by Richard Nathan
The Meltdown Series: This article is the second in a series about ongoing sea changes in Evangelicalism today. The series utilizes Scripture and church history in an attempt to clarify those issues that are tending to weaken, break down, and misdirect Evangelicalism. Even though the effects are obvious, the forces behind these changes are not. [See Part 1]
Paul’s hopes “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3
The last article in this series laid a basic groundwork for understanding the current state of Evangelicalism. Many Christian leaders are saying that the crisis in Evangelicalism is the rising up of a new factor called postmodernism. This postmodern challenge is the reason they give for why the Church has to change and become more like the world. This article addresses that view and shows how it really misses the mark.
Nowadays the concept of “postmodernism” is in the air. It’s become almost a mantra to say something like “We’re entering a new period of culture surpassingly different from anything that came before.” Everyone talks about it, but any attempt to define it is an exercise in futility because postmodernism as a movement actually opposes definition. It’s like trying to define the indefinable (or trying to describe a doughnut hole)—yet ironically scholars use the term all the time.
Many intellectuals and some church leaders are saying that a word like “truth” that is supposed to apply in all times and in all ways is basically a way of thinking that is a product of the Enlightenment.(i) I intend to show that this is a distortion of the Bible and of history.
In actual fact, the concept of postmodernism is a faddish way of thinking and a kind of cartoon picture of history—a Marxist cartoon.
First of all, the hidden heart of the concept of postmodernism is Marxism, which has always had a materialistic-historical focus that evaluates history on the basis of economics, technology, and class struggle. This will become clear as I explain the idea and influence of deconstructionism a little later.
Second, postmoderns say that all learning and knowledge are culture-bound. They describe the Enlightenment period as focused upon Rationalism,(ii) where abstract universal terms like “mankind,” “freedom,” etc. were used to explain reality. Postmoderns assume that these terms have a built-in limitation because they supposedly refer to everyone rather than to specific cultures, classes, groups, etc. Thus they think there could be no such thing as a universal guilt or salvation because that doesn’t take into account the individual or separate groups. Click here to continue reading.