Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church, D. A. Carson
In our postmodern haste to abandon our petty claims to have personally apprehended the sum total of objective truth, we must be careful that we don't desert truth itself. In our hustle to keep up with the times, we must in the back of our minds always remember that there's nothing new under the sun. Even postmodernism echoes from the past: after all, it was Pontius Pilate who rolled his eyes, washed his hands, and muttered "What is truth?"
I picked up this Berean sale-table title as an afterthought, and am I ever glad I did. D. A. Carson, (Donald Arthur, by the way,) has done an outstanding job unpacking the issues involved in postmodern epistemology for the lay reader. I found this book immensely helpful in understanding where the Emerging conversation is coming from and what it stands for. The book is scholarly, which is helpful as it allows Carson to write with fairness and carefully calculated criticism.
Carson takes you through the new definition of tolerance, presents a crisp history of thought, (from the reformation era to the present) and does a masterful job of exposing the false antithesis postmodernism introduces between omniscient knowledge and any knowledge at all. He even includes a 24-page discussion of Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, which I recently read and reviewed.
The very last chapter, A Biblical Meditation On Truth And Experience, is an exposition of 2 Peter 1 and seems to have been something that Carson was coincidentally studying while writing the book. I was ready for the book to end after chapter 7, and I don't think this "meditation" added anything really substantial. That bit of superfluity aside, the book is to-the-point while avoiding reductionism, and the writing is skillful.
I'm not that familiar with Carson himself, but it does appear that he's on the wrong side of the inclusive language debate. On the whole he seems orthodox enough to read comfortably.
I feel this is an imperative discussion for anyone reading McLaren, Burke, Clark, or other Emergent-minded authors. There's always two sides to the coin, and this perspective is crucial to making heads or tails of the thing. I close with an excerpt from Chesterton's Orthodoxy that Carson quotes at the close of Chapter 7, Some Biblical Passages to Help Us in Our Evaluation:
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition... [and] settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." -G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), 31-32