Item description for Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture) by James K. a. Smith...
Overview The philosophies of French thinkers Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault form the basis for postmodern thought and are seemingly at odds with the Christian faith. However, James K. A. Smith claims that their ideas have been misinterpreted and actually have a deep affinity with central Christian claims. Each chapter opens with an illustration from a recent movie and concludes with a case study considering recent developments in the church that have attempted to respond to the postmodern condition, such as the ''emerging church'' movement. These case studies provide a concrete picture of how postmodern ideas can influence the way Christians think and worship. This significant book avoids philosophical jargon and offers fuller explanation where needed. It is the first book in the Church and Postmodern Culture series, which provides practical applications for Christians engaged in ministry in a postmodern world.
Publishers Description The philosophies of French thinkers Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault form the basis for postmodern thought and are seemingly at odds with the Christian faith. However, James K. A. Smith claims that their ideas have been misinterpreted and actually have a deep affinity with central Christian claims. Each chapter opens with an illustration from a recent movie and concludes with a case study considering recent developments in the church that have attempted to respond to the postmodern condition, such as the "emerging church" movement. These case studies provide a concrete picture of how postmodern ideas can influence the way Christians think and worship. This significant book, winner of a "Christianity Today" 2007 Book Award, avoids philosophical jargon and offers fuller explanation where needed. It is the first book in the Church and Postmodern Culture series, which provides practical applications for Christians engaged in ministry in a postmodern world.
From Publishers Weekly Christians who think that "Lyotard" is something worn by gymnasts ought to
investigate this unusual book, which aims to make accessible the philosophical
and religious contributions of three postmodern thinkers: Jacques Derrida,
Jean-Fran ois Lyotard and Michel Foucault. Smith, a philosophy professor at
Calvin College, does this cleverly by employing illustrations and examples
from such films as The Matrix; Memento; One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest; O
Brother, Where Art Thou?; and, surprisingly but successfully, The Little
Mermaid. Along the way, Smith also dissects the popular teachings of
postmodern writers like Brian McLaren (reviewed and interviewed in this
issue), Leonard Sweet and Robert Webber. At times, the language is decidedly
academic ("heuristic," "metanarrative" and "epistemology" make routine
appearances), and the book tends to assume a basic familiarity with
philosophical debates. Still, it's one of the most accessible introductions to
postmodern thought to date, and its concluding chapter-in which Smith
brilliantly employs the movie Whale Rider to explore how Christianity might be
simultaneously faithful to tradition and open to change-is alone worth the
price of admission. Ironically but persuasively, Smith argues that postmodern
Christianity's most powerful contribution could be a return to ancient,
premodern church traditions and liturgy. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business
Awards and Recognitions Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture) by James K. a. Smith has received the following awards and recognitions -
ForeWord Book of the Year Award - 2006 Second Place - Religion category
Christianity Today Book Award - 2007 Award of Merit - Christianity & Culture category
Citations And Professional Reviews Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture) by James K. a. Smith has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 01/30/2006 page 64
Library Journal - 06/15/2006 page 73
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Studio: Baker Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.25" Width: 5.25" Height: 8" Weight: 0.42 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2006
Publisher Baker Publishing Group
Series Church And Postmodern Culture
Series Number 1
ISBN 080102918X ISBN13 9780801029189
Availability 0 units.
More About James K. a. Smith
James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. He has penned the critically acclaimed Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, and his edited books include After Modernity? and Hermeneutics at the Crossroads. Smith is the editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series (www.churchandpomo.org).
Reviews - What do customers think about Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)?
Helpful but Controversial Feb 18, 2007
"There is nothing outside the text." Derrida the prophet whose view of language and meaning as an endless vortex of interpretation brings hope that the Church can challenge existing interpretations which pretend to be absolutes. I confess some surprise that Derrida's thoughts here could be encapsulated in, "There is no meaning outside context" and whilst I think James KA Smith's chapter is still a must-read for Christians who think Derrida is the Devil Incarnate, I'm somewhat wary about whether Smith has done justice to Derrida's thoughts. If indeed "everything is just interpretation" is the key that unlocks Derrida then how come it wasn't used by writers like Thiselton, Grenz, Veith Jr., Megill, etc.
"Postmodernism is incredulity towards metanarratives." Lyotard's grenade thrown into the heart of autonomous universal reason as some God's-Eye view, counsels us to spend less time seeking to produce apologetical evidence and maybe devote more time to simply sharing the story of Christ and showing how this story trumps the Enlightenment one (or any other). Once again, I was surprised at Smith's contention that Christianity is not a metanarrative - I always thought it was, but given its nature of suffering and self-giving (as per the replication of Calvary I believe Jesus demands of us all), I always felt that this sets the faith apart from other metanarratives.
But I calmed down after reading his/Lyotard's definition of metanarrative as any grand story that legitimizes itself by an appeal to universal reason i.e. a worldview beyond a community, beyond an internal narrative. This made me reflect on the many instances where I and others have justified/explained the faith by exploiting reason, 'natural law', always seeking the base arguments which my challengers or listeners cannot deny. I think about the numerous times I tried to legitimate the Person and work of Christ without acknowledging the community He came to create. Maybe I should be careful about bringing people into a historical community as opposed to converting a person to some abstract disembodied idea.
