Don Carson vs. Egregious Reductionisms Again

March 7, 2007

If you are the kind of person who feels that it’s not a good idea, not prudent, and perhaps wrongly human-glorifying to say something good about someone, you should stop reading here.  For the rest of you, keep reading.

Don Carson has for years put his God-given gift of brilliance and hard academic labor to use for the church.  I from time to time have had the privilege to share a platform with him at ministers conferences and other events.  I have seen him far away from the Ivy-covered halls of academia, laboring long and hard not simply over language theories or a fine hermenuetical point (good things to do) but with a pastor (whether from South Africa or England or Illinois) helping him think through a Biblical or pastoral issue.

Don has shown this in his career as a teacher and a writer as well.  He has a passion for God, and a passion for God’s truth, and a passion for God’s church.  First-class Biblical scholars who are not hostile to systematic theology, are themselves orthodox and pious, and have a love for the church which shows itself in doing helpful pastor- and popular-level writing for decades have marked too few people in the history of the church.  John Calvin.  B. B. Warfield.  (OK, even Don Carson will stop reading at this point!) 

Anyway, from How Long O Lord to Showing the Spirit to The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God to Worship by the Book to The Cross and Christian Ministry–I could go on and on–Don has been a blessing to me and to countless other pastors, rather than putting all his time into forwarding his academic career (though he’s done just fine in that area) Don has put his time into helping us.

Stop and thank God for the gift that Don is.

Well, now to the point of the blog.  He’s done it again.  Don has a book coming out later this year with Eerdmans called Christ and Culture Revisited.  He’s obviously playing off H. Richard Niebuhr’s famous title.  And he spends one chapter analyzing Niebuhr’s 5-fold typology for how Christ and culture relate.  He turns the manuscript in this week, and the book should pop out sometime later this year.

In this book, Don interacts with everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Stanley Hauerwas.  He has a great section on the central story-line of the Bible.  As he says at one point in the manuscript:  "much of the rest of this book can be read as a meditation on how a robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against the most egregious reductionisms." Don has read not only widely, but carefully and with understanding.  He expresses himself carefully, in a nuanced fashion, and yet clearly.  Unlike some other academic popularizers today, Don shares his rich bibliography in a way that enables the reader to do further research if he or she wants to.

My own understanding has been sharpened.  I’ve been introduced to some helpful ways to think.  I’ve even found some good things for our church newsletter in this book!!  Don Carson’s new book promises to be helpful in a number of different ways.

Don himself travels more widely, in more different cultures, than any other Chrisitan preacher that I know.  He is well suited by birth and upbringing, by education and life-experience, by reflectiveness and ability to write such a volume.

Maybe this is the kind of book that only a pastor on Capitol Hill gets excited about!  But I don’t think so.

Buy it.  Read it.  Pass it along to folks in your congregation.