Review of Peter Blum’s “For a Church to Come”

“Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist, ” a review of For a Church to Come by Peter Blum, Canadian Mennonite, Vol. 17, No. 22 (2013): 32.


For a Church to Come, the newest addition to the Polyglossia series published by Herald Press, is a collection of essays full of gems for those who long to see authentic conversation occur between Anabaptism and postmodernity. Prefaced by theologian John D. Caputo, the book contains seven essays of diverse themes united by the confrontation between postmodern philosophy and Anabaptist Mennonite theology. While the essays themselves may not be accessible to readers without some philosophical and theological education, the introduction, interludes, and appendix may find a wider audience. Blum introduces the book with “Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist” and provides an interlude entitled “Boxes”, a poem entitled “Nine-Tenths of the Law”, and a very thought provoking appendix reflecting on John Howard Yoder. These meditations question common assumptions about absolute truth (in the introduction), offer meaningful reflections on the place of theory in theology (in an interlude), and provide very insightful thoughts on the relationship between the scholarly work and biography of John Howard Yoder.

Blum explains and problematizes the ambivalent and contradictory meaning(s) of the term “postmodern” and shows how the term names a suspicion of finality and closure. This suspicion of ultimate foundations means that, for those with postmodern convictions, nothing is beyond question. The experiments within For a Church to Come follow an attitude in which questions are more important than answers, and occasional interventions are perhaps more authentic than long systematic tomes. In his interlude entitled “Boxes” Blum illustrates the ways in which we theorize about reality (whether theologically or philosophically) by finding categories for our experiences. This is a theme that runs through the essays in the book, along with the very nonviolent and pacifist caution to avoid letting our categories be too totalizing.

The publication of these essays, edited and collected in one place, will be especially helpful for students in the humanities with an interest in both postmodern philosophy (Derrida, Heidegger, Levinas) and Anabaptist Mennonite Theology. In this way Blum joins other Mennonite scholars who are engaging in dialogue with postmodern thinkers, such as Chris Huebner (A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity) and Jamie Pitts (Principalities and Powers: Revising John Howard Yoder’s Sociological Theology). One can only hope that scholarly and popular work of this calibre continues to be published on the relationship between our Mennonite identity and our postmodern climate.

Abstract for the “Seminar on Technology” for MCC Assembly

“The seminar will first outline the shifts in culture, occurring in recent decades, from modernity to postmodernity as well as how these shifts are mirrored in technology. I will then present a view of technology specifically as a human tool, which is both used by individuals, and also forms and shapes individuals in social and spiritual ways. I will employ criticisms of culture and technology from the works of Jean Baudrillard, Bernard Stiegler, and Shane Hipps’ work on the media theorist Marshall McLuhan. I will be encouraging the participants of the seminar to think critically about how they use technology and how technology uses them, while walking a line between the separatist attitudes often expressed in traditional Mennonite culture and the total embrace of media often seen in secular culture. Instead of seeing our lives of faith as being separate from our use of technology and tools I will encourage those attending the seminar to be aware of the ways in which the media and technological proliferation influence the Christian life as it is lived.”

Come out and hear the talk! The website is here. I am scheduled for 4:00 to 5:15 on Tuesday the 5th and Thursday the 7th…