Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 1:1 (Spr 97) p. 122
D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). 640 pp. Cloth. $24.99.
Donald Carson’s massive tome represents a thorough treatment of philosophical pluralism, critiquing both modernism and postmodernism and showing the tentacles of relationships that exist between the two. The length of Carson’s book is intimidating, but well worth the investment of time for those interested in pursuing detailed information. This strength of detail in the volume also serves as a weakness. Because of the vast amount of information covered, the overall message of the volume may be lost on any but the most persistent reader. What follows is an attempt not to critique the content, but to explore the avenues of instruction Carson employs in directing his reader toward an understanding of the implications of these systems and their hostility toward Christian truth.
Many recent books have attempted to address the issues of pluralism and postmodernism (witness Thomas Oden, After Modernity, What? and George Veith, Postmodern Times), but Carson’s work surpasses them in its exhaustive treatment of issues of interest to the pastor, theologian, and layperson alike. Carson sounds a warning to evangelicals who would either unwittingly embrace postmodernism for its dynamic critique of modernity or wantonly ignore it (because of its seeming impotence). He confesses (p. 23) that one of the primary arguments that he will advance in the book is that “confessional Christianity cannot wholly embrace either modernity or postmodernity, yet it must learn certain lessons from both; it must vigorously oppose many features of philosophical pluralism, without retreating to modernism” (italics his).
JMAT 1:1 (Spr 97) p. 123
For those readers not familiar with the concepts of philosophical and moral pluralism and postmodernism, Carson initiates the reader with definitions of pluralism and its by-products in the contemporary postmodern scene. Pluralism is defined by Carson according to “three kinds of phenomena to which the word commonly refers: empirical pluralism, cherished pluralism, and philosophical or hermeneutical pluralism” (pp. 13ff). He rightly assesses philosophical pluralism as “the most serious development” (p. 19) and proceeds to devote a major portion of his work toward defining it and exposing its errors (pp. 19–22; 57–140).
Carson rightly sees postmodernism as the “stepchild” of modernism. Elsewhere, I have defined postmodernism in terms of an historical perspective which I shall briefly discuss here so as to summarize (but not necessarily supplement) Carson’s expanded treatment.
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