Carson on Modernism, Postermodernism, Christian Knowledge and Maturity


I listened last week to a talk given by Don Carson in 1996 to the ministry teams at St Andrew the Great in Cambridge. I had listened to it before but not properly understood it. One of the greatest benefits of spending three years at a good theological college with a God-fearing faculty is that I can now understand Don Carson. This blog is a very simple outline of his sketch of western thought, and it goes something like this:

The modernist (post-rationalist, sceptic) assumes that universal truth can be found by inserting data into a some sort of thinking machine and what emerges is [dogmatically] true for all people.

The post-modernist claims that no universal truth exists because of the ego. My subjective view of something differs from yours and so there can be no claim to universal truth.

But Carson used an asymptotic graph (which I couldn’t see as I was listening on tape) to show the post-post-modern theological mindset goes something like:

If a 7-year old boy was asked “what do you know about God?” he could say “I know God loves me”. When asked “How do you know God loves you?” he could say “God speaks through the bible and he tells me that he loves the world so much he sent his Son to die for me. I am part of the world and so God loves me.” It can be said that this 7-year old boy knows truly that God loves him but that he does not know exhaustively how God loves him or what God’s love is like.

If that boy grew up to be a Professor of Theology, with a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, church history, systematic theology and so on, his knowledge of the love of God would be more extensive and nuanced but still incomplete.

Indeed, once he dies and goes to be with God in glory even after 50 billion years (if time can be spoken of in these terms in glory) his knowledge of God will tend toward God’s knowledge of himself but never equal it.

I find that prospect thrilling and humbling. It also has a significant impact on the way we view ministry as all people, regardless of age, educational background or linguistic ability, can truly grasp who God is and what he has done for us in his Son, Jesus Christ. They can also then grow in that knowledge. My work as a teacher and preacher is to make what I teach from the bible appropriate for each person’s level of knowledge, which means knowing people well.

2 Peter 3:18 …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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One Response to Carson on Modernism, Postermodernism, Christian Knowledge and Maturity

  1. Pingback: Council estate Bible studies « Reaching the Unreached

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