The Carson Conversation Final Reflections

Ok, so far I’ve given you my take on ‘what happened’. I haven’t offered a lot of comment and interestingly – despite this being one of the most read posts ever on my blog – nor have you…

Maybe there isn’t enough worthy of comment yet, or maybe this is one of those issues that makes us a little uneasy.

If we comment publicly we risk choosing a side, or alienating one group of people… Fair enough, but I’m going to give some of my own random reflections on the experience. Feel free to agree, disagree or lurk… (as I write this another punchy comment comes in from the rev – some people aren’t shy about speaking up!)

1. The real problem with doing some reflection on what we need to hear is that its very hard when you are in the thick of it. I think it would be equally difficult for Don to offer a fair critique of Calvinism! So the rest of this is offered with that caveat. I think I do a pretty fair job of listening to others so if you want to offer some thoughts on what I have missed then go for it.

2. Perhaps one of the most unsurprising and yet critical observations to emerge from this conversation is the fact that if it is hard to define the EC then it will be even harder to critique it fairly.

There simply is no EC stance on issues – no EC doctrinal statement – no EC creed of any form at all. John has indicated in his most recent comment that he and I probably see things differently theologically – and although I’m not sure exactly what he means I’m sure he’s on the money. That said, there is no question in my mind at all over the commitment John has to Christ and the authenticity of his faith.

Perhaps the critique that is offered of the EC would be better received if it were not given (by some) with the implication that many of us are probably no longer Christians. In the face of those kinds of comments I do get tempted to sign up for a crazy liberal theological position just out of frustration. Usually its only the more wacky ‘reformed’ bloggers who make these suggestions, but others sometimes walk a thin line too.

3. I am still confounded that a diverse worldwide movement was judged on the basis of very limited and selected writings. I will agree that Carson does make some valid points in assessing BMac in Generous Orthodoxy, but I have never read anything by Steve Chalke, Robert Webber or Dan Kimball!… and I think I qualify as some kind of leader in this scene.

Sivin makes the point that even if there is some validity of this stuff to the English speaking western world, there is still Asia and Africa to consider. Do they fit the critique also? Sivin – I’d love to hear your take on it all.

4. At first I thought Carson had done some damage to the way we are perceived here in Perth, but after Wednesday I think he may have actually helped to put us on the map in a more substantial way.

How ironic!

He did make a point of saying he felt we were not a deviant group and were unlikely to veer into eccentricity. After the event on Wednesday I had many people speaking very positively of what we were doing as a result of being there. I think he portrayed us (locally) quite positively and I think we were able to speak clearly also in defining our core identity.

5. Let’s take some time to look at Carson’s critique a little more closely and see what we ought to pay attention to.

Here are his concerns again:

– understanding of modernism and post-modernism is limited

– avoidance of truth claims / inability to speak of knowing something certainly

– accomodation of pomo rather than critique

– sloppy about history / exegesis

– need to learn to listen more to what scripture actually says

– need to be more careful to avoid sectarianism

As I read this I am happy to say they are all valid to some extent somewhere in the EC movement.

I am also happy to say that they are also valid to some extent somewhere in the evangelicalism.

That’s not a cop out!

Read them thru and apply them to the ‘church down the road’ and to a greater or lesser degree I am sure you will be able to get them all to have some resonance.

If I had to choose some issues to say ‘yes’ to, then I’d sign on to the final warning about sectarianism. There is always the danger of creating divisions and polarising, not what we are about (see Geoff’s section) Of course the publishing of the book actually contributed to a further marginalisation of the ECs as churches became somewhat more skeptical and other significant leaders (Piper etc) began to speak out also. So in a sense the sectarianism was actually foisted on us by the critique.

Hmmm… This idea of looking for what we need to hear isn’t going so well is it?

6. Ok – I’ll forget Don’s critique and do my own. Every year at the first Forge intensive in Perth I do a session entitled ‘A Good look in the Mirror for the EMC’ (although I am thinking of retitling it to ‘A Good look in the mirror of the EMC here in Perth in 200x because obviously this is a slippery issue!)

My critiques at the start of this year were:

Pendulum swinging (leadership/structure/evangelism/music) I suspect there are some doing the opposite of what they have always known because they just don’t want to go there again.

Fragility (leader dependent?) As with most effective groups quality leadership does make a big difference. Remove the leader and what happens?

Are we making disciples? (or have we just moved the consumers around a little) This is the end game – the (not so) simple assessment of our effectiveness. If we aren’t doing this any better then let’s not be too quick to critique.

It looks like a church” (you gotta meet!) In pursuing a more missionary lifestyle we still need to meet in some shape or form. How we do that is still an issue.

Foolish idealism (we can create the perfect church!!) Very few of these folks go the distance. Starting a new missional community is too disappointing for them.

A lack of genuine working models – there still aren’t too many in our city and it’d be great to have a few more gutsy pioneers put their hand to the plough and make it happen.

The Bitch Factor (its very easy to de-construct”) No explanation needed really…

The kids/youth? (if its important enough for us”) Always a struggle for any group under 100 strong, but I’m not convinced we need to be as concerned as we sometimes are.

– Fluffy evangelism (Jesus of the cross?) relational evangelism can sometimes be evangelism by osmosis. You need to speak up at some point and make some truth claims.

Sustainability (the mission / meeting balance) We are still figuring out how to get the balance right in a busy suburban life.

Biblical literacy – in a mission team where people are expected to ‘feed themselves’, rather than coming to slurp from the trough each Sunday, reality they often don’t…

I guess there is a little overlap here with Don’s critique.


This post is already long enough!

So for those who can see my blind spots feel free to arc up and leave a comment about what you feel we can learn from Don.

I’d be interested to see how you feel my own critique lines up with Don’s… or maybe its just time to kiss this one goodnight and get on with the job…

1 thought on “The Carson Conversation Final Reflections

  1. Thanks for recalling and reflecting on the conversation with Carson. I have been trying to find the mp3 recordings of it, but they do not seem to be available. All websites listing them link to, but there is nothing there. Do you know where they might be found? Thanks, and God bless!

    – Larry

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