Life on the edge of the coin. That is Crystal L. Downing‘s image for the communicative task properly understood in Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of CommunicationÂ (InterVarsity Press, 2012). We live in the tension (or on the edge) between that which we want to communicate and the one with whom we want to communicate. Downing develops this idea by introducing us to the use of signs in communication–the field of semiotics. Along the way, we meet de Saussure, Gramsci, Peirce, and Bakhtin and other major figures in this field of study.
The major purpose of this book is not simply to elaborate a theory of communication, however. It is to think about the significance of “signs” in the communication of Christian truth. Downing suggests for us the idea of living on the edge between resigning ourselves to the truths of orthodoxy and (re)signing ourselves and our communication in the 21st century world to connect with our contemporary culture. She thus argues for neither rigid adherence to the statements of Christian truth from the past, nor a capitulation in the attempt to be relevant, but rather the use of new signs to express the same truth. One example of this she gave from my own generation was the rise of a counter-cultural movement in the early 1970’s that recognized the establishment connotations of the sign “Christian” and adopted the name “Jesus People” instead, which appealed to hippies and others in the counter-culture of the time. [Read more…] about Book Review: Changing Signs of Truth