The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. By D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996. 640 pp. Cloth, $24.99.
Most books on pluralism deal with specific issues such as the biblical response to it or its philosophical problems. Carson has traced the origin and effect of pluralism in our society. He considers pluralism as possibly the greatest threat to the Gospel since the rise of the Gnostic heresy in the second century. Pluralism is a by-product of what is called postmodernism. The hermeneutic that provides much of the intellectual underpinnings for postmodernism is deconstructionism. Deconstructionism contends that all interpretation is subjective and that truth is relative to the interpreter. The interpreter brings his own truth to the text. All truth is relative, thus all religions are imperfect attempts to understand the ultimate. The main problem with the proposition that “all truth is relative” is that pluralists consider their proposition to be objective for everyone! All truth then, is relative,—except for pluralism. This, however, is inconsistent. If the proposition is relative then we can ignore it. If it’s objective, then it’s self-contradictory. Either way it can’t be defended.
Chapter one deals with the influence of pluralism on Western culture. Three primary results of such thinking are that there is no ultimate truth or certainty, no absolute morals, and no objective history. The book then divides into four parts.
In the first part, the author traces the philosophical thought within modernism and how that led to postmodernistic thought. In chapter three he defends the view of objective truth. The biggest problem facing deconstructionism is that people do read and understand what they’re saying. Since this is true, the pluralists’ view appears to be false. Carson points out that they become quite irritated when other writers misunderstand what they are saying and misrepresent them but this is inconsistent with their position. If it’s the interpreter who brings the meaning to a text, then whatever he says is truth for him. This leads to absurdity.
In Part two Carson addresses the arguments of pluralists and inclusivists. He first traces the biblical flow of thought and defends the conservative understanding of the Bible. He addresses the passages used by inclusivists to prove that people can be saved apart from explicit knowledge of Christ. He also refutes the pluralists’ view of Christ.
Part three traces the effect of pluralism on such things as government, religious freedom, law and judiciary, education, economics, ethics, and morals. He also suggests a Christian response on these issues as well as the need for a clear Christian vision of how to deal with this subject in our society.
In Part four the influence of pluralism on Evangelicalism is considered, with the rise of inclusivism, annihilationism, and Christendom’s aversion to the subject of hell. In this section the author also suggests how to evangelize our changing culture. He points out that we must recognize that the American culture no longer shares the Judeo-Christian worldview as it once did. We must first present the Judeo-Christian worldview to pluralists in order for them to understand the provision that God has made in Christ. This entails an explanation of Genesis 1-3.
The Gagging of God is a general survey of the rise of pluralism and how it has effected our society. It does not provide in-depth refutations of pluralism as much as presenting the big picture.
R. Michael Duffy