Who's Afraid of Relativism? Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood

James K. A. Smith

Who's Afraid of Relativism? Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood
Who's Afraid of Relativism? Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood

Book Information

Following his successful Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? leading Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith introduces the philosophical sources behind postliberal theology. Offering a provocative analysis of relativism, Smith provides an introduction to the key voices of pragmatism: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom.

Many Christians view relativism as the antithesis of absolute truth and take it to be the antithesis of the gospel. Smith argues that this reaction is a symptom of a deeper theological problem: an inability to honor the contingency and dependence of our creaturehood. Appreciating our created finitude as the condition under which we know (and were made to know) should compel us to appreciate the contingency of our knowledge without sliding into arbitrariness. Saying "It depends" is not the equivalent of saying "It's not true" or "I don't know." It is simply to recognize the conditions of our knowledge as finite, created, social beings. Pragmatism, says Smith, helps us recover a fundamental Christian appreciation of the contingency of creaturehood.

This addition to an acclaimed series engages key thinkers in modern philosophy with a view to ministry and addresses the challenge of relativism in a creative, original way.

  • Contents
  • 1. "It Depends": Creation, Contingency, and the Specter of Relativism
  • 2. Community as Context: Wittgenstein on "Meaning as Use"
  • 3. Who's Afraid of Contingency? Owning Up to Our Creaturehood with Rorty
  • 4. Reasons to Believe: Making Faith Explicit after Brandom
  • 5. The (Inferential) Nature of Doctrine: Postliberalism as Christian Pragmatism
  • Epilogue: How to be a Conservative Relativist
  • Index


Pages: 192
Publisher: Baker Academic
Published: 2014
ISBN-10: 0801039738
ISBN-13: 9780801039737

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