This doesn't, however, mean that I'm all the way with Smith in his call for a presuppositionalist-ish kind of apologetic which virtually eschews all 'common ground' between believer and non-believer, and seemingly devaluing external evidences for the faith. And whilst Smith's rejection of anything resembling a correlationalist model (whereby theology leans on a secular discipline of intellectual support, so to speak) is worth pondering over, one can't help but wonder if Smith has sufficiently deconstructed the distinction between sacred and secular, between theology and everything else.
"Power is knowledge." Foucault's insight that society cannot run away from power and domination spurs the Christian to ask the nature of power he/she chooses to submit to. This trains fresh light on spiritual disciplines and the church's institutional power as a means of conformity to Christ, not at all a bad thing.
Foucault/Smith reminds us of the character-forming elements inherent in our media-soaked culture, the goals of the social disciplinary process and extols the recovery of spiritual disciplines and counter-formational action as a revival of serious discipleship. That Foucault - a sexually promiscuous gay atheist - can be used as a reminder that discipleship is about 'living in a certain way' and not just 'thinking a certain way' strikes me as absolutely wicked. The fact that Smith foot-noted Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline augments the value of the book, IMO (smile).
The analysis of the postmodern Unholy Trinity above is followed by a brief introduction and application of Radical Orthodoxy which I read to be more or less a (re)emphasis and (re)turn to:
- presuppositionalist apologetics and reviving theology as a metadiscourse independent of non-theological language games - remembering and living a "healthy catholicity", reclaiming a catholic faith, understood as the Christian community affirmatively (and peculiarly) "standing out" over against secular ones - liturgical, sacramental and aesthetically oriented worship, as an incarnational response/approach towards sanctifying time and space and body (there's a wonderful sampling of how radically orthodox worship would look like in the final three pages of the book; I think the idea of having shifting glass-digital images as a physical backdrop to worship is far-out awesome)
So Who's Afraid of PostModernism? Nobody who's read his pomo writers in-depth with a charitable and creative heart, seeking to go beyond the "bumper-sticker" view of thinkers like Derrida et al, offering options for the helpful and edifying use of pomo in church, theology and personal spirituality. Smith's book embodies this approach/attitude and even though Radical Orthodoxy raises questions (I know I have a few), I'm grateful for his work and certainly look forward to reading more.
Excellent Observations at a Perilous Cost Nov 28, 2006
In the newest edition to the philosophical conversation pertaining to the emergent church, James Smith tackles the issue from a different perspective than other emergent leaders. He claims postmodernism has been fundamentally misunderstood and misapplied to the church. Smith honestly explores the postmodern philosophical mindset and determines that only through a truthful lens of where we are all of modernism must be jettisoned to allow the church to properly function as a countercultural witness. The interaction with postmodern philosophy is by far the most beneficial aspect of Smith's work; yet, his conclusions leave far too many unanswered concerns. As with other emergent leaders, Smith focuses on reacquiring authentic Christian tradition while overlapping it with a new direction of thought. As beneficial as this entry is, a fundamental fault lies at the center of his thinking; Smith has embraced the philosophical postmodern world view and blatantly overlays it upon the Church as the only direction available to true unity. In a manner of speaking he is correct; however, a unified church catholic can only be created at the expense of the doctrine of separation. I strongly suggest only discerning biblical scholars read Smith's book. The direction he calls for will only result in creating a false screen catering to disillusioned hearts; traditionalism is not what the church needs--heart directed teaching is. God's holiness demands as much.
Incredible! Nov 9, 2006
I am yet to find a scholar who understands the integration of Philosophy and Theology as well as James Smith (please respond if you know of anyone else). This book is well written, well thought out, for anyone in ministry in a postmodern context this book is a must.
Balanced, informed, and well-written Nov 4, 2006
Smith's treatment of Post-Modernism is the best I've seen in the popular Christian press. He makes his case clearly and finds the value in post-modern analysis without succumbing to watered-down theology. I heartedly recommend this book.
Optimistic Postmodernism Sep 25, 2006
I am not a theologian but rather a scholar in philosophy of education. Like much of the Christian church, institutional education is deeply connected to modern epistemology. A few educational scholars have attempted to challenge the modern educational hegemony and have received some attention in the academy; nonetheless, outside of some influence on curriculum, postmodern thinking has yet to have much influence on educational practice (the systemic provision of pre-determined knowledge). In most cases, postmodern educational scholarship is simply dismissed through some version of what I call the "negative social consequences argument." That is, critics of postmodernism claim it should be resisted because the concurrent nihilism and relativism will result in social harm. James K. A. Smith's book clearly and effectively turns this argument on its head. In other words, Smith in a way that is lucid and concise, effectively argues and illustrates how modernism leads to negative social consequences. Smith builds this argument on one of the easiest to understand explanations of postmodernism I have read. Smith uses film as a medium to illustrate the meaning of postmodern thinking. More importantly, however, Smith articulates the empowering elements of postmodernism. Above all other aspects, the truly remarkable gift of postmodernism is that it is regenerative and re-creative. Freed from the chains of any false appeal to objective knowledge, human societies are liberated to become creative and more truly human. Thank you James Smith for this work--I could not put it down!