On another thread here at vanguardchurch, Moses commented, "At no point whatsoever in the book did I read Carson saying/assuming that the emerging church is aiming to overthrow Reformation Calvinist Christianity. I think Carson thinks emerging by and large ignores/misreads/misunderstands Reformation Christianity but you are putting words in his mouth saying he assumes emerging is trying to overthrow it. That's not fair!"
I want to be fair, especially to a scholar I respect as much as DA Carson. So, I had better define what I mean when I say, "I think that the problem lies in the fact that DA Carson assumes that the goal of emergent is to overthrow Reformation Calvinist Christianity"
Disclaimer: I have not read (nor do I intend to read) Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (having listened to the Staley Lectures from Cedarville, and having read Scot McKight's analysis of the book, I think I've had my fill). The comments here are based solely on my listening to the Staley Lectures and from being pretty familiar with Carson's theology, having studied under him and having been very influenced by him in my own theology.
Here's the main reason I feel that Carson feels that Emergent/Emerging Church is a threat: Carson states in lecture #2 that the heart of the gospel is God's loving plan to remove our guilt and shame and to set aside His wrath justly in keeping with His own integrity. "Unless you see THAT as the problem, you cannot possibly be faithful to the gospel!"
He then says that other themes relate to this "heart of the gospel" theme: like Christus Victor (Christ victorious over Satan and God's enemies). Carson basically feels that anyone who does not see forensic justification as the heart of the gospel is a threat to orthodoxy. Carson basically accuses anyone who is articulating the gospel in other historic forms or with other biblical concepts as being eccentric, off-center, and in danger of sliding off into the occult or the irrelevant. He accuses anyone who does not make Penal Substitution the foundational doctrine of the Atonement as not knowing where they are going—into heresy.
But in reality, Forensic Justification is one of many ways to describe the gospel. Christus Victor and other biblical articulations of the Atonement are not “sub-themes” but are equal themes, on par with Forensic Justification. Just because the Reformation stressed Forensic Justification does not make it the “heart of the gospel.”
But since Carson is convinced that the Reformation got this one right (never mind what the rest of Christian theological history has to say about the Atonement), anybody that does not make this Reformation Calvinist Christian Doctrine the center of the gospel must be seen as a threat to “orthodoxy.” (I am not saying that forensic justification is not a major theme in some important parts of Scripture--the question is whether or not it is the FOUNDATIONAL doctrine of the Gospel).
His “heart of the Gospel” statement shows that Carson has been very influenced by the Reformation. The Reformation has shaped the way he approaches the Bible. Therefore, other ways of explaining the Gospel (even if it is found in the biblical text) gets submerged as a “sub-theme” to the Central Doctrine of the Reformation—Forensic Justification.
This is why I say that he sees the threat of Emergent as the attempt to overthrow Reformation Calvinist Christianity.