After giving five back-handed compliments to the Emerging Church, Carson dug into his actual critiques.
First, he said that “at the risk of horrible generalizations,” he would deal with the issue of epistemology.
Carson believes that those in the Emerging Movement fail to distinguish between hard and soft postmodernism. Hard postmodernists believe that there can be no knowledge of truth, for we are all looking at things from our individual or group’s perspectivist viewpoint. Soft postmodernists, however, recognize that in spite of perspectivism, we can know some things truly though we cannot know anything absolutely.
Carson used an interesting illustration. In Calculus, as Carson explained it (though I'm not a mathmatician, so I can't assure you that this is right), an asymptotic curve is a line whose distance to an axis tends toward zero, but may never actually intersects zero. We can proximate a lot through calculus (“close enough, in fact to get us on the moon. We could never have landed on the moon without Calculus!” Carson explained), but it is only an approximation, not an absolute.
In the same way, finite human beings can know approximately what truth is, we can get accurate enough to say it is "true" even though we know it is only extremely close.
Soft postmoderns accept this.
However, the Emerging Church, according to D.A. Carson, isn’t interacting with soft postmodernism, but only hard postmodernism. He cites John Franke as a leading Emerging Church theologian, and says that Franke only interacts with hard postmodernism.
At this I scratched my head. I know a lot of emerging church people. I read a lot of emerging church blogs. I’ve read a lot of emerging church books. Very few of them advocate for a hard postmodernism. Most are easily in Carson’s category of soft postmodernism (including myself).
Is this a case of Carson building a straw man (that the Emerging Church is filled with hard postmodernists) so that he can easily burn it down?
Posts in this series:
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 01
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 02
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 03
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 04
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 05
DA Carson versus the Emerging Church, 06
technorati: emerging church, postmodernity