Understanding Postmodernism from a Confessional Stance

The term 'postmodernism' has been applied to almost every domain of contemporary culture. The integrating factor is postmodern epistemology. This seminar tracks the dominant characteristics of premodern, modern, and postmodern epistemology, and explores the impact of the latter on contemporary biblical study and on Christian confessionalism.

It is important not to treat either modernism or postmodernism as an unmitigated virtue; equally, it is important not to treat either as a despicable monster. Informed Christians ought to embrace neither epistemological structure in an unqualified way. Both have interesting and useful things to say to informed Christians; both embrace elements which, from a Christian perspective, must be dismissed as idolatrous.

This is the first of two talks on Postmodernism, covering section (1) of the notes below. The second talk will cover the remaining sections of the notes.

The challenge of terminology

(1) Historical overview: the centrality of epistemology

(a) Premodernism

(b) Modernism

Its six defining characteristics:

  • beginning with the finite “I”
  • epistemological certainty is both desirable and attainable
  • foundationalism
  • the focus on method
  • the assumption of “a-historical universality”
  • the rise of philosophical naturalism

(c) Postmodernism

  • historical antecedents
  • twentieth-century contributions of Germans, French, Americans
  • the overthrow or the revision of the six characteristics of modernism

(2) Correlatives of Postmodernism

(3) The Advantages of Postmodernism

(4) The Weaknesses and Dangers of Postmodernism