Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

the church and postmodern culture: the conversation

My friends James K. A. Smith and Geoff Holsclaw have put together a site called the church and postmodern culture: conversation. This site is a place where conversation will be geared initially around Jamie Smith's new book series by the same name, but will go beyond this as well. The site is also backed by Baker Academic, which is a pretty slick backing to have.

Initially, Jamie Smith has invited theologians, philosophers, and a whole host of others to comment on his first book in the series. The other books slated in the series are: a book by Merold Westphal on transcendence, community, and interpretation in conversation with Kierkegaard and Levinas; a book by Graham Ward on contextual theology and political discipleship; a book by Bruce Ellis Benson on improvisation as a paradigm for thinking about worship and the arts; and a book by John Caputo that asks, "What would Jesus Deconstruct?" With the release of each of these books, new responses will be posted by folks of myriad theological, philosophical, and political sympathies.

For more on the general mission of the book series, here is the series preface:

Current discussions in the church--from emergent "postmodern" congregations to mainline "missional" congregations--are increasingly grappling with philosophical and theoretical questions related to postmodernity. In fact, it could be argued that developments in postmodern theory (especially questions of "post-foundationalist" epistemologies) have contributed to the breakdown of former barriers between evangelical, mainline, and Catholic faith communities. Postliberalism--a related "effect" of postmodernism--has engendered a new, confessional ecumenism wherein we find non-denominational evangelical congregations, mainline Protest churches, and Catholic parishes all wrestling with the challenges of postmodernism and drawing on the culture of postmodernity as an opportunity for re-thinking the shape of our churches.

This context presents an exciting opportunity for contemporary philosophy and critical theory to “hit the ground,” so to speak, by allowing high-level work in postmodern theory to serve the church’s practice--including all of the kinds of congregations and communions noted above. As such, the goal of this series is to bring together high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broader, less-specialist audience that is interested in the impact of postmodern theory for the faith and practice of the church. Each book in the series will, from different angles and with different questions, undertake to answer questions such as: What does postmodern theory have to say about the shape of the church? How should concrete, in-the-pew and on-the-ground religious practices be impacted by postmodernism? What should the church look like in postmodernity? What has Paris to do with Jerusalem?

The series is ecumenical not only with respect to its ecclesial destinations, but also with respect to the facets of continental philosophy and theory that are represented. A wide variety of theoretical commitments will be included, ranging from deconstruction to Radical Orthodoxy, and including voices from Badiou to Žižek and the usual suspects in between (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, Rorty, and others). And insofar as postmodernism occasions a retrieval of ancient sources, these contemporary sources will be brought into dialogue with Augustine, Irenaeus, Aquinas, and other resources. Drawing on the wisdom of established scholars in the field, the series will provide accessible introductions to postmodern thought with the specific aim of exploring its impact upon ecclesial practice. The books are offered, we might say, as French lessons for the church.

Needless to say (but I'll say it! -- what's with these weird turns of phrase?), I'm really excited about this book series and especially this website which will act as a logical extension of it. Stay tuned to the site over the next few months for the discussion -- and remember, they want you to chime in. Speaking of, Dale Lature has already been chiming in on Jamie's first book in the series. Those posts are listed here.


Blogger Dale said...

Thanks Eric,

This looks great. I'm looking forward to the goings-on. And thanks for the Blog-Plug. Jamie's book ("Who's Afraid of Postmodernism") is certainly highly recommended, with some good issues to highlight "Postmodern" philosophies, good and bad. Kind of reminds me of an old book with the same idea by Tony Campolo ("Partly Right" egads! 20 years ago...has it been THAT long? Gosh I'm old)
I'm intrigued with Graham Ward's title in this new series "on contextual theology and political discipleship". I really need to get that "Cities of God" book of his. I've wanted a good "RO-flavored" Augustine primer to get me started on Augustine (or is Ward's book better as a "sequel" to the original thing?)

Anyway, thanks for the heads up on this.

August 02, 2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Thanks, Eric.

After I finished my comps in March, I've been bombarded with moving (I moved the day my comps were due), a new job, another move, and now home renovations.

I'm looking forward to blogging again. THis sounds great!

BTW, I start seminary at Vandy in 2 weeeks.

August 02, 2006 8:16 PM  
Blogger Eric Lee said...


Wow you sound busy -- even busier than I am! My semester starts again in a few weeks as well, even though I've been pretty seriously reading all summer long for a class on de Lubac. I'm now reading more Kierkegaard --oh, how I love thee, let me count the ways-- for a paper I'm writing both for the class and that CoTP conference in September. Dr. Cunningham invited me to present a paper so that's what I'm going to do! I'm a bit intimidated, but it should be fun.

My pastor is going to read Jamie's new book and write a response for it for the C&P blog. He's already agreed to it, so that should be a great voice for the discussion.

Hope you are well and sane ;)



August 04, 2006 12:48 PM  

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