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The Eucharist Makes the Church
The past few decades have witnessed two remarkable developments in evangelical thought. First, the nature of the theological discipline appears to have undergone a change. Propositional truth, once one of the hallmarks of evangelicalism, appears to be making way for more elusive means of expression, such as narrative, image, and symbol. Postmodern apprehension of essentialism, along with a suspicion of absolute truth claims, is affecting younger evangelicals' willingness to stand by the rational apologetics and theological edifices erected by a previous generation. Second, increasing doubt about our ability to capture the essence of absolute truth is turning evangelicals away from the scientific methods of higher biblical criticism. This mounting opposition to critical exegesis is all the more remarkable considering the fact that its acceptance is perhaps only half a century old, and continues to meet with internal resistance, the legacy of earlier fundamentalist opposition to liberal theology. While younger evangelicals are by no means identical to the fundamentalists of the 1920s and '30s, they do share with them an aversion to some of the excesses of higher biblical criticism. The younger evangelicals seem intent on restoring theological or spiritual interpretation—a search for deeper, spiritual levels beyond the historical or literal meaning of the text, hidden in the inner recesses of the biblical text itself.
While I agree with the ever louder criticism of a modern theological and interpretive paradigm, this essay nonetheless does not stem from the same postmodern attitudes toward reality. Rather, I concur with the perception that postmodernity is little more than modernity coming home to roost. Both, I believe, are predicated on the abandonment of a pre-modern sacramental mindset in which the realities of this-worldly existence pointed to greater, eternal realities, in which they sacramentally shared. Once modernity abandoned a participatory or sacramental ...