Postmodernism: A Review Article -- By: L. Daniel Hawk

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 39:0 (NA 2007)
Article: Postmodernism: A Review Article
Author: L. Daniel Hawk

Postmodernism: A Review Article

by L. Daniel Hawk*

James K. A. Smith. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church. Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Academic, 2006. 160 pp., paper, $16.99.

Crystal L. Downing. How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006. 240 pp., paper, $18.00.

While other segments of the church have carried on a lively interaction with postmodernism for decades, evangelical Christianity has only recently begun to interact meaningfully with postmodern sentiments and their cultural expressions. When, in 1998, I first presented my section on “Postmodernism and the Church” for the seminary’s Church Planting Institute, only one book by an evangelical writer appeared on the bibliography I distributed to participants. Now, however, I find myself adding new works by evangelical writers every year.

It has become common, and even fashionable, to claim that we have entered the “postmodern” age. Many evangelical treatments of postmodernism, however, have focused on cultural trends, demographics, and “emerging” spirituality as opposed to the deep currents that course beneath the surface. These surface surveys, along with the increasingly-popular appropriation of the term, have given rise to a degree of oversimplification, misunderstanding, and caricaturing of what has been called postmodernism or postmodernity, both by those who view postmodernism as an opponent of orthodox Christianity and those who view it as an opportunity to rework categories of Christian thought.

The claim that we have entered the “postmodern age” is a case in point (and a red flag for anyone interested in a serious engagement of postmodernism), as the demarcation of history and culture into discrete “ages” with definite and discernable boundaries is a quintessentially “modernist” operation. It is more accurate to assert that we are on the cusp of a profound cultural transition that has been centuries in the making. Like a hologram, we now see two images transposed on culture, one waxing and the other waning as cultural shifts alter fundamental perspectives on reality, morality, the self, and the world.

The publication of these thoughtful, informed, and constructive engagements with postmodernism is therefore most welcome. Both offer accessible and lively introductions to postmodernism that interlace commentary with personal experience and connect theory to practice via illustrations drawn from the media and arts. More than this, however, both writers offer their readers cogent and irenic critiques of postmod...

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