Responses It Ain’t Necessarily So -- By: Carl R. Trueman

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:2 (Fall 2003)
Article: Responses It Ain’t Necessarily So
Author: Carl R. Trueman

It Ain’t Necessarily So

Carl R. Trueman

[Carl Trueman is Associate Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. This article is written in response to John R. Franke’s article, “Reforming Theology: Toward a Postmodern Reformed Dogmatics,” WTJ 65 (2003): 1-26.]

In responding to Professor Franke’s article, I will not waste the reader’s time by outlining in detail our points of agreement—those who gather at the boxing ring do so to see a fight, not a handshake. Yet I will briefly list a number of things upon which I have no argument: the need for Christians to respond to postmodernism; the need for the church to be constantly seeking to communicate the gospel in a manner sensitive to the culture and society in which it is placed; and the need to avoid both the knee-jerk rejection and uncritical embrace of any or all aspects of such a diverse phenomenon as postmodernism.

Nevertheless, given that what he proposes is a program for the fundamental reshaping of the theological agenda of the Reformed church in light of recent cultural and philosophical debates, I have serious reservations about the article’s proposals. Indeed, I consider that it really fails to address the most acute questions which postmodernism poses to Christianity.

I. Bibliographical and Methodological Problems

I confess at the outset to being disappointed with the bibliography of the essay. Given both the subject and agenda of the article (effectively a response to postmodernism which wants to point the way forward for Reformed theology), the piece is remarkable not so much for who is invited to the party but who is left out. The preponderance of the footnotes cite literature which predates 1995. Given the ongoing nature of the debates touched upon and the importance of recent events to discussions of narrative, history, and representation (9/11 and the various responses—e.g., those of Baudrillard and Zizek, to think of just the most obvious), such omission is disappointing.1 Now, the “missing book” criticism is usually the last refuge of the desperate reviewer; but this article presents itself as the way forward from the present moment while failing to engage almost any of the literature of the present moment. In addition, such an ambition surely brings with it the self-imposed obligation of demonstrating a sound knowledge of what

has gone on in the past in order to trace possible trajectories for the future. Therefore, I would have expected to see some first-hand engagement with at least some of the great works of the past which have he...

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