Amid the voices that energize debate in the postmodern public square, voices from conservative Protestantism have traditionally been quite muted and indistinct—missing from much public debate. But in the past few years there has been a burgeoning of Evangelical writing on the subject of interaction between the conditions of postmodernity and religious life. This renaissance has been largely unstudied, though its repercussions have been substantial. Most importantly, this resurgence has produced a ground-level rethinking of issues pertaining to the continuance of effective religious life, and indeed, of authentic personhood within the context of late modernity. One Christian social critic who is substantially engaging with the general academic discourse on modernity is Canadian Craig Gay, an Evangelical. Gay’s work draws on earlier analysis from such discordant sources as Secularization Theory (Max Weber), Constructionist sociology (Peter Berger), socio-technological critique (Jacques Ellul), secular psychology (Kenneth Gergen) and personal philosophical reflection (Martin Buber). Through these sources he analyzes the malaise of both the modern secular world and the Evangelical community itself, concluding that in relation to modern social conditions the interests of the Evangelical community and of non-Evangelicals intersect—for the chief problem with modernity is its diminishment of personhood in favour of an ethos of instrumentalism, control and manipulation. But, in Gay’s view, secular ideologies do not provide sufficient grounds for objection to the momentum of “The Modern Project” and to the Myth of Progress; because in the absence of reference to the vertical dimension of critical reflection, to consideration of God, secular social criticism in regard to issues of personhood is crippled. The general argument of this paper is that it is incumbent upon the Evangelical community to reevaluate its interaction with modernity, and that it is in the interests of social critics from other camps to the new Evangelical voice speak. In Gay’s work we find a productive symbiosis between a distinctly Evangelical social criticism and the broader spectrum of critical discourse.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stephen_anderson/1/