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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Neither Evangelical nor Post-evangelical

In his weblog, Dr. Mohler reviews a book devoted to a new movement called Post-evangelicalism. A brief description is that traditional evangelicalism and its precursors is too hung un a modernistic and rationalistic paradigm that has led to its own undercutting in virtue of the general undercutting of the modern paradigm itself in terms of encouraging scepticism, relativism about morals and a self-destructive program of technological development without the grounds for caution. Pomo-evs embrace rather the post-modern reaction to modernity with it rejection of semantics, logical precision, formulation, and focus on technique and its embrace of pragmatics, metaphor, narrative, and focus on style. Read Al's blog for more details if you need to.

Of cvourse Mohler is concerned that the pomo-evs go so pomo that the ev drops away. But it is possible to agree that there is problems with traditional evangelicalism vis a vis its dependence on modernity. I agree that in reformed circles one finds a note of triumphalism that is inappropriate and with respect modernity, it takes the form of an inappropriate confidence in apologetics, not necessarily in the arena of thinking it will necessarily convince everyone but in the area of thinking that it should in the sense of proving its case. Critics refer to this as "blockbuster apologetics" and both classical and presuppositional styles often have this note in common. But rejecting this does not entail embracing the post modern movement. Post-modernism has a dubious confidence in the triumph of the rejection of modernity that is far from apparent or even justifiable. It also seems often that the pomo - spirit is more confident in modernism than moderrnists are the way it treats the scepticism of modernity as somehow being a settled truth with a capital T.

One important task in avoiding the impasse is to question the modernist/post-modernist framework as a guide to understanding the evangelical tradition and both Richard Muller and Paul Helseth are raising important questions here. (See Paul's linked article in the side bar.) But it is also necessary to look at the implausibility of the dilemma in terms of current thought. Its true that epistemological criticism has undermined any sense of a viable option. Rational/evidential approaches are unable to defend their starting points and while state or process approaches may be true we have no way of assuring ourselves that they are. But we have no assurance that they are not. So while skepticism might be true it is possible to imagine a world with epistemological features like ours but where our processes really do track with the truth.

With respect to theology, we don't want to say then that evidence for the truth of Christianity is in principle possible but we don't want to say that it is in principle impossible. It either is or it isn't. We may want to say that if it is possible, we may give a plausible account of how Christianity is evident. If not, we may give other grounds for holding that Christianity is true so that whether in principle evident or not, we have good reasons for holding that Christianity is true. Even if we cannot say absolutely what the case is, there may be appropriate contexts were we can simple say or affirm that Christianity is true and that may explain some of the situations in the Bible.

Stuart C. Hackett in his Reconstruction Of Christianity's Truth Claims, a classic work in apologetics in the evangelical tradition already anticipated this day in his discussion of Rationalistic theistism and Agnostic theism, when he pointed out to the followes of Aquinas on one side and the followers of Kant on the other that given how there work supported the over all case there was no need for them not to band together.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm wondering if this is John Hartung's blog. If it is, could you zip me an email when you get a minute, John? I'd appreciate it.

Paul Helseth