How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art, By Crystal L. Downing

How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith

Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art

by Crystal L. Downing

How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Published: May 15, 2006
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 2758
  • ISBN: 9780830827589

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Thinking that postmodernism is a threat, many Christians take a duck-and-cover approach to dealing with it. But that will not make postmodernism go away.

Can Christians learn from postmodern thinkers and their critique of modernism? Yes, says author Crystal L. Downing. Postmodernism should not be judged by some of the problematic practices carried out in its name.

In a lively engagement with literature, philosophy and art, Downing introduces readers to what postmodernism is and where it came from, aiming to show how Christians can best understand, critique and even benefit from its insights.

She draws on her own experiences as a graduate student and her careful research into this worldview's modernist and artistic origins, the challenges of foundationalism and poststructuralism, and the complexity of relativism.

She ends with a challenge to Christians: that they not be postmodern in their attitudes towards postmodernism, but instead to "be in the world and not of it" and to extend grace where it is most needed.

Downing believes that the challenges, questions and insights of postmodernism can contribute to a deeper and clearer grasp of our faith, as well as providing unique paradigms for sharing the truth of Christ.

"I never thought I'd describe a book about po-mo theory as exciting--but this book is. Crystal Downing not only explains where postmodern theory came from and what its aims are but, more important, shows how postmodern theory can help articulate a Christianity free from modernist assumptions. This is the single most helpful introduction to postmodernism I've read."

Lauren F. Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Real Sex

"Shortly after a few of us started using the word postmodern, the term in the hands of some became a club--a blunt instrument used to intimidate, insult or exclude (one way or another). Thankfully, thoughtful and articulate scholars like Crystal Downing are now stepping forward, providing nuanced reflection so more charitable dialogue can prevail. Her treatment of relativism alone is worth the price of the book. Highly recommended."

Brian McLaren, author/activist (

"Crystal Downing provides us with a wonderfully personal glimpse into the ways in which postmodernism has served to deepen her faith. Drawing in the reader through everyday vignettes, Downing shows that postmodernism isn't necessarily the 'dangerous' entity that so many evangelicals take it to be. Of course, Downing in no way uncritically accepts all things postmodern. Rather she deftly guides the reader through the positive contributions--and pitfalls--of postmodernism. Although Downing writes on postmodernism in terms of her own faith journey, I suspect that many readers will readily identify with that journey, and find that postmodernism likewise serves their faith."

Bruce Ellis Benson, associate professor of philosophy, Wheaton College, and author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry

"Crystal Downing has provided a wonderful resource for those who are wrestling with the challenges of relating their Christian commitments to postmodernity. In a personal and winsome style, she invites readers to consider the ways in which her own critical and constructive engagement with postmodern thought has served to strengthen and deepen her faith. In so doing she has marked out a clear path for others to follow and produced one of the most enjoyable and helpful books currently available on postmodernism and its implications for Christian faith."

John R. Franke, professor of theology, Biblical Seminary

"Crystal Downing has written a superb exposition of postmodernism for Christians, utilizing personal experience, concrete examples and a delightful literary style. She explains complex ideas without oversimplification, while clearly having fun with language. This book will go a long way toward dispelling unnecessary fears concerning the bogeyman of postmodernism, while demonstrating its positive value for thoughtful Christians."

J. Richard Middleton, associate professor of biblical studies, Roberts Wesleyan College

"The attempt to align postmodernism with Christianity is welcome."

P.G. Pandimakil, On Mission, Vol. XVI, No. 2, 2010

One of the greatest strengths of this book is Downing's ability to take complex topics, explain in concise terms and in thought-forms that Christians are familiar with. Familiar examples, and reoccurring stories and references make the flow throughout the book very smooth, and helpful. It's a fun and easy read (of course, by that I mean about as easy as you can imagine given the subject matter!)

KingdomView (, December 3, 2008

"What good fortune to have Crystal Downing's How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith not only to explain postmodernism to a lay Christian audience in the most winsome possible way, but to show in a positive light how it might impact Christian belief and practice."

Heath White, Christianity Literature, Spring 2008

"[A]n admirable overview of postmodernism."

Don Hughes in Religious Studies Review, July 2007

"Crystal Downing has navigated through the mire of misinformation and mangled terminology to present to her reader a clear understanding of what postmodernity is and is not. More importantly, she has prevailed in providing the Christian Church with an effective tool for the communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the postmodern cultural milieu. Regardless of your philosophical aptitude, Downing's thesis will provide ample food for thought."

The Pneuma Review, Summer 2007

"A creative reconsideration of Christian truth and Christian confession in a postmodern age. . . . Downing offers a thoughtful, compelling and non-defensive reflection on Christian witness in a pluralistic world. The dialogue with postmodernism is not made merely with an eye to survival, but also with evident curiosity and conviction that one might, through such dialogue, become a more authentic disciple of Christ. Perhaps for this reason more than any other, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith recommends itself as an excellent text for the undergraduate theology classroom. There is much here to challenge the presuppositions of Christian evangelical and post-Christian skeptic alike."

Reid Locklin, Catholic Books Review,


List of Illustrations

Part 1: Situating This Book
Introduction: Lining Up the Ducks: Christianity and Postmodernism
1. Posting (My) Life: Biographical Backgrounds

Part 2: From Modernism to Postmodernism
2. The Fall of the House of Usher: A History of Modernism
3. The Genius of (Post)Modernism: The Arts
4. The Antifoundational Foundations of Postmodernism

Part 3: Situating Influential Postmodern Thinkers
5. Deconstruction: The Posting of Structuralism
6. Building Truth: The Cultural Construction of Knowledge

Part 4: From Relativism to the Relating of Faith
7. The Haunting of Relativism
8. Identifying Truth: The Best and Worst of Postmodernism

Appendix: Influential Postmodern Theorists of the 1960s
Bibliography: Works that Aid (My) Understanding of Postmodernism
Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Crystal L. Downing

Crystal Downing, Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at Messiah College (PA), has published widely on the relationship between Christianity and culture. Her first book, Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers (Palgrave Macmillan) received the international Barbara Reynolds Award for best scholarship on Sayers, granted at Cambridge in 2009 by the Dorothy L. Sayers Society. Her second book, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (IVP Academic), grapples with the rhetorical and religious turns in philosophy. Downing has also published scores of essays in Books and Culture, The Cresset, and Religion and the Arts, drawing Christianity and culture into conversation through analysis of film semiotics.