I was thrilled to have been asked to review the “Church and Postmodern Culture” series. Having previously read a one of the titles of the series already, I was pleasantly surprised to see Logos offer a seven volume set and personally excited to read more of the series. I have two more titles to go and coming up for air here. I feel as though I am nearing the end of an extremely affordable seminary class in terms of emotional energy and the pressure of the deadline (It turns out I skim a lot less when there is no syllabus telling me the required reading is due on Tuesday). Grade or not, what I am confident in is since beginning the series in early June, I feel like I have taken a course on postmodernity and church practice.
What Is It? From the Logos site:
“The seven-volume Church and Postmodern Culture Series features high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church. This collection is assembled by a variety of contemporary theorists and uses insights from Deleuze, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Augustine, Irenaeus, Aquinas, and others to bring different angles to answer the many questions dealing with postmodernism and its impact on ecclesial practice. Logos Bible Software dramatically improves the value of any resource by enabling you to find what you are looking for instantly and with unbelievable precision. As you read these volumes, you can easily search and access topics or Scripture references you come across, for example, “postmodernism” or “discipleship.”
The books are:
- GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke
- The Politics of Discipleship: Becoming Postmaterial Citizens by Graham Ward
- What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good New of Postmodernism for the Church by John D. Caputo
- Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church by James K.A. Smith
- Whose Community? Which Interpretation? Philosophical Hermeneutic for the Church by Merold Westphal
- The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World by Daniel M. Bell Jr.
- Liturgy as a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in a Christian Worship by Bruce Ellis Benson
Who I Think It’s For:
The pastor who has always loved the academy but knows (s)he is called to serve in the local church.
The seminary student whose program does not include a framework of postmodernity.
Those who want to read Derrida but know they won’t anytime soon.
Any honest soul who actually is uncomfortable with postmodernity, relativism, etc.
Those who think they appreciate postmodernity and are surrounded by those who are bound/committed to modernity and/or critical to the potential goodness found in postmodernity.
What I Think It Is:
Did you catch this linen the description: “for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church”? That’s me. As much as I love the idea of reading enough Derrida to converse intelligently, I don’t have the time, the community, and the bandwidth these days. Further, if I am being a faithful steward of my energy and discipline, there are other topics and conversations that my community is asking me to stay more on top of. This isn’t to say philosophy and postmodernity are not important to me (or them). it’s that I cannot spend the hours a week to read/process it. That said, any help I could would be desirable. Enter the Church and Postmodern Culture Series.
Good books educate, help you ideate/create and they also point you to other good books. As mentioned in the introduction, I read five of the seven in the Logos series but also added the print copy of Whose Afraid of Relativism by James K.A. Smith (the series editor). This title is also a part of the series and coming soon to Logos (you can pre-order it now). From here, I grabbed a copy of The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age by George Lindbeck because as Smith points out, if you want to understand post-liberalism, you need him (or it’s like reading Calvin without understanding Augustine). Sold.
Even more, I am reminded that I need to keep reading Barth, not because I like to, but because of how he frames belief and mission to so many of us today. A repeated theme throughout the Church and Postmodern Culture series is the connection of doctrine and practice. Which is why some of us pastor types stopped reading high theology and philosophy, we weren’t seeing enough practice in it. This is what moved me to grab Who’s Afraid of Relativism? Among the topics Smith tackles is the issue of pragmatism. It turns out, I’m not crazy, just uneducated. If you are concerned with aspects of pragmatism, but find yourself unable to resist aspects of it, you’ll probably enjoy this book but I’d start with What Would Jesus Deconstruct? by John Caputo. (Again, you may not have time to read Derrida, but you can Caputo’s accessible treatment of his work and the many virtues of postmodernity.
Which brings me to the most obvious benefits of this series - they are crash courses on the subjects and conversations we keep bumping up against today. Please note, crash course is not the same as the” (Insert Topic) for Dummies” series. This isn’t light reading but it’s not super-academic either. They books are more essays than heavy text. Smith and friends generally summarize the history of the philosophical dialogue, help us understand the players, what they are critiquing in the other and then what it’s saying to our culture and our church today. My favorite part of each book is the pay-off you feel as you work towards the conclusion. My second favorite aspect is the access to continental philosophy.
Most of us will never feel we’ve read enough. So it becomes a matter of priority, discipline and figuring out ways to have a little cake and eating some of it too. And that’s what I think the “Church and Postmodern Culture” series helps offer people like me – access to conversations I wish I had for thought and practice.
Logos Bible Software
The Logos software is one of the best investments I made in seminary. Early into my second year, I asked for this to be my early Christmas/birthday gift. Then last year, I upgraded to Logos 5. I’ve invested in a couple packages including the N.T. Wright library.
While I know I’m not using all the features, the portability and efficiency of the digital form is never lost on me. Meaning while I will likely always holding a book, I really love the ease and speed of reading off my iPad. When it comes to using commentaries, I like the ability to take my Macbook Air and iPad to a coffee shop and writing my sermon/small group study there. True story: as Sunday nears, I find fewer books on my desk and it often comes down to my Macbook Air and the open tabs in my Logos.
If you need a nudge to invest in Logos, I hope this helps. If you need more information from someone who does not receive any form of commission from sales, feel free to email me. That said, I have called their support line a few times over the years and they never try to upgrade me or sell me stuff. “Good peoples” and great technology to serve in the Kingdom.