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Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   206
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.54" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.56"
Weight:   0.57 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 8, 2005
ISBN  1581347405  
EAN  9781581347401  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
R. Scott Smith surveys the influence of postmodernism and presents the claims of several Christian postmodern authors, including two key leaders in the Emerging Church. He uses their ideas as a starting point for a thorough critique of postmodernism, testing it against Scripture, reason, and logic, and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. He assesses to what extent, if any, Christians should embrace "Christian" postmodernism.

Publishers Description

The latest clarion call in the never-ending cavalcade of "what's new" in the evangelical world is the confident assertion from some quarters that the church needs to embrace "postmodernism" if it is going to engage postmoderns effectively. Pastors trying to break down the often indigestible subject matter of postmodernism into bite-size chunks in order to equip their people to engage it, and teachers who are aiming at giving their students a working knowledge of the way postmodernism is impacting the church will find a good deal of help from Smith.
-J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

Scott Smith and I agree on a lot. We share a deep commitment to Jesus Christ, a love of the Bible, and a passion for the church. We also agree that we're currently living in a liminal time, and it's those "boundary times" when people look most closely at the beliefs that underlie their practices. So, we've all got some things to figure out right now, including what we can really know and the certainty with which we can state our claims in a pluralistic society. I appreciate Scott's voice in this conversation. He is a careful reader of my work, and he writes with a gracious and generous tone. Interlocutors like Scott will be a helpful challenge to all of us in the "emerging church." I consider him a friendly critic and a brother in Christ.
-Tony Jones, author of Postmodern Youth Ministry and National Director, Emergent

Scott Smith is uniquely suited to enter the Emergent conversation with this helpful volume. Not only is he an analytic philosopher with a razor-sharp mind who has specialized in analyzing postmodernistic views on the relationship between language and the world, but he is also a man who cares for the lost, loves the church, and has an ability to communicate complex truths to people in the pew.
-Justin Taylor, Executive Editor, Desiring God

Every leader in the new Emergent Movement will want to read this fascinating book. They simply will not find a more engaging, knowledgeable, balanced, and kind treatment of their concerns, ideas, and practices.
-Craig J. Hazen, Professor of Comparative Religion, Biola University

Scott Smith's study challenges us to take seriously the truth claim of the gospel both in how we proclaim it in words and in how we manifest it in our personal and community lives.
-Gary Inrig, Senior Pastor, Trinity Church, Redlands, California

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More About R. Scott Smith

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R. Scott Smith is Assistant Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics at Biola University in California. He is the author of Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge. Dr. Smith has lectured and presented numerous times on his specialty, postmodernism, and he is also the secretary-treasurer of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

R. Scott Smith was born in 1957.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A Good Book From A Modernist Perspective  Oct 17, 2008
I had the pleasure of having Dr. Smith as my last professor while at Biola University. He taught two classes, one on organization ethics and another on moral decision making. Besides teaching in the Organizational Leadership program Smith is also an Associate Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics. I really enjoyed my time in class with him, he was very articulate, affable, and always took a Christ center approach to his teaching. During the class I learned more and more of his background and his interest in postmodernism the emergent church movement.

Through exposure to figures like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and Tony Jones I had become very interested in the Emergent Conversation myself, as I learned Dr. Smith I had. During the class I read Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian". I found the book to be intensely interesting, some ideas I read seemed to really make sense and open my view to God and ministry, others scared me a little and maybe even whispered heresy in the back of my mind. But either way it got me thinking, and looking for an alternate take of McLaren's views I decided to read Dr. Smith's book "Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church".

This book while being approachable to the layperson does require a quite a bit of critical thinking, and is not as easy to get into as the McLaren work is aims to respond to. A little bit of experience or knowledge of academic logic and basic philosophy would go a long way to help you get through this one.

Those hoping to see a detailed response to the ideas and approaches McLaren talks about in his book will probably be disappointed in this book. Rather then solely addressing McLaren's work Smith takes on the broader concept of Postmodernism in Philosophy and in the Church. While picking a choosing and choosing a few select ideas from the like of Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and certain postmodern Christian philosophers, Smith gives a basic overview/introduction to their worldviews and philosophies. As others have said this is probably the best part of the book as it gives a fair well balanced review of the current Christian postmodern movement.

