Over the course of this week, I’ve noted some of the tenets of modernism that have led to a postmodern view of the world, I’ve suggested some of the major trademarks of postmodernism, and I’ve posited an approach that calls evangelicals to wisely and selectively appropriate some of postmodernism’s better features. To conclude, let me offer a post-script for evangelicals that both warns and commends.
In the end, there are many non-evangelicals who have adopted postmodern hermeneutics in order to do their theology. Like in any era, current philosophical trends have a way of affecting biblical studies, but usually the ones most heavily affected are those who stand outside of evangelicalism. In contrast to liberal theologies, Evangelicalism’s commitment to the Scriptures as authoritative serves as a defense mechanism against false philosophies. However, the fact that many evangelical theologians have appropriated deleterious methods from postmodernism indicates that somewhere there is a weakness.
There may be many, but I think one that comes to the forefront, something that postmodernism’s presence has reasserted, is that evangelicals who lean on experience or who do not functionally utilize the Bible as first order are susceptible to the latest and greatest ideas out there. Particularly vulnerable are Arminian theologians who, by the very stated method they hold (Wesley’s quadrilateral), intentional find ways to include experience and reason in their theological formulations.
Such methods will lead to theological madness. The rise of postmodern thought has proven this again. Any theology that looks outside of the Bible for content, and any method that depends on research tools in philosophy that are inimical to Christ and the gospel (i. e. radical deconstruction and the question of knowing the noumenal realm) eviscerates the truth of God’s word and subjects the meaning of the Bible to some external philosophy or mood.
Ironically, this is not a twenty-first century problem. It was the same problem that Pilate had with Jesus and Adam had in the Garden. Ultimately, meaning and understanding is a spiritual problem. One that reminds us that as we do theology we do so as receivers of divine revelation and grace. We are not creators, we are vessels who seek to rightly divide (and synthesize) the Word of truth by the power of the Spirit. This is the task of the theologian and biblical scholar, and it is one that finds expression in the second chapter of Proverbs when Solomon records that those who seek for wisdom will find it, but only as God himself gives understanding to the inquisitor.
Let me close with these sage words.
1 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss