THIS is a collection of essays in tribute to the influential American Evangelical scholar, Don Carson, with contributions from Europe and North America.
Preaching and apologetics are common themes, and the now veteran Jim Packer provides an elegant account of the task of preaching. It can be a task of persuasion only, with patient love, resting on a deep theological foundation: “theology helps the preacher as the coach helps the tennis player.”
The late Mike Ovey, in a particularly sensitive essay, deconstructs the false certainties that have sometimes marred Evangelical theology. We know truly, but not exhaustively — to echo an expression of Carson’s. Our knowledge of God is received as a gift, with thankfulness, but without any sense of ownership.
This is developed in an interesting way by William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, in an essay, “The Silence of God”. God’s apparent silence, in the face of the atrocities of the 20th century and beyond, is contrasted with the incessant chatter of contemporary culture. God’s silence corresponds to the incarnation, God’s own self-abasement in the humanity of Jesus Christ, to the point of abandonment on the cross. Out of this silence, God truly speaks.
Carson has often led student missions, and a final section reflects on contemporary university missions. They are now more interactive, because our Western society finds the absolute claims of Christianity to be a potential violation of the dignity and identity of others. A new vulnerability is needed in campus missions, as elsewhere.
This is a worthy and well-organised collection. That its contributors simply ignore the wider framework provided by other Christian traditions illustrates, for this reviewer, the limitations of conservative Evangelicalism, which itself needs to guard against giving the impression that it has an an exhaustive claim to Christian understanding.
Dr Peter Forster is the Bishop of Chester.
Serving the Church, Reaching the World: Essays in honour of Don Carson
Richard Cunningham, editor
Church Times Bookshop £9