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Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture) Paperback – April 1, 2006
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I am not a Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault scholar and I cannot comment on how accurately Smith represents their writings. He does footnote his quotes and he is pretty liberal with them, so I tend to trust his understanding.
Smith essentially says this: What Derrida and company actually say is not how they are usually represented. That's a phenomenon with which I am acquainted in others and so I am open to the idea. He then goes on to say that Derrida and Lyotard essentially reduce down, in a Christian form, to that which pre-suppositionalists like Van Til and Schaeffer have said for years. In other words, their critique of "modernism" is in fact just a more abstract and foundational form of these earlier theologians. I am open to that also.
Smith then turns to Foucault and finds in him a valuable ally in understanding how the Christian community can resist the power structures which pervasive modernism has "disciplined" the general population. By exposing and rejecting these structures, Smith turns Foucault on his head by saying that Christians should not reject the idea of power structures but rather the end or telos toward which modernism's structures are pointed. Christians should, with understanding, institute their own community, with its own power structures, to the end of realigning itself with the general intent of the early/post-Apostolic Christian Church.
In short, Smith advocates a Radical Orthodoxy that appropriates the post-Modern critique but does not fall into the cynical despair that is underneath much of the Emerging Church movement. It is an interesting proposition.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is exactly as described, reviewing the influence of three French philosophers on post-modernism. I really appreciated the perspective and contribution. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Matthew Stoll
Great read worth your time! Left me curious,and excited to study further. Smith does not leave the reader without application of content. I certainly recommend.Published 14 months ago by Kyle Jackson
James Smith has done it again- he has written an excellent book that made a difficult topic easier to understand.Published 14 months ago by Sheri PhD
Sometimes I put unreasonable expectations on books. I wanted an entire book on prominent post-modern thinkers. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Adam Oliver
James K.A. Smith in his book, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? says that those who criticize postmodernism do so based upon misinterpretation of "bumper sticker" slogans, and not... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Garrett Craig
Smith's work methodically builds the case that many evangelicals are responding to a poorly truncated understanding of post-modernism. Read morePublished on August 11, 2014 by Michael Langer
Postmodernity is heavily defined by French philosophy, especially Jacque Derrida, Jan-François Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. Read morePublished on May 2, 2014 by Caleb Wolanek
James K.A. Smith is a writer on the horizon. Keep his name in your mind. He's younger, but holds extreme potential in his words that, though now powerful in his recent... Read morePublished on February 19, 2014 by Cloud Strife
Highly recommended read. When Jamie Smith is on, he is ON...when he's off, keep moving because he hits his stride again and will blow your mind (and hopefully some idols, as well). Read morePublished on January 20, 2014 by the frenchman