Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World
Henry H. Knight III
ISBN 9780687009602 (068700960X)
Abingdon Press, 1997
Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith
The titles of these two books share three significant words: Evangelical, Truth, and Postmodern. Like so many others recently (e.g. Carson, Grenz, McGrath, Wells and Middleton & Walsh), Hicks and Knight recognise that we live in the twilight of the modern world — in a 'postmodern' world — with the challenge to provide a basis for evangelicalism's insistence on truth, but which moves beyond a reliance on Enlightenment norms.
Hicks begins with a brief survey of the issue of 'truth' (From Plato to Postmodernism). In part 2 (Evangelicals and truth yesterday and today), he analyses what significant figures in the story of evangelicalism have said about the philosophy of knowledge and truth. In part 3 (Evangelicals and truth tomorrow), he explores what distinctives evangelicalism may offer today in face of the collapse of truth.
For Hicks, God himself is the basis for truth, and God communicates truth to men and women in a variety of ways — personally, experientially, and verbally. Further, we must let go of the claims of absolute certainty which the Enlightenment sought to establish, and work with a more 'multi-dimensional' view of truth related to every part of our creaturehood — factual, moral, personal, practical, spiritual:
The understanding of truth as something broad, and the holistic nature of our relationship with the truth, means that we can satisfactorily incorporate into our concept of truth the range of emphases covered by evangelical and other thinkers. We do not have to make a choice between truth as propositional and truth as personal; it is both. It is historical, and it is existential. It is factual, and it is relational. It is particular, and it is eternal. It is doctrine, and it is life.
Knight begins with a summary of the nature of evangelicalism, before dividing his book into three significant parts:
So, when it comes to Scripture, for instance, must Scripture be propositional to be true (as some evangelicals nursed in the arms of modernist philosophy might insist)? Knight offers an alternative approach in keeping with how narrative, metaphor and other literary forms make truth claims about God, ourselves and the world.
Does Christian truth have a future in the postmodern world? It does. But not on rational and propositional grounds. Knight advocates a 'critical realist' approach to truth: that is to say, truth claims do correspond to reality ('realism'), but only by continued reflection on the provisional nature of those claims ('critical').
Both books offer excellent surveys of past and current thinkers (Hicks is stronger on historical figures, while Knight gives more place to contemporary theologians). Both books give a strong place to the Christian community, tradition, spirituality, and the role of 'signs and wonders'.
And both books come highly recommended. There is much to agree with and disagree with here, but no-one will be able to evade the challenge of engaging with the issues outlined.
Antony Billington, May 1998
Antony Billington teaches Hermeneutics (that's Biblical Interpretation to you & me) at London School of Theology. He's heavily into film and contemporary culture and spends most of his wages in the LST Bookshop (enter at your own risk).
Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.Abingdon Press | Order from www.christianbookshops.org
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