Some Brief Observations about D.A. Carson’s Review of Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Over at the Gospel Coalition website, they have posted Don Carson’s chapter “Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Yes, But . . . .” from Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives. Edited by R. Michael Allen. London: T&T Clark, 2011. I became aware of this chapter a month or so online at Amazon. After GC posted the chapter a friend of mine was interested to hear my thoughts and so I thought I would briefly share them here. I do not intend for this to be anything real in depth but more so just some observations from reading.

First, I am thankful for Dr. Carson’s work throughout his career. In my mind, he truly exemplifies one who carries out his academic work as an act of worship and seeks that it to be done for the church (even when his work is not directly addressing the church). Having said that, Dr. Carson’s article is also a welcome to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) movement both in his charity and questions of the movement.

Dr. Carson’s chapter is broken down into six propositions where he gives a brief affirmation of what TIS represent but also gives his qualification for his agreement. One issue I see through his whole chapter is his neglect of some of the major works in TIS that contradicts his characterization of TIS. I’ll give two examples:

His first proposition is thae issue of history and theology in biblical interpretation. He rightly notes that TIS rejects a historical-critical methods that presuppose anti-supernaturalism. From this he concludes that TIS as a whole tends to pit history as the villain to theology. He then continues to a critique to the dichotomy that he has created. I was baffled that he would make such a conclusion with an entire volume from the seven volume Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar on history and biblical interpretation dealing with this issue. I am sure there are some in TIS, because the movement is so varied, would create this dichotomy but I find this to be an oversight from some of the main literature from leading proponents.

A second example is that Dr. Carson writes that a goal in TIS is to bring biblical studies and theology back together–which is exactly right. Here, his critique highlighted some of the issues of the difficulties in how exegesis and systematics come together. Here, again I think Dr. Carson has too small of a selection that does not represent what some of the more main proponents are writing. I am thinking of Daniel Treier’s “Biblical Theology and/or TIS and Francis Watson’s, Text and Truth which explores how theological interpretation relates to biblical theology. For sure, Carson is right in the difficulties he highlights. I do not think most of TIS would disagree with the way he has set up categories.

These are just two examples I found in his chapter that are a result of choosing to interact with too small sample of the literature and then critique the whole movement. I would encourage you to read the chapter because I believe it will continue to refine the TIS movement.


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