Postmodernizing the Faith

By Millard J. Erickson
Grand Rapids : Baker (1998). 163 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
9.2 (Fall 1998) : 230-231

The church has been faced with numerous volumes on “postmodernity” as the 21st century approaches. Though this idea is philosophical in its origins, it nonetheless has crept into Christian thinking and literature. Most Christians have hardly become accustomed to and understood the term “modernity;” so Millard Erickson has done the Christian community a great favor by writing this basic volume in which he defines “premodern,” “modern,” and “postmodern.”

Postmodernizing the Faith is a helpful primer to understand the sides being taken in evangelicalism with regard to a movement called “deconstructionism,” which underlies postmodern thinking by rejecting any idea of objectivity or rationality. In repudiating the concept that language has any sort of objective reference at all, it moves from relativism to pluralism. The meaning of a statement is not to be found objectively in that intended by the speaker or writer, but is the meaning that the hearer or reader finds in it. Put another way, reality is what you make of it.

Erickson looks at three negative responses to postmodernism by David Wells, Tom Oden, and Francis Shaeffer, followed by an analysis of three positive responses to post-modernism by Stanley Grenz, J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh, and B. Keith Putt. He summarizes their individual writings and concludes each summary with an analysis of what he thinks is positive and what is negative about their contributions. For people who are not familiar with the writings of postmodernity advocates, they will be shocked at how far so-called evangelicals have drifted, even to the point that those evangelicals’ affections for postmodern thinking will most likely take them beyond liberal Christianity that has the philosophy of modernity as its foundation (53).

In Erickson’s concluding chapter, “Postmodern Apologetics: Can Deconstructed Horses Even Be Led to Water?” (151-57), he analyzes the various positions regarding postmodernity and then concludes with his own. Though Erickson approaches the issues philosophically, he does seem to distance himself from the movement. One could only wish that he had analyzed this “worse-thanliberal” movement from a more exegetical, biblical perspective. Nevertheless, this volume should be quite helpful as an overview of the postmodern landscape.