Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian

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R. Scott Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church. Crossway Books, 2005.

Referenced in: Theology and Practice of Evangelism – Evaluating-Emergent Summary

Smith is not emergent, but is very friendly and conversant with emergent authors such as Tony Jones. In an endorsement of this book, Jones describes Smith as someone who “writes with a gracious and generous tone,” and is “a friendly critic and a brother in Christ.” This character elevates Smith’s volume as an excellent balance to authors such as McLaren and Jones who constitute a very accommodative embrace of the postmodern ethos. Smith is a first-rate academic, and speaks with credibility on the issues of postmodern philosophy. He also loves the church and has a heart for evangelism, a spirit that pervades his writing.

Smith is perhaps the most fair and thorough critique of both postmodernism and the emerging church one may find. The first half of the book is Smith’s attempt to describe postmodernism in terms of the history of philosophy, the way it is reflected among popular Christian authors, and its pervasiveness in both secular and Christian universities. He begins by defining the philosophical milieu of postmodernism, surveying both the history and perspectives that lead to and are anchored in the postmodern ethos. This is a very readable survey for those unschooled in philosophy. Second, he assesses the works of key Christian postmodernists, especially Stanley Hauerwas, Stanley Grenz, John Franke, and Brad Kallenberg. This is followed by a thorough description of the emerging church, with special emphasis on Brian McLaren and Tony Jones. The next chapter discusses the pervasiveness of postmodernism in both secular and Christian universities.

The second half of the book is devoted to an evaluation of postmodernism, analyzing the roots of postmodernism generally, and more specifically critiquing the emerging church and the changes in Christian belief and ministry. The last two chapters take on subjects that are foundational to this whole field of inquiry, the challenge of relativism and whether truth is objective and can be known. The appendix includes an excellent annotated bibliography.

About the Author

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.

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