Postmodern Epistemology

Subtitle: 
A Critique of Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke
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Abstract: 

In light of the negative critique of foundationalism at the end of the twentieth century, Stanley Grenz and John Franke propose an approach to theology that addresses the current postmodern context. This approach bases theology and epistemology in the life of the Christian community, a community which is, according to Grenz and Franke, called into existence by the triune God who is revealed in the Bible, church tradition, and the culture. The proposed approach entails many aspects, but this study intends to show that the inherent weakness of recognizing epistemic authority in any human community is subjectivity. To be sure, evangelicals should address the postmodern context by abandoning strong foundationalism. But instead of revising evangelicalism according to a postmodern paradigm, Christians may still embrace the objectivity, authority, and intelligibility of truth while avoiding the impossible demands of strong foundationalism. In Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, Grenz and Franke make a noteworthy and admirable plea to evangelicals to avoid irrelevance in their presentation of the truth of Christianity in the postmodern world by “set[ting] themselves to the task of grappling with the implications of our setting, lying as it does ‘after modernity.’” However, they abandon a correspondence view of truth in favor of a constructionist view, thereby exposing the Christian message to the danger of self defeat.

The purpose of the present study is to analyze and critique the positions outlined by Grenz and Franke in their book, Beyond Foundationalism. The study will be divided into three parts. First, some of the main points of the book will be presented in order to orient the reader to the nature of the positions held by the authors. The second section will be devoted to three points of critique of Grenz and Franke. These points will rally around this question: is the community of faith a sufficient standard to justify true belief? In the concluding section, a brief alternative proposal to strong foundationalism, one that is more consistent with evangelical epistemology than the one offered by Grenz and Franke, will be presented.

Author: 

John D. Wilsey

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Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA