Archives For Postmodernity

 

A Review of

853982: A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith A New Kind of Christianity:
Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith

By Brian McLaren
Hardback: HarperOne, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]


Review by Adam Ellis.

[ This review originally appeared on Adam’s blog,
and is reprinted here with permission ]

Though I’m quite sure he would deny that anyone owed him anything, I owe Brian McLaren a debt of gratitude. Over the years, Brian’s writing has breathed fresh life and vitality into my faith. To say that I was excited when Viral Bloggers offered an opportunity to review his newest book would be an understatement along the lines of claiming that Bono is kind of interested in social justice, or that Glenn Beck exaggerates a little.

Reviewing the Reviews

As I was finishing the book, I watched as reviews began to pop-up on the internet. The less-than-surprising news is that hard-core Calvinists (including the “New-Calvinists”) hate it with a white-hot hatred they normally reserve for child abusers and made-for-TV movies on the Lifetime Network. Reading their reviews, you would think that Brian had done something to them personally, or had betrayed them in some sense (which is weird, sense they haven’t liked most of his books). I was disappointed to pick up on this vibe even in a review by Michael Wittmer, whom I had generally considered to be one of the more level-headed thinkers from that perspective. Scot McKnight, whom I have a great deal of respect for, and who is not really thought of as a Calvinist, wrote a review for Christianity Today that, while much kinder and more respectful in tone, claimed that Brian wasn’t really saying anything new, but was simply re-packaging the Classical Liberalism that was typical of German Theology before the 2nd World War as typified in Adolf Von Harnack. This struck me as odd, because Brian clearly intends to transcend such polarized categories (not merely repackage one category in a fresh way as “the right one”), and the point at which Brian’s thought draws this criticism from McKnight, is actually closer to the much more contemporary (and 3rd-way) thinking found in the work of Peter Enns.

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“Stories to Guide Us”

A Review of
Patron Saints for Postmoderns:
Ten from the Past Who Speak to Our Future.

By Chris Armstrong.

Reviewed by Austen Sandifer-Williams.

Patron Saints for Postmoderns:
Ten from the Past Who Speak to Our Future.

By Chris Armstrong.

Paperback: IVP Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBooks.com ]

In Patron Saints for Postmoderns: Ten from the Past Who Speak to Our Future, author Chris Armstrong offers ten portraits of Christians from history to inspire readers to live their faith more fully. Using a mixed definition of “saint” that falls somewhere between the canonized saints of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and the Protestant definition of the sainthood of all believers, Armstrong focuses on “certain special people to pierce our complacency and hold up for us the possibility of a better way—not only for us individually, but for the whole church (8).” The book includes a chapter each on each of the following: Antony of Egypt, Gregory the Great, Dante, Alighieri, Margery Kempe, John Amos Comenius, John Newton, Charles Simeon, Amanda Berry Smith, Charles M. Sheldon and Dorothy L. Sayers.

As a professor of Christian history, Armstrong’s passion for history and for the saints he selected shines throughout the book, with each story brimming with dramatic and interesting details that bring the characters to life. However, Armstrong’s list of saints is somewhat surprising in that it does not include some of those individuals who one might most expect to speak to postmodern readers. And it does not become clear until later in the book exactly what Armstrong’s agenda is in making his selection.

He states that his choice is partly so that “we can learn from so many more people than just the usual Protestant heroes, such as Billy Graham, Adoniram Judson, John Wesley and others, and even such usual giants of our earlier history as Augustine, Francis, and Ignatius Loyola (14).” However, this argument for overlooking some of the “big heroes” loses some punch when Armstrong also bemoans the lack of sense of history in many postmodern Christians’ lives.

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“The grand narrative of the Enlightenment and the grand narrative of Christianity are at odds”

You can watch eight other excerpts from this interview by clicking here.

 

A Brief Review of  TRANSFORMATIONAL ARCHITECTURE by Ron Martoia


[ This book was sent to us as part of The Ooze‘s Select Blogger Program…] 

Ron Martoia’s new book Transformational Architecture: Reshaping Our Lives As Narrative came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise.  After reading the publisher’s blurb on the back cover, I almost didn’t read the book at all:

                “How can I more effectively reach people of my

generation with the Message of the Gospel?”

Quite frankly, this question wasn’t one that interested me.  However, I do know that publishers often add blurbs like that, which they think will aid the marketability of the book, but in reality may not be a fair representation of the book’s content.  So, I decided to give the book a chance, and I’m glad that I did.  Transformational Architecture is an insightful guide to making the shift from talking about our faith in propositional language to talking about our faith in terms of narrative.  Over the course of the book, Martoia demonstrates that he has a solid understanding of this cultural and philosophical shift, citing thinkers from Derrida to Lyotard to Ken Wilber.  This book is valuable for encouraging us to think about the language with which we think and talk about our Christian faith in a post-Christian culture.  However, the theological content of what Martoia wants to communicate with new language seems pretty fixed in traditional individualistic evangelicalism.  Thus, it seems that although Martoia has made a smooth transition in thinking bout HOW we talk about our faith, it seems that he has not made the shift from a theology rooted in individualism to a theology rooted in the gathered people of God (cf., Rodney Clapp’s A Peculiar People.)  Fundamental to Martoia’s theology is the “personal life history,” the story of an individual’s life, which seems to be primarily a modern philosophical construct, rooted in the personal autonomy of the age of Enlightenment.  The importance of an individual’s story shines most clearly in Martoia’s chapter on the “Imago Dei.”  Here, he botches the interpretations of a number of New Testament passages in service to his individualism, often implying that plural uses of “you” in certain passages of the Greek text should be read as singular ones (e.g., Col. 1:27).  While Transformational Architecture might be useful for helping pastors and other leaders in evangelical churches understand the shifts in Western culture over the recent decades, its blindness to the theological shifts of our age will ultimately render it little more than putting fashionable new clothes and makeup on a corpse.

 

Transformational Architecture: Reshaping Our Lives as Narrative.
Ron Martoia.

Paperback: Zondervan, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ] [ Amazon ]