Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 6:1 (Spr 02) p. 122
Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism. Millard J. Erickson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.
Much ink has been spilled over the issue of postmodernism within the last ten years. Erickson’s work, Truth or Consequences, does much to summarize the many-sided debate about this cultural and intellectual development. As such, the book is intentionally designed to be an introduction to the topic in an effort to clear up some of the misunderstandings in this area.
One of the greatest strengths of Erickson’s analysis is his detailed historical introduction. Discussing backgrounds to postmodernism, Erickson reviews the contributions of Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas to the development of premodernism. In a chapter on modernism, he analyzes the contributions of René Descartes, Isaac Newton, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. Nineteenth-century precursors to postmodernism discussed by Erickson include the two men Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Twentieth-century precursors to postmodernism that are cited include Heidegger, Gadamer, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In this last list, Gadamer has probably been discussed the most within evangelical circles as part of the ongoing debate on the role of the interpreter in hermeneutics. However, the lists are well chosen by Erickson, although others could have been included. For example, while physicist Isaac Newton is included for a discussion of modernism, there is no similar scientist from the world of the New Physics, which could be discussed in relation to the rise of postmodernism. Nonetheless, the survey that Erickson gives serves the reader well in giving a quick synopsis of the history of philosophy that pertains to the rise of postmodernism.
A second strength of Erickson’s book is that he deals with the positive as well as the negative contributions of postmodern thinking. Too often, evangelical Christians focus on the negative (for which there should be some discussion) without realizing that postmodernism is not primarily a reaction to Christianity and its view of truth. Instead, it appears to be in part a reaction to perceived excesses rooted in reductionistic thinking coming out of the Enlightenment. Most Christians, who believe in supernatural revelation as the foundation of truth, should be delighted that someone is opposing the excessive pride in the human mind and its ability to reason its way to all truth that characterized the Age of Reason and
JMAT 6:1 (Spr 02) p. 123
impacted the following centuries so greatly. Some of the specific strengths of postmodernism that Erickson highlights are its understanding of the conditioned nature of knowledge and the twin truth that presuppositions exist in each of us ...
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