See D. A. Carson‘s penetrating review [as a PDF] of Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach, Review of Biblical Literature 8 (2006): 535-39.
I’m currently working on a term paper on D. A Carson’s theological method, and I’ve really enjoyed reading many of Carson’s books and articles. One virtue (among many) that I highly esteem in Carson’s writings is his combination of humility and boldness. The following quotes are some of my favorite that illustrate courageous boldness:
- “When the Bible is examined as a whole, and its themes and plot-line traced out . . . the position of religious pluralism is from a Christian perspective utterly untenable. One may be a Christian, or one may be a religious pluralist in the third sense [i.e., not empirical or cherished but philosophical/religious pluralism]; one cannot be both. From the pluralist’s perspective, the Christian must appear a bigot, unless ‘Christian’ is redefined so that it has no necessary connection with Scripture; from the Christian’s perspective, the religious pluralist, however sincere, is both misguided and an idolater” (The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 238).
- “So which shall we choose? “Experience or truth? The left wing of the airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antithesis to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ” (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], 234).
- “Drawing lines” is “utterly crucial” because “truth demands it,” “the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy models it,” “the plurality of errors calls for it,” and “the entailments of the gospel confront our culture—and must be lived out.” (These are the four major headings in “On Drawing Lines, When Drawing Lines Is Rude,” ch. 8 in Gagging of God, 347-67.)
Interesting trivia: Kevin J. Vanhoozer (a.k.a. KJV) plays the piano beautifully!
Dr. Vanhoozer’s DST 980 class (Advanced Theological Prolegomena, a Ph.D. seminar required for all Ph.D. students in theological studies at TEDS) spent this evening at his home for dessert and our final theological discussion of the semester. Jenni and I really enjoyed it (Jenni audited the course). I had heard that Dr. Vanhoozer was a “concert pianist,” but he clarified that he’s an “amateur pianist”—but a good one, nevertheless. I asked him to play for us, and he was kind enough to play two nocturnes, one by Chopin and the other by Beethoven. And true to form, he bookended his playing with theological discussions about the hermeneutics of music!
Wisdom from D. A. Carson, “Current Issues in Biblical Theology: A New Testament Perspective,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 38-39.
The quotations below fall within the context of a published address to the IBR, addressing issues in biblical theology (BT). With reference to “popular concerns” (e.g., people asking, “What does the Bible say about X?”), Carson suggests that BT is helpful for three reasons:
- “Negatively, it will tame the subject, that is, it will help us see the topic in its proper proportion. One of the troubling features about contemporary Christianity is the large number of single-issue types who assume the gospel but rarely articulate it or think about it, while investing extraordinary passion and energy in relatively peripheral subjects–peripheral, that is, from the perspective of Scripture, if not from the current mood.”
- BT “will enable us to answer questions about popular concerns with more than proof-texting. It is both amusing and painful to read most contemporary books on, say, worship. Those written by musicians tend to make much of David and his choirs. Charismatics dwell on 1 Corinthians 14. Those in sacramental traditions begin with the eucharist. New Testament specialists tend to extrapolate on what are probably early Christian hymns embedded in the New Testament. Another heritage elevates the ministry of the Word. What almost none of the books in the area has done is trace out the language and themes of worship across the Bible’s story line, dwelling at length on the nature of worship under the old covenant and under the new, and the ties, and differences, between the two and why they are that way. Only then, surely, is it possible to fit the various passages that speak to the question into a coherent framework from which many useful and practical conclusions may be drawn. A remarkable exception to this lack is the recent book by David Peterson.” [fn. 74: “David G. Peterson, Engaging with God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992). Cf. also some of the essays in Worship: Adoration and Action (ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993).”]
- “For some of these ‘hot’ topics, especially those where the Bible does not directly address them at length, biblical theology may help us establish a nonnegotiable framework before we integrate other useful material and venture value judgments.”
This evening I finished reading D. A. Carson‘s The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). (I know, I’m about ten years behind here.) I don’t have time to write a full book review, but I would like to mention a few thoughts.
- This is one of the finest big-picture books I’ve ever read. Life-changing. Worldview shaping.
- The section on hermeneutics (chs. 2-3) is first-class.
- Carson’s analysis of postmodernism, especially as manifested in religious pluralism, is sharp and refreshing.
- Carson’s emphasis on the Bible’s story-line or plot-line is inspiring.
- Carson wrote this book over a three-year period and read over 1300 books in preparation. It shows.
The following excerpt from Charles H. Spurgeon (Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 40) makes me wonder what he would say today!
Oh, what would some preachers do to get the people to hear them at all? Ah, what are they not doing, dear friends? As things now go, I should not wonder at all if we were to have, in some of our places of worship, a part of Mr. Barnum’s show, in order to attract a congregation! We have all kinds of fiddling, and tinkering, and I know not what, going on to get people to come and hear what is called the gospel. “Oh,” said one, “but he brought so many to the place!” Yes, if they had had a clown out of the theater, he would, no doubt have brought still mere. If that is all that you want, — simply to gather a crowd together, — it is not so very difficult if you are not squeamish about the means you employ. But, oh! when God sends the people to hear the gospel and nothing also, and they come and listen to what a man has to say to them about heaven and hell, life and death, the cross of Christ and the way of salvation, that is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.