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DA Carson vs. Emergent

May 2, 2005

Been watching the buzz as the release of Carson’s book about Emergent approaches. I need to say that I’m not especially hopeful that it will be very good, as my reading of the transcripts of the notorious Cedarville lectures was disappointing. Dr. Carson seemed guilty of a lot of the things he’s taught and written against: logical fallacies (ad hominem, straw man, hasty generalizaion, slippery slope, etc.) everywhere, and vitriol aplenty.

But I also want to say that Emergent needs to listen– and listen good– to Carson. The man is a genius, and forgets more about the New Testament and New Testament scholarship in a year than most of us learn in a lifetime. I studied under him at Trinity, and learned a lot. He loves God, knows his Bible, and takes the church seriously.

Scot McKnight ( has been a great bridge for this debate. He is another of my favorite profs, and is plenty engaged on both sides of the discussion. Check out his blog for a summary of the book, and some tentative critique.

Having both McKnight and Carson on my mind reminded me of a great seminary memory. I was taking Dr. McKnight’s class on the gospel of John, and the non-Pauline epistles, and the rest of the Johannine canon (we called the class ‘leftovers’). One afternoon, Dr. Carson filled in for a lecture on Revelation. He gave us about an hour’s worth of historical background, and then we took a break. When we returned, he launched into a sermon on Revelation (the first and only sermon I heard in Divinity School). It was a magisterial meta-narrative, taking in the sweep of God’s work from creation to the new heaven and new earth, and it was simply awesome. Not one bit of illustration or application. When he concluded, he humbly invited us to stand and join him in singing a hymn (I’ve forgotten which one). And a lecture hall full of stony seminarians stood and sang at the top of our lungs without a bit of self-consciousness and with only a few dry eyes.

It was worship, pure and simple. Instead of dissecting the book of Revelation, Dr. Carson helped us to encounter the God of Revelation.

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