Evangelicals and Postmoderns Together (Part 3 of 3)

[This began as an essay for a class at Trinity International University on worldviews and Christian thought. It now runs more than triple the length of the original — because the internet, unlike my professor, has no page limit. This post is the final of three. After wrapping up the ideas in the second section, I give some starting points for future study.]


Postmodernity in its fullness and complexity has far more to offer than an undergraduate freshman could critique after reading one book.

In fact, Derridá, Foucault and Rorty probably rebutted every argument in this paper — in thousands of pages of detail — thirty years before I could read Clifford the Big Red Dog.

But for a tentative analysis that mostly rehashed things I already thought, this paper forms a foundation for further study. Like Erickson who dedicated an entire book to understanding others’ opinions before giving a one page initial reply of his own, my complete answer “will be the subject of a much larger work to follow” (154).

In the meantime, the argument of this paper has flown as follows:

  1. Human reason is conditioned sociologically
  2. Human reason is conditioned sinfully
  3. Therefore, human reason is not always reliable.
  4. Therefore, because of three, humans cannot state things objectively
  5. Claim four is an objective claim
  6. Claims four and five are mutually exclusive, yet simultaneously upheld.

It seems that the drivers of a proverbial car through my argument should have seen the “no outlet” sign at three, the dead end sign at four, but disregarded them and proceeded to five and six, where he now must perform a three-point turn to reorient himself into a workable argument. Otherwise, from there, point six trails off into the sunset, left for another day to be solved.

While normal life in the modernist paradigm continues, Christians can continue to receive and criticize attempts at an Evangelical-postmodern synthesis, because “all views, even those of postmodernists, insofar as they attempt to communicate their tenets and to persuade others of them, are assuming some basic rationality that is not distinctive of the modern approach” (157).

Evangelical Convictions mentions that “our study of Scripture can never be a mere academic exercise. It must be accompanied by meditation and prayer” (EFCA 151). It is difficult to stop myself from making everything an academic exercise. In my Cartesian mind, things are either true or false, determined by reason, evidence, and revelation. Why should some quasi-emotional or spiritual process be necessary? 

The postmodern shares with this view a rejection, however subtle, of the exclusivity of truth to determine reality. Non-rationalistic outlooks on the world have huge problems! Like, being wrong most of the time. Maybe I haven’t learned my lesson yet.

Before I mentally file this paper’s argument under “Reasons Why Post-Reformation Christianity is Full of Nonsense,” which admittedly is a bulking mental file, I will pursue further explanation of foundationalism and tentatively remain with the rejection perspective of Oden.

Further study

This article about the college debate league drama.

Foucault, Michel, 1983. Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Continued dialogue with my Old Testament professor, who is very knowledgeable of postmodern thought. He is currently writing his dissertation and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t focused on exactly this subject.

Exploring the connection between postmodern Christianity and the Emergent Church movement.

The work of John D. Caputo.

Smith, James K.A., 2009. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

—- 2014. Who’s Afraid of Relativism?: Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Each of the six theologians in this book, especially their writings that Erickson criticized, and any response they give to Postmodernizing the Faith. 

Erickson appears to himself have written a follow-up book. Erickson, Millard J., 2001. Truth or Consequences: the Promise & Perils of Postmodernism. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Ehrmann, Jacques, 1970. Structuralism. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books.

The recent trend in describing the left’s SJW movement as “cultural Marxism,” which probably is right-wing code word for the integration of postmodern thought into leftist politics.

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