Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Peril of Postmodernism

By Bertolet, Timothy J. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Peril of Postmodernism


Bertolet, Timothy J., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism. By Millard Erickson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2001, 335 pp., $16.99 paper.

Millard Erickson has provided readers with another splendid treatment of the movement of postmodernism. As the title indicates, he thoroughly deals with the promises and potential benefits of postmodernism while contrasting them with its perils and proposing that the evangelical world must move beyond this phenomenon. His primary purpose for dealing with this topic once again is not only to "acquaint the reader with the content and to some extent the style, of the intellectual leaders of postmodernism" but also to highlight a sketch of what he labels "postpostmodernism" (p. 9). Erickson's book provides a good survey of postmodernism and its development, yet it challenges Christian readers to engage their culture and think beyond postmodernism.

While Erickson remains aware of objections raised by postmodernists when they are critiqued, he begins his first section of the book, "Backgrounds to Postmodernism," with a brief examination of three other critiques of postmodernism. He discusses JeanFrancois Lyotard, Alasdair MacIntyre, and the husband and wife team James W. McClendon, Jr., and Nancey Murphy. The purpose of this chapter is to provide three distinct characterizations of postmodernism before he tackles the subject. Erickson admits that for a true critique of postmodernism, one can neither articulate every detail without producing a library nor can one "give several summary statements" without being "hopelessly general and vague" (p. 31). In order to deal fairly with postmodernism, Erickson will proceed by allowing the major representatives of the movement to speak for themselves. While this may not cover all of the variety contained within one movement, it is the only viable way to provide a fair treatment.

Erickson recognizes that postmodernism did not appear in a philosophical vacuum but is a reaction to philosophies of earlier eras. Continuing with his first section, Erickson's second chapter, entitled "Premodernism," summarizes the thought of Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas. Moving into "Modernism" (chap. 3), there is a brief analysis of Descartes, Newton, Locke, and Kant as "four major representatives of the modern mind" in the fields of philosophy and science (p. 53). In these four thinkers, he highlights the belief that objectivity is desirable and possible in order to illustrate further the contrast that postmodernists bring in reaction. Chapter 4 is a discussion of "Nineteenthcentury Precursors to Postmodernism," in particular, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Notably, Kierkegaard contributes to the concept of a subjective basis for knowledge that is prevalent in postmodern thought. Similarly, Nietzsche's main contribution was his "attack on the Enlightenment view of knowledge as fixed, objective, and absolute" (p. 90).

Chapter 5 introduces figures that were influential in transitioning into postmodernism. Erickson offers brief discussions of Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Kuhn, Max Scheler, and Karl Mannheim. The primary purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the philosophical shift towards relativistic thought. With this range of examples, Erickson correctly documents the shift from pure objectivity into more relativistic views before he begins his developed discussion on postmodernism.

In the second section of his book, Erickson summarizes four of the major proponents of the postmodern movement: Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, and Stanley Fish, devoting a chapter to each individual. In addition to interacting with the key work of each proponent and offering extensive quotes with an elaboration of the context, he concisely summarizes their main points at the end of the chapter so that the reader does not drown in detail. Avoiding oversimplifications, Erickson's format allows for easy referencing for students of philosophy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Peril of Postmodernism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?