Monday, July 11, 2005

The PostLiberalism Of Brevard Childs

By Dr Leong Tien Fock

Postliberalism, originated by Hans Frei and George Lindbeck, is one postmodern approach to theology that has captured the attention, even appreciation, of a number of evangelicals. Is postliberalism consistent with evangelicalism? By evangelicalism I mean Christian orthodoxy minus propositionalism, the view held by many evangelicals, notably Carl Henry, that propositions alone are adequate to express theological truth revealed in the Scripture. Given that so much of Scripture is poetry and narrative evangelicalism cannot be faithful to Scripture if it has no room for the imagination to complement propositions to enhance and enrich our perception of theological truth.

Henry H. Knight III in his book A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World presents a summary of Hans Frei’s view that:

the biblical narrative is quite close to history-writing in depicting a common public world. However, in clear distinction from history-writing, biblical narratives introduce supernatural causation and miraculous occurrences. Thus to insist on a rational demonstration that these narratives either are or are not historical is necessarily to misread them; it fails to read them literally, as narratives.

The reason this is so is that, in order to determine their historical accuracy, the narratives are no longer permitted to interpret our world; rather the criteria of Enlightenment modernity are used to evaluate the narratives (pp. 100-101).

One can raise the counter-charge that Frei’s assumption that biblical narratives are “history-like” but not history because they “introduce supernatural causation and miraculous occurrences” is resting on Enlightenment modernity. It is not our purpose to carry on a debate on postliberalism as presented by Frei or George Lindbeck, which has been ably done elsewhere by notable scholars. But the debate generally excludes Bible scholars and biblical theologians. To address this lack I hereby present a paper on Brevard Child’s canonical criticism originally written as a term paper for a graduate course on Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School.

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2 comments:

jedibaba said...

This is an excellent article that shows both the promise and the dangers of scholars like Childs.
Because Childs takes the final form of the Scriptures seriously we can learn much from their analysis of the biblical texts.
Yet at some point we need to ask scholars like Childs if the events depicted in the Scriptures really happened. Can we stake our lives on them.

The Hedonese said...

:) I'm absolutely humbled by the presence of these sifus who took the time to guide padawans like us here...

(still reeling from the article)