Jacob Aitken's Reviews > Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church

Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? by James K.A. Smith
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Aug 20, 14

This book corrected a lot of my misunderstandings about postmodernism. In it Smith examines three of the most crucial claims by postmodernists and shows how, given a proper deconstruction, they support a most radical Christianity. postmodernity has suffered from naive supporters and savage critics. I had my own misunderstandings. I thought postmodernists were those people with dark eye-liner, low-brow culture, readers of Nietzsche and those who sit around all day watching *Fight Club.*

Claim 1: Derrida: "There is nothing outside the text."

Response: This appears to say that the bible's claims to metaphysical truth are false. While Derrida is an atheist, and would probably beleive that, that wasn't the point he was getting at in the statement. He meant that nothing escapes interpretation. Interpretation of the text and of all events is inevitable. In other words, see Van Til.

Claim 2: Lyotard: "The end of all metanarratives."

Response: This would suggest that the Christian story, with its claim to all truth, is false. Again, Lyotard being an atheist would agree with that. BUt that wasn't his point. He was saying that Enlightenment claims to an "absolute standard of universal truth" are merely just powerplays. Lyotard was rebutting the notion of an autonomous, equally accessible "reason." The Enlightenment claimed to transcend other narratives by its definitionally superior reason. Lyotard shows that the Enlightenment's project is simply another narrative, not a metanarrative.

A Radical Orthodoxy?

If the Enlightenment project is dead (praise be to thee, O Christ), what remains for Christians? Nihilism is not an option. Smith shows how many postmoderns are turning to the ancient church and drawing upon Patristic and Medieval sources. The result, while flawed at times, is quite stunning.
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Quotes Jacob Liked

James K.A. Smith
“Whenever science attempts to legitimate itself, it is no longer scientific but narrative, appealing to an orienting myth that is not susceptible to scientific legitimation.”
James K.A. Smith, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church

James K.A. Smith
“All discourses and disciplines proceed from commitments and beliefs that are ultimately religious in nature. No scientific discourse (whether natural science or social science) simply discloses to us the facts of reality to which theology must submit; rather, every discourse is, in some sense, religious. The playing field has been leveled. Theology is most persistently postmodern when it rejects a lingering correlational false humility and instead speaks unapologetically from the the primacy of Christian revelation and the church's confessional language.”
James K.A. Smith, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church

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