Social Constructivism and Christianity
Social Constructivism and Christianity explores whether social constructivism and biblical Christianity can be compatible with one another, without being unfaithful to either.
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About The Book
This short book includes discussion of constructivism, reification, absolute truth, and interacting with Truth from both relational and rationale cultural knowledge systems. The primary audience is North American, though others may find the considerations herein to be useful and applicable to their context.
If even the objective is perceived subjectively, then how do any of us know anything, and moreover, how would we know that we know?
Common Christian Problems with Constructivism
Relational Truth and Rational Truth
The complex world that has emerged in the first decades of the second millennia have left little reason to suspect that humanity has finally discovered how to live peaceably together.
Unfortunately, many of the efforts that have been made to build peace across divisions of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion, have done little to help. A few years ago, it was appropriate to suggest that many people are now suspicious of efforts toward multiculturalism or racial sensitivity.8 Today there is sometimes even open hostility to such ideas.
I believe that a portion of that suspicion is well-placed. I myself have participated in conferences and workshops where the mantra of tolerance seems to be far too feeble to answer the deepest questions of the day.
However, rejection of peaceably resolving differences is not necessary. I suggest that a much more useful approach is an intercultural approach that acknowledges the significant differences that remain present even when the shared humanity of people from different groups is fully acknowledged and embraced.
The pages that follow are an attempt to briefly lay the foundation for that approach, one that recognizes both shared humanity and fundamental differences across cultural groups.
The approach taken here is based in constructivism – a word that is unfamiliar to many, but which also has negative connotations for some. Nonetheless, I believe it is an approach that is useful not only for liberal scholars, but also for followers of Jesus who may find themselves at any number of perspectives along a conservative-liberal spectrum. One of the great things, as well as one of the dangers, of constructivism, is that the end is not foreordained. It is not a teleological system or approach. Rather the opposite, it is a perspective which pushes us to find the beginnings of our knowledge rather than to presuppose the ends of it. But, perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let me first let you know what I do not intend to accomplish, and then what I hope to do.
This short guide is not intended to be a thorough nor irrefutable treatment of constructivism, whether social, radical, or cybernetic. Neither is it intended to be an apologetic for or against any form of Christianity or any other religion. There are intentional limitations in the treatment of theological concepts, and if at any point this work varies from an orthodox9 view of God or truth then the error is likely in this work.
What this booklet attempts to accomplish
Despite these limitations I think I have found something about which it is both worthwhile and appropriate to write, and all the more as postmodernity intensifies into post-postmodernity (described by some as the intensification of everything).
As a student of intercultural and international relations I have come to rely on the concept of constructivism, in its various forms, as a very useful way to understand the world. However, I have, as a follower of Jesus, noticed that some of my fellow Christians seem hesitant to allow for constructivism in their treatment of culture or cultures. Whether their hesitance is intentional or is borne of a lack of familiarity with the approach, this lack seems to unnecessarily limit the usefulness of their work.
So, the goal of this brief work is to illustrate in fairly straightforward language a way in which Christians can develop an approach to knowing that brings together important insights from the constructivist approach with a Biblical worldview and what is ultimately a theologically10 sound and Christocentric understanding of the world.
The journey ahead
So that the reader may better comprehend the intended flow of the argument, I have briefly outlined the remaining chapters of this book.
Chapter Two includes a short sketch of constructivism, with a brief consideration of reification and four implications of constructivism.
Chapter Three highlights two main objections that some Christians have with constructivism.
Chapter Four looks to resolve the tension between Chapters Two and Three through the suggestion of a way forward. This chapter not only accounts for these primary issues but furthermore looks to find truth that encompasses and surpasses two major epistemological frameworks in the search for that resolution.
Finally, a brief list of resources is presented, which the reader may find useful in further exploration of this topic.
As previously stated, this booklet is not intended to be comprehensive. It may be that this work will, at some future point, be elaborated further. For now, it is my hope that this small volume will be of some assistance to those who encounter it.
Social Constructivism & Christianity
Stephen W. Jones
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The paperback link is through Bookshop.org. The eBook link is through Smashwords.com. We may receive a referral bonus for purchases made through either link.
About the author.
Stephen W. Jones teaches, trains, and studies at the intersection of intercultural relations, cross-cultural ministry, and political science. He earned his Ph.D. in International Development at the University of Southern Mississippi and his M.A. in Intercultural Relations from the University of the Pacific, in conjunction with the Intercultural Communication Institute.
He was formerly Assistant Professor of International Studies at Crown College (2013-2020) and Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Grace University (2009-2012).
Stephen W. Jones, Ph.D. is father of three and husband of one. He lives with his family in Berlin, Germany where he serves as Fördermitarbeiter für internationale Kulturfragen und Verständigung with Envision Berlin.
Stephen W. Jones works to see transformation in the lives of individuals, communities, and the world. He yearns to see beauty rise out of pain, and believes that rooting lives in eschatological hope sets people free.
Stephen W. Jones