Wednesday, October 6, 2010

D.A. Carson on C5

Here is a talk on 1 Cor. 9:19-23 by D.A. Carson titled, “That By All Means I Might Win Some: Faithfulness and Flexibility in Gospel Proclamation.

This is an often quoted text in Muslim ministry, used differently by various camps.  So I naturally gravitated towards this talk when first I heard about it, but I was surprised to hear Carson open up the talk by referring to the C1-C6 spectrum!  C5 is not his only topic, but he refers to it several times.

I think he has some new insights for me, but I think he could have said them differently when referring to C5.  And I know some readers of Circumpolar will probably keel over when they hear Carson use the dreaded “C” words (i.e. Christian and convert)… it makes me feel uncomfortable!

Here are some notes on the passage, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…”  According to Carson, Paul has to flex because…

  1. he doesn’t belong to any of these categories anymore. [Key insight for me.]
  2. he wants to win people in all of these categories.
  3. he longs to participate in the gospel category.

Here are some relevant quotes (although you should listen to them in context):

“There are idols everywhere… That is where the mistake of C5 is so desperately profound; it doesn’t recognize that there are idols in every culture… and all of us, to become Christians, must leave those idols behind and come under the New Covenant… but the aim is not to leave [Muslims] as C5- Christ Centered Community #5?  How is it a Christ Centered Community anymore?  It isn’t a Christ-Cent… it’s basically a Muslim community with a little bit of Christian gloss.  The whole point is to get them into the “third position” [i.e. neither Jew nor Pagan]- the Christian position, do you see?  From which they then may speak intelligently of flexing in order to do whatever things are not escaping the mandate of what it means to be under the law to Christ in order to win their particular communities.”

“The flexibility and accommodation envisaged in this paragraph are the flexibility and accommodation of the messenger, not the message, and not the convert!  He does not want the Jews to remain as they are, he does not want those who don’t have the law to remain where they are.  Muslim converts would show that they’ve got this not by remaining indistinguishable from other Muslims except that they’ve tacked on a bit of follower of Jesus language.  But now by so identifying with the “third position” [i.e. neither Jew nor Pagan]- with the gospel, with Jesus, with the cross, they are Christians, and now they will have to flex to win their own fellow Muslims.  Or to win Hindus.  Or to win Westerners.”

I assume Carson here is speaking in religious as opposed to cultural categories when he speaks of “Jew” and “Christian” and “Gentile/Pagan.”

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