Saturday, August 11, 2007

Post-Modernism 101 by Heath White: A Review

In Postmodernism 101, Heath White offers lay people an introduction to post-modernism and the issues surrounding it. White teaches philosophy at the University of North Carolina and claims that he was moved to write the book in response to the large number of questions he received concerning the topic. It is written in clear, simple, straightforward prose, contains helpful illustrations, and offers a basic overview of the major facets of post-modernism and how it affects different areas of life and thought.

White begins the book by briefly sketching out why Christians should care about post-modernism, discussing the issue of the church’s relationship to culture and the importance of understanding the culture we live in. He then spends a couple of chapters placing post-modernism in its historical context, showing the move from pre-modernism to modernism and into post-modernism. He then spends several chapters unpacking the ways in which post-modern ideas affect different areas of life and thought including morality, views of the self, language, interpretation, culture, and history. He concludes with a chapter which raises the question of how important post-modernism really is and which challenges Christians to seriously engage the questions it raises, even as he points to our ultimate hope in God.

The thing I appreciate most about the book is its even handed tone. On the one hand, it avoids the fearful reactionism and simplistic caricatures of postmodernism that seem to predominate among many conservative Christians, while also avoiding a wholesale embrace of postmodernism. White clearly thinks that much of the postmodern critique of modernism is correct and needed, but also sees that there are many ways that post-modernism presents problems and challenges for orthodox Christianity. Rather than simply offering out of the box answers and prescriptions, though, he continually invites his readers to further reflection and discernment on the matter. In every chapter, he attempts to reflect on the issues discussed from a specifically Christian point of view and offers helpful examples of some concrete and practical ways Christians might respond to these challenges. Questions are also included at the end of every chapter to help the reader process what he or she has read and to reflect on it further.

By ending the book with some serious unanswered questions to which he encourages Christians to seek serious answers, while also pointing to our hope in God, White demonstrates precisely what Christian intellectual endeavors should look like. Faith seeking understanding, secure in the truth of what we believe, aware of the limits of our own understanding, unafraid to face the reality of changing cultural situations and the questions they raise with generous hearts and minds. For now, this is the one book I would recommend above all others to anyone seeking a good, readable introduction to post-modernism and the issues surrounding it.


thekid said...

Sounds interesting. Your last paragraph here has me sold on checking this book out - but it'll have to wait until I've read a few books I already own and want to finish.

Gordon Hackman said...


I know all about that needing to finish a few books before getting more. Glad the review convinced you to check it out. It really is a great introduction to the topic.

You're all in my prayers.


thekid said...

Hey Gordy,

I miss reading about what you've been reading or thinking about. I know you're busy but just so you know I'm checking in on you.