Postmodernism’s revenge

Dec 5, 2021 by

by Kevin De Young, World:

It didn’t go away after all.

I am a Gen Xer. Born in the late ’70s and coming of age in the ’80s and ’90s, I remember when I was a part of the “next” generation, the troubled Kurt Cobain generation, the cohort of young people who would spell doom for the church, if not for the entire country. When I was in college, we read Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, we pondered the possibility of moral absolutes, and we talked a lot about postmodernism.

As a young Christian eager to defend the faith and learning to think for myself, I devoured all 600 pages of D.A. Carson’s award-winning book The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (1996). It was just the book I needed as I thought for the first time about hermeneutics, contextualization, and these French philosophers named Derrida and Foucault. I graduated from college in 1999, taught a Sunday school class on relativism at my church that summer, and headed off to seminary.

Strange, though, the kerfuffle over postmodernism didn’t last as long as many feared. True, people were still talking about it and publishing about it through the first decade of the new millennium, but the ism was losing its ability to draw a crowd. Derrida and Foucault were old news in the academy, and by the 2010s Christian complaints against postmodernism sounded quaint, yesterday’s news, the sort of thing church people started talking about when no one else did anymore. Postmodernism was dead.

Until it wasn’t.

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