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How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art Paperback – May 15, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827589
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Downing, a professor of English at Messiah College, explains what postmodernism is and why Christians shouldn't fear it; indeed, postmodernism can help Christians articulate, experience and embrace faith. For example, postmodern challenges to foundationalism can help Christians move beyond an Enlightenment-based focus on the reasonableness of Christianity and toward a trust of the Incarnate God. Postmodernism also offers Christians new tools for discussing the age-old problem of scriptural inconsistency. Downing, however, is not an uncritical apologist for postmodernism. In a concluding chapter, she raises some concerns: postmodernism has "failed to conceptualize a transcendent Other," and that Other—God—is central to Christianity. The chapter on the arts is sure to distinguish Downing's account from pomo Christian books more narrowly focused on philosophy and theology. Downing deserves kudos for writing about abstruse topics in lucid and clear prose; no one will breeze through this book, but Downing has done everything possible to open up academic concepts to thoughtful readers. Well-placed autobiographical vignettes help illustrate technical arguments from literary theory. While the cutesy postmodern parentheticals—as in the titular "(My)," or in "Opening a (La)can of Worms"—are a bit much, on the whole, this is a winsome introduction to postmodernism. (June)
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"The attempt to align postmodernism with Christianity is welcome." (P.G. Pandimakil, On Mission, Vol. XVI, No. 2, 2010)

One of the greatest strengths of this book is Downing's ability to take complex topics, explain in concise terms and in thought-forms that Christians are familiar with. Familiar examples, and reoccurring stories and references make the flow throughout the book very smooth, and helpful. It's a fun and easy read (of course, by that I mean about as easy as you can imagine given the subject matter!) (KingdomView (, December 3, 2008)

"What good fortune to have Crystal Downing's How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith not only to explain postmodernism to a lay Christian audience in the most winsome possible way, but to show in a positive light how it might impact Christian belief and practice." (Heath White, Christianity & Literature, Spring 2008)

"[A]n admirable overview of postmodernism." (Don Hughes in Religious Studies Review, July 2007)

"Crystal Downing has navigated through the mire of misinformation and mangled terminology to present to her reader a clear understanding of what postmodernity is and is not. More importantly, she has prevailed in providing the Christian Church with an effective tool for the communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the postmodern cultural milieu. Regardless of your philosophical aptitude, Downing's thesis will provide ample food for thought." (The Pneuma Review, Summer 2007)

"A creative reconsideration of Christian truth and Christian confession in a postmodern age. . . . Downing offers a thoughtful, compelling and non-defensive reflection on Christian witness in a pluralistic world. The dialogue with postmodernism is not made merely with an eye to survival, but also with evident curiosity and conviction that one might, through such dialogue, become a more authentic disciple of Christ. Perhaps for this reason more than any other, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith recommends itself as an excellent text for the undergraduate theology classroom. There is much here to challenge the presuppositions of Christian evangelical and post-Christian skeptic alike." (Reid Locklin, Catholic Books Review,

"I never thought I'd describe a book about po-mo theory as exciting--but this book is. Crystal Downing not only explains where postmodern theory came from and what its aims are but, more important, shows how postmodern theory can help articulate a Christianity free from modernist assumptions. This is the single most helpful introduction to postmodernism I've read." (Lauren F. Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Real Sex)

"Shortly after a few of us started using the word postmodern, the term in the hands of some became a club--a blunt instrument used to intimidate, insult or exclude (one way or another). Thankfully, thoughtful and articulate scholars like Crystal Downing are now stepping forward, providing nuanced reflection so more charitable dialogue can prevail. Her treatment of relativism alone is worth the price of the book. Highly recommended." (Brian McLaren, author/activist (

"Crystal Downing provides us with a wonderfully personal glimpse into the ways in which postmodernism has served to deepen her faith. Drawing in the reader through everyday vignettes, Downing shows that postmodernism isn't necessarily the 'dangerous' entity that so many evangelicals take it to be. Of course, Downing in no way uncritically accepts all things postmodern. Rather she deftly guides the reader through the positive contributions--and pitfalls--of postmodernism. Although Downing writes on postmodernism in terms of her own faith journey, I suspect that many readers will readily identify with that journey, and find that postmodernism likewise serves their faith." (Bruce Ellis Benson, associate professor of philosophy, Wheaton College, and author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry)

"Crystal Downing has provided a wonderful resource for those who are wrestling with the challenges of relating their Christian commitments to postmodernity. In a personal and winsome style, she invites readers to consider the ways in which her own critical and constructive engagement with postmodern thought has served to strengthen and deepen her faith. In so doing she has marked out a clear path for others to follow and produced one of the most enjoyable and helpful books currently available on postmodernism and its implications for Christian faith." (John R. Franke, professor of theology, Biblical Seminary)

