False Dilemma from the Emergents

Brett Kunkle reported on the Youth Specialties/Emergent Church national conference he attended in Nashville. He attended a session on epistemology (the study of how we know) where John Franke and Todd Hunter critiqued modernism. Go read it and come back.

This illustrates what I've long observed. The emergents are reacting to the most extreme version of modernism, which has long outdated and has been modified by epistemologists. I would assume if they were going to interact with contemporary versions of modernism that this is the workshop where they would do it. Their protestations against modernism and then their solution of postmodernism succeed only if they ignore contemporary philosophical subtleties.

Instead, what I've seen consistently is a false dilemma. Their view looks better in contrast to an extreme option while ignoring other alternatives. No epistemologist believes in a version of modernism that requires beliefs to be "absolutely certain," "incorrigible," "accessible to everyone," "objective," and everyone recognizes that bias plays a role in the formation of our beliefs. Many Christian epistemologists hold modest views of modernism because they believe it's the best way to ground objective truth. In a real sense, modernism is a misnomer because it is an attempt to understand the way people have always formed beliefs, they aren't modern rules of thought.

It's disappointing because a good discussion would be very helpful, but virtually no one holds the version of modernism they consistently critique.

What's worse is I have it from a knowledgeable authority that John Franke was told in 2001 that he was presenting a version of modernism no one holds and was referred to sources so he could update his understanding of contemporary epistemology, which he's apparently not done judging from his presentation last week.

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Melinda Penner

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