by Phil Johnson
ere's an exercise for you: Next time you meet a young post-evangelical who is zealous about contextualizing Christianity for these postmodern times, tell him you're completely certain about something spiritually importantpreferably a doctrinal proposition he has already expressed uncertainty about. (If he is the type of postmodernist who prefers to express no opinions whatsoever on doctrinal topics, try substitutionary atonement, inerrancy, sola fide, or something of similar import.)
If you can get him to discuss the issue for longer than a sound bite, I predict within ten minutes he'll tell you you're too much of a "modernist."
So give him a look like, "Huh?" and remind him that the position you are defending has historically been associated with a point of view that is known for its militant opposition to modernism. Then ask if he understands what "modernism" is.
He'll most likely respond with a condescending look and tell you in an exasperated tone thatwhile this all is probably far too complicated for you to understandyou have naively bought into foundationalist epistemology; your worldview has recently been totally discredited; and you need to acquire some epistemic humility.
See, he's familiar with the reductionistic argument that lies at the heart of Beyond Foundationalism, by Stan Grenz and John Franke. Perhaps he has even read the book (or a review of it). At the very least least he'll have seen some of the many Emerging/Emergent/Post-evangelical books or blogs that parrot Grenz's and Franke's all-you-need-to-know-about-epistemology scriptnamely, that any point of view which is not postmodern (and squeamish about certitude) is nothing more than an outmoded relic of modernity and rooted in foundationalist epistemology.
Earlier this week, a question came up in one of our comment-threads about foundationalism, modernity, and the dripping-faucet accusation that if it weren't for a set of modernist presuppositions you probably don't even realize you have imbibed, you could not possibly justify holding specific theological opinions with any kind of settled conviction. I gave a thumbnail reply to that comment and said I'd try to write a somewhat longer post about it later in the week.
I really don't have time to write a fresh, detailed post on the subject, so here's an excerpt from an e-mail exchange I recently had on the subject. My correspondent had expressed discomfort with the postmodern drift at a certain Christian college, and a professor there gave him the standard Grenz-Franke post-evangelical dodge. After reading something here at PyroManiacs where we expressed concern about the decline of confidence in what the Bible says, he wrote to ask for help: