Monday, September 04, 2006

James K.A. Smith on D.A. Carson ... Truth and Objectivity ...

Nearly all agree there is something of an interpretation going on with the telling of the story of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel in some ways is being interpreted to audiences, interpreted by writers, interpreted via the mediating work of the Spirit. Surely there is much to discuss but I found this quote helpful in trying to put together Carson's critique of the "emerging church" in his, Becoming Conversant with Emergent.

And if the gospel is only interpretation there could be other interpretations, we can't know if the gospel is true. A version of this criticism can be found in D.A. Carson's criticisms of the emerging church. Carson is clearly worried that because folks like Stanley Grenz, Brian McLaren, and other "hard postmodernists" (as he calls them) reject modern notions of absolute truth or "objective" truth, they are giving up on truth altogether. But in his criticisms, it becomes clear that Carson simply conflates truth with objectivity: for Carson, one can only be said to know "truly" if one knows "objectively." While Carson rightly notes that human knowledge can never pretend to omniscience, this doesn't mean we can't claim to know in a finite but real manner. But his affirmation of finite knowledge always elides into an affirmation of objective knowledge. Although he does not define objectivity (quite an oversight, given his project), Carson clearly means this to carry some connotation of self-evident givenness: if a truth is objective, then it is not a matter of interpretation. Thus, if Derrida is not a linguistic idealist but nevertheless asserts that everything is interpretation, then according to folks like Carson, such a claim is antithetical to the (supposedly biblical!) requirement that what is true be objective. If the gospel is an interpretation, and therefore not"objective" then it would seem that it cannot be true." (Smith, Whose Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foccault to Church,p.43)

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