Epistemology Articles

How Apologetics Died in the Twentieth Century

A Critique of Karl Barth’s Reply to Emil Brunner

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

There are several reasons that apologetics largely died out in the 1900s. Many of these reasons have to do with how postmodern thinking influenced how Christians thought about the role of human reason. In general, postmodern movements in the 1800s and 1900s, which viewed human reason too negatively, were overreactions to the modernism of the 1700s which viewed human reason too positively.

An example of how postmodern thinking influenced how Christians thought about human reason can be seen in the work of the most influential theologian of the twentieth century—Karl Barth.


A Review of After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

In his seminal work After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre argues that our Western society has lost the conceptual context for and foundation within which moral language makes sense. In the premodern world moral judgments were understood as governed by impersonal standards justified by a shared conception of human good. That context was lost in the Enlightenment when Aristotelian Scholasticism and Christian theology were discarded and, with them, the idea of teleology. After teleology was discarded, several conceptual systems attempted to provide a new account of morality which would maintain the status, authority, and justification of moral rules.


Created to Know: The Epistemologies of Michael Polanyi and Francis Schaeffer

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

During the mid to latter part of the twentieth century, thinkers from various disciplines spoke out against the epistemological conclusions of Modernism. Some of them thought that the modern view of human knowledge had been a major impetus behind the carnage of World War I, World War II, fascism, and communism. One such thinker, Michael Polanyi (1891-1976), a world-renowned physical chemist, recognized that this incomplete understanding of knowledge had become especially prevalent in the scientific community. He turned to the study of philosophy in order to explore how these ideas came about and to propose a much needed course correction.