Skip to content

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.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I remember back in grad school at Illinois I was involved in Graduate Employee Organization. This was a group involved in collective bargaining for the grad student employees, but was also a hyper politically-correct, leftist, SJW type organization. I was an Evangelical Christian. Two things:

    1. Most of the humanities grad students and faculty (except the analytic philosophers, of which I was one) would consider themselves postmodernists. I asked one of them, a history grad student, “Why postmodernism?” Her answer was one word, “Power”. It makes her feel empowered to take on the socially-constructed entities that keep her down.

    2. I got chastised by an SJW in the group because I said I believed what the Bible taught about homosexuality, not that I disliked it (personally I actually have no ill feelings toward LGBTQ people, I had a few gay friends I really liked), but I rejected it simply because it’s what the Bible teaches, and I’m committed to the Bible. She refused to calmly discuss why I thought this way, or could see no value in a person sticking to their commitments (an old-fashioned modernist idea??). Instead she flew into a tirade, and started accusing me of hate speech to others in my department. Fortunately, enough people in the department knew that I wasn’t really like that, and that I was mostly a calm, rational person who didn’t have any ax to grind against the LGBTQ community.

    French theory aside, postmodernism is unfortunately, when the rubber hits the road, about SJW-ness, and about power. French theory has been misinterpreted to be that (see It’s about bitchiness. It’s about rebelliousness. It’s the antifa of academia.

    Is this compatible with being an Evangelical Christian? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t like it. I don’t like the spirit of it. Sure, Jesus seems like a rebel, a sort-of antifa, but in reality, He was following a higher truth. He was the Logos. He wasn’t just a mere dissenter.

    All the real academic postmodernist I’ve meet have been either pranksters (my old boss at my school) or dissenters. I don’t think I could become one of them and stay a Christian.


    August 29, 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: