A postmodern continuum

One of the most useless terms in lay apologetics is “postmodern.”  It usually means “someone different from me but I am not sure how.”  Or it means Brian McLaren.  Postmodernism as a critical literary and philosophical position is rarely distinguished from applications of postmodernism by hippie, angry, post-evangelicals.  Imagine a charted continuum.  I can’t do it here because the page isn’t long enough, but you get the idea.

For my own view, I see postmodernism as a literary-philosophical position in critique of (if not parasitic upon) late modern structures.  Such a view is mediated through the works of Michael Horton and Kevin Vanhoozer.

We will start with the most radical and dangerous postmoderns to those who are sympathetic to postmodern, but would probably fit in a Reformed church.  This list is not exclusive but is limited to those thinkers whom I have read. I realize–as some postmoderns will point out–that my model’s left-right divide is itself modern.  That is deliberate.  1) it simply works.  2) postmodernity has not convinced me it transcended said divide.

Dangerous Left Wing:

Brian McLaren/Rob Bell.  It’s fair to say that these guys are parasitic upon modernity and do not offer any real criticism of it. McLaren supported Obama and hence furthered the modern “left-right” divide even sharper.  Bell tells the court exactly what it wants to hear (e.g., homosexuality).

Moderate Left Wing:

John Caputo/Richard Middleton/Walter Brueggemann.   Much of Caputo’s work is quite thoughtful.  I’ve enjoyed his lectures on continental philosophy.  I see Middleton and Brueggemann as left-wing simply given their softness (or outright support of) on homosexuality.   Further, I am not convinced that their critiques of capitalism are other than a front for Big-Government socialism (that’s a true postmodern, hermeneutics of suspicion right there!)**

Centrist

N.T. Wright/Merold Westphal.  NT Wright isn’t exactly a postmodernist, but he does reject key aspects of foundationalism and his critique of the Enlightenment’s narrative is postmodern enough.  Westphal is a highly competent scholar.  I don’t know enough about him to place him further on specifics.

Right Centrist

Robert Webber/James K. A. Smith.  Does anyone remember Robert E. Webber?  He wrote a lot of engaging works on worship within evangelicalism. Some were interesting; others were very, very bad.  I place him on the right simply because he is one of the few (only?) postmoderns to recognize Islam as the global threat it is.  Smith is critical of both right- and left-wing proposals, yet he isn’t as destabilizing and dangerous as Brueggeman et al.

Further Right

Peter Leithart.  I am not endorsing the FV aspects of Peter Leithart’s theology.  I am just noting where he lands on the postmodern spectrum.  His book on postmodernism (Solomon Among the Postmoderns) is okay.  It wasn’t his best.   His lectures on it are actually quite good.

Honorable Mention

Michael Horton/Kevin Vanhoozer.  These guys aren’t postmodern in the above senses, but they have utilized key aspects of postmodern critique in a helpful manner.

**For an interesting proposal of socialist economies that do not rely on Government violence and terror, see John Milbank’s essay in After Modernity, ed. James K. A. Smith.

About Ephraim's Arrow

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism
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