Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (1): An Introduction

Postmodernism (PM) can be defined as a mood that questions authority, denies absolute truth, and locates meaning in the language of local communities.  While PM is the product of twentieth century thought, its precursors go back much further in history.  For instance, Friedrich Schleiermacher espoused a view of doctrine that was impermanent and always changing relative to the community in which it was experienced.  While situated more than a century before the likes of Derrida, Lyotard, and other philosophers of language, Schleiermacher’s liberal theology anticipates the postmodern turn.

Still, the question of authority, truth, and community predates Schleiermacher, too.  In John 18:38 Pilate, in a discussion about kingdoms, authority, and truth, asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  The relativism in his question comes not from a philosophical system of Western thought; it comes from the human condition that stands outside of the Garden.

Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their offspring has sought to assert their own authority, to make up their own laws, and to live in their own cities of men.  Over time, as Western Civilization once again threw off the constraints of God’s Word and church tradition, the question of the hour is that of Pilate: What is truth?

This series of blog posts aims to give an answer to the postmodern mood that undergirds our ambient culture.  To answer the question about postmodernism we must first consider modernism, as post-modernism stands in direct relationship to his period of time and thought.  Second, I will survey postmodernism and its major contributing voices.  And third, this series will consider the effect postmodernism has had on evangelical theology, and what evangelicals must do to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernity.

As we go along, let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

6 thoughts on “Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (1): An Introduction

  1. Look forward to reading this series of posts, particularly ‘the footnotes’ (what aspect of which evangelical scholars you have found helpful in developing an assessment of postmodernism). Thanks.

    • AJ,

      You might be a little disappointed. There won’t be any footnotes, per se. I should work up a bibliography post at the end to make up for that. The source of these notes come from my doctoral exams that were done without access to books, etc. I hope you will understand, and that this primer will still be profitable.

      And like I said, I will probably include a brief bibliography at the end with names like Vanhoozer, Lints, and Horton on it.

      Blessings, dss

      • Thanks for your gracious response – am grateful for your blogging ministry. Look forward to this series on postmodernism, and thanks for planning a bibliography post as well. What did you write your dissertation on? Blessings.

      • My dissertation was a biblical-theological investigation into the priesthood and covenant mediation of Jesus Christ with a theological application related to the extent of the atonement.

        Blessings to you, brother.

  2. I liked your summary of modernism better. It seems you tip your hand against postmodernity from the beginning by characterizing it by all of the negative traits that have been associated with it. But is this what postmodernity is really about?

  3. Hmmm…. Are you getting at the last line, “to wisely appropriate and reject the tenets”? Or the whole thing?

    I suspect that last line is a bit too negative, based on what I’ve written (and will post) on postmodernism’s impact on evangelical hermeneutics. It would be better to say, “to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernism.”

    That statement would be more fitting to my view, and would treat postmodernism’s impact on hermeneutics more accurately. What do you think?

    Thanks for the push back.


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