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.
D. A. Carson
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.)
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.
Last night my wife, Jenni, and I finished reading Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life by D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge.
We really enjoyed reading it, and I highly recommend it. This isn’t your typical novel. It’s the compilation of (fictitious) correspondence between two people: Dr. Paul Woodson (i.e., Woodbridge + Carson) and Timothy Journeyman. Professor Woodson is a professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Tim spends part of the book as a student in college and seminary and part of it as a rookie pastor. Tim perennially asks for advice, and Woodson shares his wisdom on all kinds of issues, including assurance of salvation, perseverance, campus evangelism, evangelical seminaries, evangelicalism, foreign politics, marriage, psychology, spiritual formation while in seminary, pastoring, and much more. Reading these made-up letters is almost as personal as if you wrote the question to Drs. Carson and Woodbridge themselves and then received a thoughtful reply.
This is not a heavyweight theological tome. It’s light reading. Jenni would usually read it aloud (to give my eyes a break from reading print and electronic resources all day) while cleaning up after dinner or lying down just before retiring. We’re kind of sad that the book is over, but it was a thoroughly edifying adventure.