Multiplication Center

Taking Postmodernism to Church

December 19, 2007

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Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church
by James K. A. Smith

Though I am involved in various ministries, college ministry is most often the lens through which I view many of the paradigm shifts taking place at the intersection of culture and Church.  Our college ministry, hopefully, provides the impetus for many of our student’s questioning, struggling, wrestling, and yearning for God and genuine community in the Church.  Because college really is an unique time in life, where many students for the first time find themselves free to ask the questions that they thought they have previously had a firm grasp on.

Much of this searching for God and genuine community in Church is inherent in our postmodern culture, and whether we acknowledge it, like it, or dislike it, postmodernism has allowed students to ask questions and wrestle with issues that they previously felt uncomfortable with before.  That’s why this book has been such a great book to read, as it gives one the chance as the author states, to neither “demonize”, nor “baptize” postmodernism, but to have a better understanding of its affect in our culture and Church.  Smith believes that postmodernism can help reshape the Church by being an “ally of our ancient heritage.”

I’ll leave you with this great quote below, as it reminds me of the current struggle of my student’s as they wrestle with their faith in a Church that is sometimes too individual and consumeristic:

If I am opposed to the epistemology, or theory of knowledge, that
plagues modern Christianity, then I am opposed to the ecclesiology (or
lack thereof) that accompanies this modernist version of the faith.
Within the matrix of a modern Christianity, the base “ingredient” is
the individual; the church, then, is simply a collection of
individuals. Conceiving of Christian faith as a private affair between
the individual and God–a matter of my asking Jesus to “come into my
heart”–modern evangelicalism finds it hard to articulate just how or
why the church has any role to play other than providing a place to
fellowship with other individuals who have a private relationship with
God. With this model in place, what matters is Christianity as a system
of truth or ideas, not the church as a living community embodying its
head. Modern Christianity tends to think of the church either as a
place where individuals come to find answers to their questions or as
one more stop where individuals can try to satisfy their consumerist
desires. As such, Christianity becomes intellectualized rather than
incarnate, commodified rather than the site of genuine community. (pp.
29)

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