"Crystal Downing has written a superb exposition of postmodernism for Christians, utilizing personal experience, concrete examples and a delightful literary style. She explains complex ideas without oversimplification, while clearly having fun with language. This book will go a long way toward dispelling unnecessary fears concerning the bogeyman of postmodernism, while demonstrating its positive value for thoughtful Christians." (J. Richard Middleton, associate professor of biblical studies, Roberts Wesleyan College)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gene B. Chase on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
What distinguishes Downing's book from fourscore others explaining postmodernism to Christians? She practices what she preaches. She preaches that language is a servant not a master; she is a master of oration. She preaches that truth is inseparable from the personal; she weaves her personal narrative into an engaging account. Her goal is to "celebrate deconstruction of the reason/faith binary," "inspired by C. S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers." (138) She succeeds.

Downing's book illustrates Chase's theorem: "Things are more complicated than they seem, even after taking into account Chase's theorem." A children's Halloween story opens up into a sophisticated discussion of relativism. Children's construction paper towers first become transparent, then represent the Tower of Babel, and finally the Twin Towers destroyed on September 11. Downing has surveyed mountains of postmodern resources both primary and secondary, here converting intimidating mounts into inspiring montages.

Downing has exposed a secret more arcane than a DaVinci code: Academics is fun. Consider this, delivered with deadpan humor. "Note the dictionary definition of relativism. ... of course other dictionaries may define it differently." (185) Too many other explainers of postmodernism take themselves too seriously. A labyrinth can be fun; a labyrinth can be a prayer path. A labyrinth does not have to be a formal English garden. This book is both fun and a prayer path.

Take a leaf from Dante, whose Comedy Dorothy L. Sayers translates. If you're going to explain heaven and hell, write poetically. If you're going to go there, take a poet as a guide. And for heaven's sake, write in the language of the common people! Thank you, Crystal Downing, for doing that.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Yung Joon Kim on November 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
In order to describe Postmodernism, one has to first explain what Modernism was -- since Postmodernism is something that comes after Modernism. In fact, until I read this book, I was not sure about what Modernism was, let alone what Postmodernism was. The author of this book does a superb job elucidating the entangled relationship between Modernism and Postmodernism, and their relationship to Christian faith. As the author points out, there is no one singular definition of Postmodernism, since it is a phenomenon that envelops art, literature, music as well as philosophy. I think Postmodernism is something that you FEEL, rather than THINK. So it is terribly difficult to describe what it is, let alone explain its relationship to Christianity. Nevertheless it is a task somebody has to accomplish in order to equip Christian apologetics in this Postmodern era. But I had one question as I was reading this book: if Postmodernism can be defined, for the sake of simplicity, as "Any Way You Make It," and it can aid our Christian faith, does it mean that the Christian truth is also any way you make it? I think not. We believe in absolute truth, and it is written in the Bible and capsulated in the person of Jesus Christ. It is not negotiable and not open to any twists and turns of human interprepation. However, I agree with the author that, in so far as Postmodernism destroys the tower of skepticism that Modernists had set up so high, Postmodernism can help our Christian faith and advocacy.
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Format: Paperback
What is going on in the Christian (particularly the evangelical branch) church today? Older theologians and Christian leaders ( no names, but you know who they are) are often at odds with other ( usually younger) leaders—Rob Bell, Brian McLaren are a couple who come to mind. What is going on is that the Modern underpinnings of our culture are giving way to Postmodernism and this change is affecting the outlook of Christians—those in leadership as well as the rest of us. This transition is not a temporary fad, but a genuine transformation in the assumptions that underlie our perception of what truth is and how it can be known. Unless those of us who have been brought up with a modernist perspective realize this and make a conscious effort to understand postmodernism, Christians with differing outlooks will become more and more polarized—the opposite of what Jesus desired when he prayed that we “would be one as he and the Father were one.”

Crystal Downing does a wonderful job breaking down the complex ideas in postmodernism in a way that is readable and understandable to a modern baby boomer such as myself. I have been trying to understand this topic for a few years now, and most of the time the books I have tried to read are, honestly, just beyond me. There is a vocabulary in postmodernism—“deconstruction”, “antifoundational”, “poststructuralism” and so on—that I am so unfamiliar with that I simply could not wade through the books I was reading. Downing takes the time to define these terms by using lively and engaging illustrations and metaphors. She also backs up and spends time defining Modernism and discusses the how its shortcomings gradually led to the development of Postmodernism.
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