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Blog // Thoughts
May 26, 2005

Interesting New Blog (And Thoughts About D.A. Carson)

Ryan Bolger, Assistant Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller, has started a blog. His review of D.A. Carson’s book on emerging church is the straw that has made me take that book off my Amazon shopping list. Carson’s last hypercritical work, The Gagging of God was the philosophical equivalent of Attack of the […]

Ryan Bolger, Assistant Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller, has started a blog. His review of D.A. Carson’s book on emerging church is the straw that has made me take that book off my Amazon shopping list. Carson’s last hypercritical work, The Gagging of God was the philosophical equivalent of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. At this stage I’m not really keen to explore if Carson has now managed to plumb new depths of intellectual dishonesty (thhough Ryan’s review is one of many on the web that makes me think Carson has managed just that).

To me the problem is that Carson is using the wrong tools (or methodology is you prefer that jargon) for the task. He wants to tackle the emerging church in terms of knowledge (what they know and how they know). For Carson the essential theological questions revolve around knowledge (especially faith and reason), so naturally he would want to apply these tools to any analytical task. However, they are the wrong tools, not just for understanding emerging churches in a postmodern culture, but for understanding any church in any culture. This is because despite Carson’s best intentions, most people are not “mini-philosophers.”

A better way would be to start with the lived experience of the group under examination (more of a sociological approach). To me the reason why Carson seems to get it so wrong with the emerging church (and why he got it so wrong in The Gagging of God) is the same reason why theologians of Carson’s ilk disliked the theology of Grenz and McClendon. Both these theologians sought to start their theologies not with timeless ideas and questions of knowledge and truth, but rather they started with the lived experience of believers. For them the departure point of faith was not abstract concepts about faith, but rather practical struggles with faith. Therefore the primary questions are not philosophical and ideological, but cultural and ethical.

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Responses
Kitty 18 years ago

thanks for visiting my blog. your blog has some very meaningful discussions, will read it with interest!

Ryan Bolger 18 years ago

Fernando,
Yes, you hit it on the nose. It is an old paradigm that is entrenched in the academy here in the states. Theologians have as their conversation partners philosophers, and missionaries, anthropologists. This tendency shortchanges both camps. To really understand a group of people, we need anthropological, sociological, and yes, philosophical tools, (and other sciences as well). Anthropological methods/tools have been particularly helpful in understanding groups and movements, and it is this mode of inquiry that is lacking in Becoming Conversant.

f 18 years ago

kittty: thanks for your comments and I hope you continue to find this blog interesting.

ryan: i really appreciate your comments and also your blog. it is both encouraging and thought provoking to read people who are well travelled along the road to re-evaluating “how” we theologise. thanks!

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