The Place of Theology in the Postmodern World: Is the Study of Theology and History an Antiquated Discipline? -- By: John Hannah

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: The Place of Theology in the Postmodern World: Is the Study of Theology and History an Antiquated Discipline?
Author: John Hannah


The Place of Theology in the Postmodern World: Is the Study of Theology and History an Antiquated Discipline?1

John Hannah

The opening lines of Charles Dickens’ 1837 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, a description of turbulent revolutionary times in France and England, seems an appropriate starting point for a description of our times. There is warrant for wondering if the era of the birth of the noble experiment in enlightened thought differs significantly from the era of its unraveling and denigration. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of darkness. It was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light; it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” wrote the literary craftsman and social critic.

Many in the social sciences alert us that we are living in times of upheaval, a time of transition from one system of values and assumptions to another. Some suggest that the unease will subside as we make our peace with the changes; others that we are entering a dark, glacial age and the destruction of civilization.

Comfortable or not, at least two things can be argued from all of this. First, this is a time of rapid and often disconcerting cultural and social change; the contrasts between the world of our grandparents and ours is akin to Gulliver’s transport to the land of the Lilliputians in its newness and culture

shock. Second, no amount of wishful thinking will make the negative features of the postmodern world, or even the “modern world,” vanish as a bad dream in the night. The church will live and flourish in this era as it has in every other because its origins and power are not of this world, but from heaven; religious doomsayers will all prove as wrong as the naturalistic optimists. The former is true because we are prone to forget, in the flurry of religious activities, that behind the scene of events is the Lord of all history who “works all things according to the counsels of his good pleasure.” The latter is true because human engineering and political agendas, enhanced by vast access to new information now accumulating at a truly staggering rate, have never overcome the destructive potential of human greed from within, nor can they. It is into this world, resolving to trust in the God of the heavens, that we face with joy and delight, seriousness and pain, the challenges of the new century.

The Denigration Of Theology In The Postmodern World

In this strange new world, how much of the past is still relevant and useful? Even more str...

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