Evangelicalism Challenged: A Critical Evaluation of the Epistemology of James K.A. Smith and Radical Orthodoxy
The article analyses the implicit epistemology of James K.A. Smith in his book Who’s Afraid of Post-modernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church (2006). The analysis concentrates on Smith’s interpretation of three French postmodern philosophers: J. Derrida, J.F. Lyotard and M. Foucault, but includes also a yearlong discussion between Smith and D.A. Carson, rendered in the book and in Carson’s books Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (2005) and Christ & Culture Revisited (2008). Carson defends the evangelical movement which today is criticized and challenged by several post-evangelical writers, among them Smith, who claims that faith is the sole bridge between reality and knowledge. He calls his view confessional realism. The aim is to present and constructively evaluate Smith’s epistemology and its relation to issues like rationality, truth, objectivity and reality. The theoretical basis for the assessment of Smith’s presentation of Radical Orthodoxy andits epistemology is what M. Stenmark calls “The everyday life epistemology upgraded” (Vardagslivets kunskapsteori uppgraderat (VKU). Stenmark argues that we may know the truth, but nobody own the truth. Based on VKU, the article critiques Smith’s epistemology and his theology of incarnation, as partly built on a local language game, partly on his intrabiblical understanding of reality, and partly for the risk of ending up in fideism. VKU is also the basis for a critical assessment of the epistemology ofevangelicalism and Carson’s arguments for the biblical “non-negotiables”. The article defends a critical realism which allows a view of revelation that the triune God is able to transcend the limitations of human sin and subjectivity, and that God the Creator is able to communicate his plan of salvation to rational men. Human rationality never replaces faith, but rationality is able to give good grounds for faith among people endorsing modernity or postmodernity.
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