I remember reading Stanley Grenz’s Primer on Postmodernism in seminary and being impressed with his clear exposition of the postmodern spirit of the age. I knew that the atmosphere was polluted, and I wanted to know exactly what it was I had been inhaling. Grenz explained—better than anyone I had ever read—the air that I had been choking on.
I also remember discovering with astonishment in his final chapter that Grenz basically embraced the epistemological paradigm shifts introduced by postmodernism. I could not fathom how he could be so amenable to a way of thinking that is completely incompatible with Christianity. It seemed like a total capitulation to the zeitgeist, and I wondered, “Wow. How are we going to respond to this challenge?”
In the decade after that, I found that Grenz wasn’t the only one who was inhaling. The postmodern ethos gave rise to whole new movements in evangelicalism. The Leadership Network splintered into conservative and progressive factions—the progressive one of course being Emergent Village with Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, et al. Since then, however, that more radical wing of postmodern evangelicals has burned-out into a reincarnation of mainline liberalism. It has become very clear that the Emergent project as an evangelical alternative is dead.
According to Collin Hansen, there is still yet another funeral to acknowledge. It’s not just the evangelical postmoderns whose light has gone out. Postmodernism itself is now dead. He writes:
No obituary appeared in The New York Times. Television newscasts offered no tribute. But make no mistake: postmodernism is dead. Even those who could foresee this end could do nothing to prevent its suicide. Demise was built into its very DNA.
If you’re a church leader, you probably missed this news. Many of our publishers, culture gurus, and so-called futurists have been touting postmodernism as the next big thing, an unstoppable force. Adapt or die, they told us for much of the last decade, neglecting 2,000 years of history when the church built by Jesus Christ has withstood nearly every imaginable assault.
This is a very helpful article. Read the rest here.
Hmmm… I’m not so sure. In his article, Collin Hansen says, “While postmodernism might be dead, it’s not completely gone.” So, I am left adrift about what he means by “dead.”
It is certainly true that postmodernism contains the seeds of its own demise. Its main tool is deconstruction, and that tool works fine when used against postmodernism itself!
You say, “It has become very clear that the Emergent project as an evangelical alternative is dead.” So, that may be the sense in which you are saying postmodernism is dead. I find it very much alive when people have some esoteric idea about the Bible and cling to it as valid for them even if for no one else!
It seems to me that the way science has fallen into a role which the public mostly ignores is a sign that facts, even if proven by valid science, are rejected out of hand by those who wish to believe otherwise. Rick Perry feels fine to deny global warming even though most of the national academies of science on earth say otherwise. (I never have quite figured out how Al Gore got the Chinese, Indians and Russians to go along with his plan, as some seem to imply.)
A lot of political rhetoric is conducted as if facts are something that can be made up on the spot.
So, I see lots of evidence that postmodernism is quite vibrant, much to my dismay.
I second Barry.
Postmodernity in the church will survive until we come up with a better alternative to modernity in the church and in America. Postmodernity is no more dead than modernity is.
But even if it was…who cares? “Postmoderns” don’t care; they always knew theirs was a reactionary movement intended to criticize the hegemony of modernity.
And just because he was amazing – I think Grenz is one of the finest scholars and thinkers I’ve ever heard/read. He was taken from us way too soon.
I don’t think that Postmodernism is dead. It is changing, certainly, and will continue to do so for decades. I think the debates within evangelical circles over the legitimacy of an historical Adam and Eve are a prime example of how Postmodern theology is still very much alive. Dr Mohler is absolutely correct when he says that the Church’s stance on an authentic, literally historical Adam and Eve defines the entire arc of the gospel. The Church is going to have to seriously and prayerfully consider the genomic data and grapple with how that corresponds to the Genesis accounts and Paul’s thinking about Adam.
What we’re seeing isn’t the death of Postmodernism, it’s the beginnings of a much larger reformation. Postmodernism was/is merely a tremor.
Postmodernism cannot die because Postmodernism is not a ‘thing.’ Postmodernism is an ‘anti’ thing….namely, anti-Modernity – a rejection of the epistemological foundations of Modernity. A rejection that needed to happen. And still needs to happen. Especially in the church.