Home > apologetics, church history, postmodernism, Theology, Worldview > The Church and the World: Post-Modern Responses to Modernism

The Church and the World: Post-Modern Responses to Modernism

April 13, 2015

As I near the end of an RTS iTunes University course, a few thoughts on the material presented.  The later lectures include topics such as Liberation Theology, and the development of post-modernism and several ideas within post-modernism: post-liberal theology, radical orthodoxy, and post-evangelicalism. I had a basic understanding of post-modernism, but was unfamiliar with the particular names of the three latter movements.

Error takes on many varieties, yet all have the common root of unbelief, and rejection of the doctrine of inerrancy.  All of these “alternatives” to conservative evangelical Christianity (broadly defined as the basics of Christianity, everything from Reformed Theology to Arminian fundamentalism) are selective with the Bible, choosing certain favored doctrines while rejecting others, along with contextualizing and “accommodating” the Bible to our modern world.  Non-modernist philosophy and Barthian influence are also common themes.

Liberation theology, which cherry picks the Bible theme of liberation from slavery and expands the idea into a political ideology, was apparently the first idea that emphasized Bible contextualization for certain cultures, beginning among Catholics working in Latin America in the late 1960s through the 1970s. Another cultural variation of Black Liberation theology developed independently at about the same time.

The other ideas come from the post-modern worldview, as reactions against modernism.

Post-liberal theology sounds like an idea I heard of as a young Christian in the late 1980s, when the local Sunday School teacher referenced a then-recently published book (Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth) which taught that Christianity was nice as stories or myth, but it didn’t matter if the story was true or not, just the story itself mattered. Post-liberalism focuses on “the narrative” and theme of stories in the Bible, but apart from any basis in objective truth outside of the story. As the professor observed, why not just as easily pick “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” as your narrative story to live by?

Radical orthodoxy has been a recent movement at least in England – a post-modern view that supposedly goes back to Augustinian, pre-modern theology, in reaction to modernism: but with the knowledge of modernism and our world today, thus a post-modern approach, embracing also neo-platonism (which did also influence Augustine). Similar to other ideas, it rejects mainstream Christianity’s response to modernism including classical or evidentialist apologetics. (The liberal alternatives to Christianity are generally unaware of presuppositional apologetics.)

Post-evangelicalism is a reaction against mainstream evangelicalism, with a description rather similar to today’s relativistic culture of no absolutes and multi-culturalism. It seems to be mainly known by its rejection of evangelical ideas (or at least what it perceives of evangelicals) such as certainty of doctrine, emphasis on having correct doctrine; for some it means a move toward Anglicanism or Catholicism with their emphasis on liturgy.

This RTS course has been interesting and informative, and sometimes quite detailed — and some of the ideas, especially earlier lectures about Christian existentialism, difficult for me to completely grasp and understand. The professor himself occasionally noted such difficulties, that with some of this stuff, if you are normal, you are probably not going to “get it” and not going to see it as so wonderful as those who espouse it. As part of the teaching approach, after presenting each view, the professor often asks “where have we seen this before?” – and previous liberal ideas are mentioned again, showing how later liberals are influenced by earlier thinkers. Also, to consider the “positive” points in each of these ideas; false ideas usually get a few things correct, but they tend to put even correct ideas out of balance with other orthodox teaching plus mixing in non-biblical ideas.

I recommend this course, as a type of worldview, apologetics and history course with good information.  I am also looking forward to starting another RTS series soon, probably the topic of early church history.

  1. Neil Schoch
    April 13, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks Lynda for the interesting, but also sad, series of articles on Israel and the Church, and now modernism.
    I say sad, only in the sense that it shows just how far we have drifted away from the Lord’s heartfelt prayer for those who follow Him, thereby making up the one body, the Church.
    John 17 :11 and then verse 20:- “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that the world may believe that You sent me.
    Paul wrote a lot in 1 Corinthians about the danger of different schisms in the body, but have we really taken any notice of it?
    I know I will have to give an account at the judgement seat of Christ in relation to my service for the Lord, as will we all. Have I in any way added to that schism, thereby going directly against the Lords wishes for His Church?
    And yet all is not lost as the Church will one day soon be presented “to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27.
    There was Israels repeated failures – now there are ours – but His love remains unchanged.
    How truly wonderful and unchangeably faithful is our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

  2. April 15, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Thanks for this post. I need to listen to this series. I have heard of Radical Orthodoxy but know very little of it other than it has a lot of Brits involved in it.

    • April 15, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Yes, it’s informative. He did two lectures specifically on Radical Orthodoxy.

      • April 15, 2015 at 10:32 am

        Wow. More than I expected!

  3. Matt G
    July 16, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Along the lines of critiquing post-modernist thought, you can take a listen to lots and lots of Francis Schaeffer lectures that are available on the web at

    I’ve heard discussion of a lot of the ideas you mention these talks. One warning: audio on some is really real bad. It’s as if they were taped with a hidden microphone back in the 70’s. But with most of them, you can still get the content and it’s well worth the listen!

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