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5 Stars Out Of 5
February 1, 2008
Smith is a highly educated specialist in this field and some laypeople may have difficulty wrestling with the postmodern concepts Smith addresses in this outstanding book, not because Smith does not communicate effectively but because many postmodern concepts are often difficult to understand. Smith bends over backwards to be fair to those in the church who have been influenced by postmodern epistemology. Consequently the book has an even handed and courteous tone. Nevertheless, as one reads Smith's accurate analysis one can not help but realize that this epistemology cannot harmonize with biblical faith and that those who try to conform Christianity to it have radically redefined the faith and (as many other authors have pointed out) abandoned orthodox doctrines and morals as a result. Postmodern pluralists such as McLaren and Borg who want to leave the door open for unbiblical beliefs and practices will not like the "feel" of this book since it takes a literal approach to truth and reality. Evangelical Christians will find it helpful.
Smith attempts to write about postmodernity and the "Emerging Church" for the common layperson, but is still stuck in philosophical language for most of the book. While most of his philosophizing is at least worth reading (if you like intellectual debate), his conclusions on the effects of postmodernism on Christianity (Chap.7) are poor and the chapter ought to be skipped in order to maintain respect for his arguementation. Beyond that, I found his arguements interesting, but lacking.The best and most accessible chapters, ironically, are where he summarizes the views of the emergent leaders. He offers a fair summary of McLaren and others. It's only in his critique that Smith falls short. Smith's insistence on our access to reality and truth by comparing our concepts to "the thing itself" sounds nice, but fails upon further examination. For example, he claims we can know historical truth by comparing what we hear to the reality itself. But, as if unaware of it himself, Smith suddenly changes "the thing itself" as the object of comparison with evidence of the thing itself. Clearly evidence of an event and the event itself are not the same thing. Read the rest, but you might find McLaren et al the more convincing side of this debate.