If there is one thing the Radical Orthodoxy crowd gets right it is the insight that what passes for postmodernism is nothing of the sort. Popular postmodernism is simply hyper-modernism. Modernity came along and proffered a world in which there could be an autonomous self; a world in which there was a space (or perhaps all space) outside of the transcendent which was neutral, unhooked, unhinged from anything beyond itself. Postmodernity has done nothing to question this narrative. Indeed it has taken it to its end and said that it is proof that we are all atomistic, unrelated, and perhaps unrelatable selves. Postmodernity is simply the embracing of the ends of modernity. Modernity’s children have recognized that if all is simply what it is then all is nothing, and my nothingness is all. The postmodernity that fashions itself as some radical break with modernity is really just a realization of the divisiveness of a philosophy that fails to unite all created reality in contingency on uncreated divinity.
Given my general disapprobation for government as it typically exists today in a western context and my appreciation for market economics, some have registered surprise on learning of my equal disapprobation of Objectivism, the philosophy pioneered and championed by Ayn Rand. While there are numerous points of commonality between my own views and hers, I have no qualms in saying that as a Christian I find Objectivism quite objectionable.
Objectivism, even in it's name posits the notion that individuals essentially have a God's-eye-view of the world, or at least that they are capable of such. (In that regard it is simply a species of that great heresy, modernism). That is, they stand over against the world observing it and forming impressions from a purely objective standpoint. This is flatly false, and is a rejection of the creator/creature distinction fundamental to the Christian worldview (Rand was an outspoken atheist). Human beings, as created beings, find themselves within the world, and thus apprehend it as subjects. That is to say, all human knowledge is subjective. It is mediated through an I, a subject. We cannot stand above creation looking down, with a God's-eye-perspective and simply relate to the world as object. Yes the world is full of objects, but I am one of them and I apprehend it from within. I cannot escape myself to see things "as they are." I see them as myself, through my own grid of knowledge, awareness, experiences, etc. I perceive the world from a particular, and yes, subjective perspective. I apprehend reality in a finite manner. This is not to deny truth or real knowledge, it is simply to recognize my place as part of God's creation, and not possessing a view from without.
Further, this does not deny that we can know true things, or even that we can know the world 'as it is,' in one sense. Although I am a created being, I am one created in God's image. Furthermore, this same God created me for this world, and has blessed me with the ability to apprehend it as such. However, knowledge is always mediated. Once again, I do not have a God's-eye-view of the world, as if it were a system I were standing outside of; rather, from my place within creation I receive revelation from God. God reveals himself through creation, and more directly through his Word spoken and written by his chosen instruments in Scripture. So indeed, I can have true knowledge, and accurate knowledge, but not "objective knowledge" in the strict sense. I am in fact, ever a subject.
This is really just a short version of a long way of saying that Objectivism is wrong precisely because it is founded on a non-Christian epistemology that does not take knowledge to be a gift from God, but a thing to be grasped by men and women who fancy themselves gods.
To begin with, I cannot recommend this little essay highly enough. Dr. Leithart cracks the door open on a number of issues that pastors, theologians and others need to think much more seriously and creatively about. The hegemony of the scientific worldview has not been erased by the advent of post-modernity. Not even close. If you doubt that just read some of the comments below the essay and notice how many simply cannot conceive of scientism not functioning as the epistemological ace of spades, and thus fail to even understand what it is that Leithart is saying. It's as if he'd written his article in a foreign language.
However, I would offer one small quibble. Dr. Leithart states in his essay, "Though it often buttresses its authority by empirical appeals, science secured its hegemony by inculcating skepticism about everyday experience." But I wonder if science actually inculcated this skepticism, or if they just picked up on something that was in the air, so to speak, and used it to secure an exalted place among those who traffic in truth and confidence. Remember Galileo was a contemporary of Descartes. And who can even mention skepticism about everyday experience without thinking of René and his intellectual angst about his own physicality. But perhaps Leithart is right even so. While the philosophers had been moving in the direction of skepticism and unbelief for at least a few generations, maybe it was the scientists who "inculcated" it as Leithart has it. That is, while Descartes and Co. pondered in their dens about whether the ball of wax they thumbed was in fact 'real' or was just an illusion, it was those who would follow in the footsteps of Galileo who would make it a commonplace for the average laymen to quip that it is "super obvious" that the sun doesn't rise.