D. A. Carson’s Theological Method

This essay appears in the latest issue of SBET:

Andrew David Naselli. “D. A. Carson’s Theological Method.” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 29 (2011): 245–74.

It revises a paper I submitted to Kevin Vanhoozer at TEDS in December 2006 for his PhD seminar “Advanced Theological Prolegomena.” I told some friends in the class at the time that I’d like to publish my essay in about five years, which would give me more time to better understand Don Carson’s theological method.

Here’s the outline:

1. Carson’s Background: Some Factors That Influence His Theological Method

1.1. Carson’s Family
1.2. Carson’s Education
1.3. Carson’s Professional Experience
1.4. Some Other Background Factors

2. Carson’s Corrigible Presuppositions

2.1. Carson’s Metaphysics: God
2.2. Carson’s Epistemology: Chastened Foundationalism
2.3. Carson’s Bibliology

3. Carson’s Understanding of the Tasks of the Theological Disciplines

3.1. Exegesis
3.2. Biblical Theology (BT)
3.3. Historical Theology (HT)
3.4. Systematic Theology (ST)

4. Carson’s Understanding of the Interrelationships of the Theological Disciplines

4.1. Theological Hermeneutics
4.2. Exegesis and BT
4.3. Exegesis and HT
4.4. Exegesis and ST
4.5. HT and ST
4.6. BT and HT
4.7. BT and ST
4.8. Exegesis, BT, HT, ST, and Practical Theology (PT)
4.9. Spiritual Experience and the Theological Disciplines

5. Conclusion


  1. D. A. Carson Publications
  2. D. A. Carson MP3s Now Hosted by TGC


  1. says


    Thanks for publishing this! I have long admired Carson’s work from afar, and it is an enormous privilege to go behind the curtain and see how he approaches the text and utilizes the various disciplines. I look forward to learning from this. Thank you again!


  2. says

    Thank you so much for posting this. As Kendall stated, I have admired Dr. Carson since first hearing him several years ago at the Ligonier National Conference. What an insight this will be!

    In Christ,


  3. says

    Thanks for this article, Andy. I’m thankful for your careful work in bringing so many resources together. You mentioned early in the article about how much Carson reads and digests and files. Is he also using Zotero for filing as you do?

  4. says

    Andy, it’s now a while since Gagging of God was published, and a copy (signed by the author, no less!) has been sitting on my shelf (unread) for most of that time, although I occasionally turn to it as reference material. Because of renewed personal interest in the broader themes of apologetics and postmodernism, I’ve recently been wondering should I simply plow straight through Gagging from beginning to end.

    My question therefore is twofold:

    1. Is Gagging still relevant to today’s cultural milieu or is it “outdated” and in need of revision?
    2. If you were to suggest essential chapters in Gagging to grasp Dr Carson’s teaching and approach in this area, what would you suggest?


    • says


      1. Yes, it’s still relevant. Some of the material is dated, but on the whole the book isn’t outdated.
      2. Chapters 5–6 (on the Bible’s storyline). But it’d be better to read the whole thing straight through.

  5. says

    I recall the Nota Bene reference now.

    Your story is my own story. I was wooed to try Nota Bene by a seminary prof. I bought it, tried to use it, and subsequently sold it. Been on Zotero ever since I read your post on it.

  6. Dwight Gingrich says

    Thanks much for these insights! Makes me thankful all over again for the gift Carson (and other exceptionally skilled and devoted) scholars are to Christ’s Church!

  7. says

    I look forward to reading this. I was wondering, do you think you could influence Carson to think about revising his Exegetical Fallacies book? Nothing wrong with it per se but it has been a long time since it was published and I know a lot of us who use that book a lot would love to see and update. (maybe he has a few PhD students who could help him with that? ;-) ) Blessings,


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