What could be more telling of the challenges faced by the modern Evangelical church than this podcast of four white, male Evangelical theologians discussing post-modernism? Turns out not much. The conversation was taped last fall and posted today at Grateful to the Dead, Chris Armstrong’s blog. Armstrong is the author of Patron Saints for Postmoderns and the former editor of Christianity Today. He’s associate professor of church history at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. The other participants are: John Franke, of Biblical Seminary, Christian Collins Winn, historical theology professor at Bethel College of Arts and Sciences, and the host, Kyle A. Roberts, assistant professor of systematic theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought at Bethel.
For those of us accustomed to ideas of appropriate — and morally necessary — challenges to authority, contextuality, the ravages of capitalism, and diversity of traditions, the conversation may seem stale; like Evangelicals are just a bit late to the game of poking holes in the “myth of the monolithic Western Christian tradition.” In fact, they’re still getting used to calling it a myth. As a number of the participants recognize, their college and theology students may live in a post-modern world of diverse cultures, but are adrift in the conversations of privilege and diversity.
But we have to admit that Charles Taylor is right, that we live in a secular age. Therefore, as soon as we begin to give credence and authority to any given traditional formulation of the way things are we have made a conscious choice against other choices, because we’re on the internet and we know that theres a million different ways of looking at this and we’ve chosen one out of a million. And that has a certain kind of weight on us and a certain kind of challenge to living our lives and to sorting ourselves out intellectually that 20 or 30 years ago we simply did not face. And our students certainly did not face, and now they’re at sea. I mean there’s a discomfort that comes with this. There’s a sense of un-rootedness and almost existential desperation that can come with the deconstruction of all authoritative structures of meaning.
The solution? “We’re gonna start by saying that we’re Christian.”