A Requiem for Postmodernism— Whither Now? -- By: James Parker III

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 005:2 (Summer 2001)
Article: A Requiem for Postmodernism— Whither Now?
Author: James Parker III

A Requiem for Postmodernism— Whither Now?

James Parker, III

James Parker, III has been Professor and Associate Dean of Worldview and Culture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1999. He has been on the faculty of several institutions including Criswell College, Dallas Baptist University, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the Director of The Trinity Institute, a Christian study center and think tank that specializes in reaching those in the academic world, and he also serves as the editor of FOUNDATIONS, a journal for theological students.

The Certain Doom of Postmodernism

Postmodernism is highly overrated.1 While one theologian after another is rushing to turn out books and articles about some aspect or implication about “the end of modernism” and “the implications of postmodernism,” I assert that postmodernism is overrated and predict that it will come to a certain and perhaps soon demise, or at least will be relegated to the realm of “curious but passé.”

First of all, modernism (which holds that reason is autonomous and that scientific truth is normative and universal, and which propounds amelioristic optimism and proud confidence in technological fixes), while not the only worldview, is still alive and well at the educational and cultural shaping institutions of western Europe and North America. In speaking recently with graduate students at two major Ivy League research universities in North America, the Ph.D. students said that while one did certainly find postmodern thought on the campuses (particularly in English and related departments), the intellectual culture of the university was still predominantly modern.2 They frankly said that they basically ignored postmodernism.3 One only has to skim the university press catalogues to find out that modernism is alive and well. Ironically Foucault, Derrida, and other French postmodernist thinkers have been passé in France for a good while, substituted by a generation of younger scholars one can only call “neoconservatives” (see further below).

Second, the simple reason why postmodernism’s days are numbered is that it commits epistemological suicide. Postmodernism holds to the premise that truth is a “social construct” and “truth” is whatever your colleagues let you get by with.4 If that is the case, then postmodern thought is also just another social construct and has neither universal nor normative force. Therefore there is no reason that I or anyone else ...

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