Post-Modernism (Part 1)

I am preparing to write my master’s thesis on the topic of Post-modernism but I am narrowing my focus on the theological method of Stanley Grenz, one of the theological architects of the Emerging Church. I just finished reading his Revisioning Evangelical Theology and I must say that taken at the surface level Grenz presents a lot of good correctives to the stereotypical fundy. However, Grenz has some particular aspects of his re-visioned theology that are both alarming and troublesome. Though I plan on making excepts of what I am writing available here as I go through the process, I wanted to take the time to play in the middle of the road for a moment.

Although I am both saddened and frustrated at some of the antics done by so-called fundamentalists (whom I affectionatly call Fundies), the core of what I term historic fundamentalism is ironically obscured by them. One of those concepts defended by the reformers is sola scriptura. By this the reformers meant that the scripture is the only authoritatively preserved message from God. However, the sterotypical fundy obscures scripture when he/she ignores the context of a passage of scripture and instead uses his or her own sense of morality for determining what is right or wrong. In effect some fundies violate sola scriptura by going off into tangents, especially if they do not relate back to the text at hand. This certainly cannot be how we are to interpret the Bible.

The Post-modern side is not much better since Grenz suggests that in contrast to the fundamentalist/reformers view of one source of theology (scripture) and the catholic church’s dual source of theology (scripture and the magesterium), there are four sources that must be involved in determining theology: scripture, culture, community, Spirit enlightenment. ((In the Barthian sense – Scripture becomes the word of God when mixed with my faith.)) At least for the post-modern they freely admit their sources! This is something that the fundy does not do since he is perhaps blind to his slipping in of other sources. Fundies are more post-modern then they would like to admit. ((This is actually part of Grenz’s point. He takes a descriptive view of evangelicalism – an evangelical is one who looks like an average evangelical today. Since a major section of evangelicalism has  abandoned a strict understanding of sola scriptura, it is natural for him to assume that the abandonment of “scripture alone” is a mark of an evangelical.))

My point here is to introduce what I am going to be working on for the next couple months and I am letting off some steam (in a good way.) If I were to give a one word critique of Grenz’s Revisioning, I would say it was perplexing. I found myself simultaneously agreeing with some parts and then within a paragraph saying, “did he really just say that!” His history of the progress of thought from modernism (specifically the outflow of the enlightenment) to post-modernism is a good introduction to the issue. However, his dealing with the concerns of the (historic) fundamentalist is basically negative though he acknowledges their contributions. It was frustrating that he never makes his proposal about what to do with post-modernism clear in the text. It was like trying to pull teeth to get him to tell us what he was proposing. ((I think his purpose was more apologetic then a polemic. He writes as thought it is assumed that post-moderism is the correct world view and is explaining what he believes to be evangelicalism’s shift towards it. )) He also has little if any bad things to say about post-modernism, especially when he contrasts it to modernism. I would like to have seen him cover in this volume more about what he means by community, but he thoroughly covers that concept in other writings such as his “Created for the Community.”

Probably next post I will list some of the issues that I will need to deal with in this thesis. I need to finish up my proposal and get it to the Professor later this week.


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