Reclaiming the Center: Evangelical Accommodation to Postmodernism

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Puritanboard Clerk
Most of the book is an extended review of Grenz’s Renewing the Center, so there is overlap. But that also allows an easy summary of Grenz’s (and postconservatism’s) theology:

1. Drawing upon Pannenberg, the nature of truth is eschatological, the future time when truth established (Carson 35).
2. A coherentist theory of truth--truth is a web of belief. A belief is true if it coheres with the rest of my beliefs. Corollaries of this are pragmatism and a nonrealist metaphysics.
3. A closed linguistic world.

Several essays are fantastic. Carson’s book review of Grenz is the stuff of legend. Groothuis gives a fine take-down of postmodernism’s pragmatist streak. Drawing upon Russell’s criticism of James, Groothuis notes, “If this idea is to be useful (which is only fitting, given the pragmatist’s view of truth) one must now two things before one knows if a belief is true: (1) what is good; (2) what the effects of this or that belief must be (Groothuis 75).

Here is the problem: “one must measure beliefs by usefulness, yet in many cases we just don’t know ahead of time what the usefulness will be.”

Further, how do ideas “work?” Pragmatists say that the meaning of truth simply is found in its ability to produce desirable states of affairs. But let’s take two statements: (1) Other people exist, and (2) it is useful to believe that other people exist. If James’s is correct, then (1) and (2) are synonymous, yet this is absurd (76).

Moreland and DeWeese

Justification is that which converts beliefs to knowledge (Moreland and DeWeese 82). Beliefs have grounds, which means they depend upon or arise from something else.

Other criticisms of pragmatism: some truths have no pragmatic use (e.g., There is no largest prime number); ii) some truths are unknowable, and iii) some falsehoods have pragmatic value (I did not have sexual relations with that woman) (84).

We have to be careful of confusing sentences with propositions. Propositions are abstract and exist independently of the mind.

Criticisms of Postmodernism

*R. Scott Smith: “If there is not a real, objective problem...then why should anyone outside their (postmodernists’) local communities accept their claims” (Smith 126)?

*They say in light of Pannenberg that the eschaton will establish the Truth. Indeed it will, but one has to ask how we will know that then and not now? In fact, how can we know now that it will establish the Truth then?

*If each religious community is engaged in its own language games, then on exactly what basis can we speak to another religious community?

Those are the biggest criticisms. At first I wondered what relevance this book would have today. I changed my mind midway through the book. Weak-minded thinking, embodied in the form of “Social Justice,” echoes many of these postmodern arguments (though without the intellectual rigor that Grenz brings to the table).
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