After this, however, Smith focuses on taking apart all these thoughts and views using philosophical logic, and boiling everything down to the idea that postmodernism prevents one form knowing truth, therefore they can't know truth, therefore their ideas are faulty. I know that probably is a rough way of saying it and I may have even gotten it a little off, but that is how I interpreted it. He also spends a chapter disputing the entire characteristics McLaren find problematic with the Modern Church. Smith used his own church to disprove most of these ideas. But I felt he missed the point McLaren was making. He was talking about general overall impressions that he has (And I too) about the modern church, and I don't think presenting one church that does not match any of those characteristics does not constitute a valid argument against McLaren's statements.

Then after doing such, Smith spends a chapter pretty much calling Christian Postmodernists relativists, and then he goes on deconstructing and disproving relativism as a viable ethic, I found this to be a helpful lesson in showing how relativism is not viable, but this all hinges on his argument that postmodernism leads to relativism which I do not agree with. The final chapter deals with knowing objective truth and how modern philosophy and worldviews allow for that, which I felt is his way of saying everything is still fine and postmodernism is not needed and will not work.

I respect Dr. Smith immensely; his thoughts in this book are very well thought out and presented. But unfortunately after reading this work I think he still falls under the Modernist idea that everything has to fit the logical and philosophical standards set, I believe he misses a little bit of Neo's point that maybe we can't quite understand where and how it all works. Postmodernism allows for a bit more of that I think. Dr. Smith approaches the whole topic like a philosophy professor, and while I understand all that, I don't think that is what people are looking for today. I think Brian McLaren or Tony Jones would agree that arguing philosophical proofs with a nonbeliever today is a rather unlikely (But not at all impossible) way to lead someone to Christ. Dr. Smith brings up some interesting topics, thoughts and criticism to the conversation but I feel like his extensive philosophical training creates a modernist views that causing him to miss the greater overall postmodernist/emergent message.
A Must Read for Every Evangelical Pastor  Apr 4, 2008
Smith provides a well written, well thought out and reasoned argument against post-modernism thinking in Christianity, and its effects on the "emerging church." He provides the reader with an excellent survey of the theology and logic of the most prominent post-modern thinkers, including evangelical post-moderns. Afterwards, Smith systematically refutes post-modernism thinking and logic as it pertains to Christianity. At the same time, Smith recognizes critical issues that post-modernist Christian writers discuss, which the modern church needs to address. This book needs to be mandatory reading for each evangelical pastor, and those in seminary to combat the prevailing post-modern thought permeating throughout our churches, universities and seminaries.
Great response to the Postmodern movement in the church  Nov 2, 2007
This is an excellent and fair response to the movement that is taking over in many Christian circles. R. Scott Smith has well articulated his analysis and some correctives that he believes need to take place. This could be read by those are familiar with the Emerging Church, and I think even those who belong to this movement would have to conclude that Smith was really fair in his assessment. I really liked his last chapter, "Objective truth," where he really nailed it on the head regarding Postmodernism. Several times I found myself saying "Yes" because he said exactly what I've been thinking. Two books that I would recommend in conjunction with this are DA Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church as well as Greg Koukl/Francis Beckwith's book on Relativism. Put all three of these together and the Christian has plenty of information to think through the Emerging Church issues.
Not sure Smith's truth "matches with reality"  Apr 4, 2007
The best parts of this book are the chapters which summarize Brian McLaren, et al. I know a couple people who came away from this book agreeing more with the "New kind of Christian" than with Smith's so-called "Truth." No wonder, for not only are the first chapters the best chapters, they are the most accessible for the average "lay audience" that Smith is targeting. The following chapters, containing the critique, assessment, and counter position, are much more philosophical in language and style--and at the same time, less convincing.

Smith's position is basically correspondence theory. That is, a proposition is true only if it corresponds to the "real world." If you buy into this view to begin with, you will enjoy this book as a "much needed corrective." But if you don't, you will find the insistence of trying to match every thought to "the thing itself" very annoying and unconvincing. Not to mention, you will also be classed as a relativist.

For having presented such a fair representation of McLaren's views, I would have thought Smith's critique of the same views would have been much better. He defends his own foundationalism as not having to be as extreme as McLaren makes it out to be, yet pushes postmodernism to extremes that Smith admits McLaren himself doesn't go to (i.e., that nasty "R" word, relativism). Really, this book should be called, "Truth versus the New Kind of Christian."

