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Thoughts on “The Gagging of God” Part I

February 16, 2010

I recently finished D.A. Carson’s The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. This is an excellent book that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while and I would highly recommend it to any pastor, minister or conscientious Christian as we are increasingly seeking to make disciples in a pluralistic world. I hope to make a few observations, of which, this is the first.

Carson notes that he has no objections with systematic theology as far as it goes, but believes that it might be wiser for pastors, and I would include anyone trying to minister to younger generations, to focus more on biblical theology than systematic theology. For Carson, Biblical Theology is, “the theology of the biblical corpora as God progressively discloses himself, climaxing in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ, and consummating in the new heaven and new earth. In other words, sequence, history, the passage of time – these are foundational for biblical theology and relatively minor in systematic theology.”

I agree with his observation for a few reasons. First, I myself am part of the generation that is increasingly influenced by a postmodern, pluralistic worldview. I was 13 when Carson’s book was published in 1996. From personal experience, although I enjoy and appreciate systematic theology, biblical theology has deeply resonated with my soul. I think, for instance, of my first exposure to the work of James Jordan, especially in his book Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World.

A second reason is that I have spent the last eight years ministering to students who are far more influenced by pluralism than I am and rarely have any semblance of a modern or biblical worldview left. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, it just means that our role in seeking to evangelize and disciple these people is different than it was 15 or 30 years ago. Approaching people who don’t believe in absolute truth with a series of propositional truths simply will not work; especially when those individuals have little if any knowledge of God, the Bible or the Gospel.

Carson suggests that we teach people truth as the Bible does, by teaching them the progressive revelation of the Bible’s story line. He writes, “One is simultaneously setting forth a structure of thought, and a meta-narrative; one is constructing a worldview, and showing how that worldview is grounded in the Bible itself. For these reasons, evangelism might wisely become, increasingly, a subset of biblical theology.”

This seems incredibly wise to me, especially when working with students and younger generations with little biblical knowledge. It isn’t really foregoing systematic theology or propositional truth, but rediscovering it through the biblical lens with which it was originally given. This is a path that seems likely to bear great fruit in a world much more like the pluralistic world to which the Bible was addressed than the one world of 50 years ago.

One Comment leave one →
  1. russellandduenes permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:49 pm

    Loved this book, too. I read it back in the late 90’s and found it to be indispensable. I’ve dipped into it on numerous occasions since. I would also highly recommend his very readable “Christ and Culture Revisited.”

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