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Review of Riggs, "Postmodern Christianity"

Review of Riggs, "Postmodern Christianity"

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Published by James K.A. Smith
Originally appeared in Interpretation Journal.
Originally appeared in Interpretation Journal.

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Published by: James K.A. Smith on Apr 09, 2011
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Postmodern Christianity: Doing Theology in the Contemporary World 
, by JohnW. Riggs (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2003). 192pp. $19.00 pb.ISBN: 1-56338-364-0.What are the prospects for Christian theology and proclamation in what isdescribed as our “postmodern” world? Identifying the core of postmoderninsights as an emphasis on
context 
, Riggs sees two problematic responses to thisquestion: on the one hand, a complete succumbing to context that would dissolveinto a complete relativism or perspectivalism that sacrifices any notion of “universal” truth; on the other hand, a retrenched dogmatism that appeals to apositivist external authority. Riggs’ goal is a “middle ground” or third way that hedescribes as an “inclusive liberal theology” which draws on two primary resources: liberationist theologies (p. 7) and the process theology of Hartshorne(pp. 112-114). The relationship of this inclusive liberal theology topostmodernism is two-fold and dialogical: first, because Riggs (mistakenly)construes liberation theologies as an “effect” of postmodernism, he takes theliberationist emphasis to be a postmodern theme; second, and in the otherdirection, he sees Christian theology offering to postmodernism a kind of moralfoundation, preventing it from sliding into a sheer relativism.But in the end, what we get from Riggs is just a contemporary restatementof liberal theology after passing through a dialogue with Wittgenstein, Derrida,and Foucault (pp. 73-80). In other words, there’s nothing
post 
-modern aboutthis project: Riggs’ liberal theology is the consummation of an Enlightenmentnotion of “universal” religion. This is confirmed in several ways: by the basic

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