The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism
A small book that looks big
Don Carson is an excellent exegete. I read every word of his commentary on Matthew back when EBC first came out. His commentary on John I'm sure is great; though I haven't read all of it but do own it. His name in exegetical works is well known and his "Exegetical Fallacies" has been well used by numerous colleges through the years.
This book, The Gagging of God, is not an exegetical work. It is a sustained essay on the plight of evangelicals as it stands alongside a pluralistic world. As the book progresses, it becomes abundantly clear that Carson pits "us against them" when detailing the variegated aspects of modern culture steeped in pluralistic sensibilities.
By the middle of the book I ended up saying over and over, "Yeah, I get it, the world is pluralistic, pluralism is dangerous, and we evangelicals needs to outnumber them in all categories of staged environments." And yet, because the book is so lengthy, I wished for its end to come sooner than later.
It's an uneven book. Carson, when reigning is the sub-topics of discussion (e.g. the education system), he'll first state, "I can't possibly do justice to this topic with such a limited amount of space," then write about the topic tersely, then base his suppositions on one or two sources; and most certainly without adequately unpacking the topic before moving on to what we (evangelicals) ought to do about it.
Also, when it comes to engaging in the multiple targets that pluralism infiltrates, Carson consistently formats his words with, This topic has four elements; any element has 3 points; any point has five contigent outcomes, etc. Like his exegetical work, he's so good at breaking things apart for analysis but it doesn't work, here. If engaged in the book for over an hour at a time, the Wash, Rinse, Repeat, gets fatiguing.
Trying to tackle "Pluralism" within all of its categories (politics, religion, philosophy, economics, he steps on all of them), which are huge in and of themselves, Carson would have been better off choosing a category rather than the parent notion of pluralism to make his sustained argument of the role of evangelicalism in America. Put simply, there's not enough reasoned discussion on any of the topics capitulated by Carson.
I'm sure this work won an award because it wholly endorses the role of modern evangelicalism in society. It is not written in such a way that it will satisfy the reader's desire to better understand pluralism but rather, provide a cursory overview of sweeping generalizations found in the work of others to promoted evangelicalism.
So, by now, I'm sure the reader gets it: this book is by an evangelical, for evangelicals. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not Carson's forte to take on such a challenge of such a large work; which is somewhat small by comparison to the large topic of pluralism as it weaves itself through all avenues of America's political and economic life.
February 3, 2013
D.A. Carson has given us the most detailed and helpful work on Postmodernism to date. This should be a textbook of every pastor, elder, deacon and layperson in seeking to minister to those who have lost (or never had) an understanding of TRUTH. Carson's patient attention to detail in this book shows that he has a real passion for ministering to those who are drowning in a sea of subjectivism and pluralism in this postmodern era. Highly recommended reading.
June 28, 2001