While Walsh and Middleton acknowledge that this is true, they nonetheless make a case that the best way to express the Christian faith is to live out the biblical metanarrative of the faith in our culture. I find their argument that a maetanarrative can be proclamed as normative to not be entirely convincing. They argue that by its nature of being an inclusive, non-human centred narrative that it can appeal to the postmodern mind. I do not see how this is going to be convincing as a normative claim.
With that said, it is one of the better books to wrestle with the philosophies of our age. And I applaud them for it.
The good old days were not that good Feb 14, 2000
I loved reading this book. It begins with a review of modernity, and explains how it is based on "the progress myth." Essentially the notion that science will win out. It accepts the pitfals of this position and then develops the postmodern response. The authors then point out that postmodernity is also based on a flawed myth. Orthodox christianity is developed as an alternative- based on a true myth. Much better than a call to return to the good old days.