Date of Defense





Postmodernism, as a concept, has been around since the early twentieth century, and is firmly and clearly defined within academia. It is a cultural and intellectual movement which is in reaction to modernity. Umberto Eco says "The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past... must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently." It has relativist tendencies, or as Elizabeth Wilson put it, "Postmodernism refuses to privilege any one perspective, and recognizes only difference, never inequality, only fragments, never conflict." More practically, and for the purposes of this project, it tends to be presented in decentralization, globalism, respect for the pre-modern, and a view of truth as socially constructed.

Within the Christian church, postmodernism has been expressed in different forms of liberal theology and most visibly in the movement called either "the emerging church" or the "emergent movement". Unfortunately, the postmodern distrust of definitions and institutions has meant that the emerging church has been hesitant to define itself clearly. The emerging church's relationship with postmodernism is rather complicated. It questions and rejects the historical influence of modernism on the church, while still desiring to maintain a common set of beliefs. Reflecting this reform attitude, The Next, a prominent emerging website, talks of a "re-calibration, re-focusing, [and] re thinking."3 In fact, the emerging movement so clearly rejects the institutionalization of the church that it is loath to call itself a church at all. Brian McLaren, prominent author, pastor, and voice of the movement, and Tony Jones, National Coordinator of Emergent Village, prefer to call it a "conversation",4 reinforcing the de-centralized, anti-hierarchical nature of the movement. This term also connects to the postmodern idea of socially constructed truth. Despite this tremendous focus on incorporating postmodern approaches and speaking to postmodern generations, The Next Wave's website says, "We suspect postmodernism has as much or as little in common with Christianity as Modernism did."

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only