The argument, of course, is that McLaren's views inevitably end up as relativism when followed to their logical conclusion, whether McLaren admits it or not. I am not convinced that Smith's philosophical acumen has done the better job of matching up the "New Kind of Christian" to reality. Although he tries to give postmodernism a fair shake and "objectively" demonstrate his position, it is obvious that Smith has already labeled it from the beginning. Consider the very first two words of the introduction: "CHRISTIAN RELATIVISTS."

If you find Smith's philosophical rigor convincing, however, I offer one warning: skip chapter seven, in which he assesses the effect of postmodernism (i.e., relativism) on Christian beliefs and ministry. Half of his arguments unwittingly end up countering Christian doctrines, such as the incarnation, rather than postmodernism. (I wonder if Smith had some of his students contribute for this part of the book....) His reasoning falters a bit in this chapter and becomes more transparently fearful of relativistic postmodernism.

The essence of Smith's position is "justified true belief":
* First, we must believe a proposition.
* Second, the belief must be justified. That is, there must be sufficient evidence to accept that proposition.
* Third, the belief must be true. That is, the proposition matches up with reality.

According to Smith, McLaren and postmoderns have thrown out the baby with the bath water because they incorrectly interpret the second statement as requiring "absolute certainty" rather than just sufficient evidence.

My issue, however, is not with the second statement, but the first and third. How do we know when a belief is true, versus simply having evidence? Smith makes it sound simple by saying we match it up to reality itself, and defends the idea that we all have access to the same reality. We truly know what a ball is, because we can compare our concept of a ball to a real ball in front of us. Okay, maybe this is fine for balls, tables and dogs. But it becomes much harder for most other things in life, such as abstract ideas or history.

What, for example, is the "reality itself" that Smith compares his concepts of postmodernism? Or, Smith states that we can know as truth of history in his example of the O.J. Simpson trial. We can know that Simpson was acquitted, because we have official court records to that fact. But why does Smith never comment about what we can know about the murder itself? According to him, shouldn't we be able to compare Simpson's testimony to the real event itself, and know the truth of his innocence or guilt?

I was very pleased to see Smith take up these questions in his final chapter. But I was not surprised to be disappointed. Smith almost seemed unaware that he slipped from comparing history to "the thing itself" (his third axiom) and switched to comparing things to "the evidence" (his second axiom). Evidence of an event is obviously not the same thing as the event itself, no matter how objective it is. And I would question the objectivity of any evidence.

The more disturbing aspect of the book, however, is the first presumption: that faith is about how well we formulate our beliefs as propositions, and how well we prove these propositions to be true or false. We have grown so accustomed to the Christianity of modernity, to a set of properly held empirical beliefs, that we spend our time arguing who is right and who is wrong, rather than loving God or our neighbor. Since we all begin with the same, objective reality, failure to arrive at the same conclusions becomes an intellectual and spiritual failure. Anyone not trained as a philosopher or theologian and who does not properly reason through their propositions objectively, is condemned in the modern Christian world as intellectually lazy, and is viewed as worse than the modern day tax collectors.

I am not trying to abandon the intellectual pursuit of truth. I only think we need to learn the difference between pluralism and relativism, and stop trying to stuff God into the tiny little box of objective truth and propositional thought. We need to think of God as truth--and love, and beauty, and mercy, and justice, and...--rather than Truth as god.

In the end, this book does not effectively counteract the emerging church or postmodernism, it only reinforces the ideas of those already opposed to new kinds of Christians, all the while waving the banner of "Objective Truth."
Terrific Addition to the Conversation  Jun 27, 2006
This makes for a wonderful book if you are investigating the claims of the Emergent movement. It also turns out to be a great read if you are interested in a relatively short defense of our ability to know objective reality in light of the postmodern view that we are "stuck" inside our own language. Smith ably shows what the core philosophical commitments are for post-conservatives and leaders in the Emergent Church movement, and then shows the logical consequences of those views. Much of the debate over and with the Emergent movement and post-conservatives hinges on whether the postmodern commitments they hold have orthodox or heterodox consequences, and after a great deal of survey, explanation, and philosophical explication, Smith comes down squarely on the side of heterodoxy.

Smith, in the midst of what I think is overwhelming critique, maintains an irenic spirit and does his best to present the other side fairly and clearly, quoting often not only from published works, but email correspondence as well.

This is a wonderful addition to a growing and critical trend in evangelical theology and praxis, and deserves to be read not only as a sound piece of philosophical work, but as an example of helpful, even friendly, critique.

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