Don Carson: I have been doing university missions off and on for about thirty-five years. About a dozen years ago, I started stumbling across a question from university undergraduates that I never received when I was a young man. This relatively recent question is put variously, but it generally runs something like this: “Amongst human beings, anyone who wants to have all of the attention and garner all the praise, anyone who wants to be the focus of everyone’s constant admiration, with everyone stroking that person and fawning all over him, would be thought of as massively egocentric. The God you are trying to push on us looks to me to be very egocentric. He keeps demanding that we praise Him all the time. For goodness sake, is He insecure? Isn’t He, at very least, morally defective? What do you say to that? The reason I never heard that sort of question in the past, I suspect, is because until fairly
D.A. Carson: We tend to overlook how often the gospel of Christ crucified is described as “power.” Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, he declares, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul insists that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). He takes painstaking care not to corrupt the gospel with cheap tricks like manipulative rhetoric, what he dismissively sets aside as “words of human wisdom”—“lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:17). The “incomparably great power” that is working in those who believe is tied to the exercise of God’s mighty strength when He raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19–20). There is superb irony in all this, of course. When Jesus was executed in the first century, the cross
D. A. Carson, “I Am the Truth,” in The God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People, ed. Jonathan L. Master (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), 157–58: Knowledge of the Word does not sanctify us by mere education. I have now lived long enough and have belonged to enough professional biblical societies that there are not many front-rank New Testament scholars in the world whom I have not met. Some of them are very brilliant minds indeed. One chap in Germany used to conduct a postdoctoral seminar in which he wanted only a few people, the brightest of the bright. So on the first day, he offered them a test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in Greek. Well, that got rid of a lot of the less determined, but there were still too many students for the professor’s preference, so the next class was another test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in
D.A. Carson: God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of
To worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ is first and foremost a way of saying that we must worship God by means of Christ. In him the reality has dawned and the shadows are being swept away (Hebrews 8:13). Christian worship is new covenant worship; it is gospel-inspired worship; it is Christ-centered worship; it is cross-focused worship. — D. A. Carson Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002), 37 (HT: Of First Importance)
Matt Smethurst: What most encourages Tim Keller, John Piper, and Don Carson as they interact with the rising generation of church leaders? “There are so many younger men and women who love the Bible and are deeply committed to being followers of what it says—as opposed to jellyfish in the current of the culture,” Piper observes. “Such an allegiance to Scripture starts yielding commitments that I get excited about.” The sovereign grace of God and racial justice are just two examples that energize his heart. Carson likewise notes a “remarkable attitude that wants to be taught and mentored in the Bible, in historic Christian confessionalism, and in how to minister.” This humility and eagerness, he says, is thrilling to see. And while plenty of young leaders desire to be either “only attractive” or “only offensive,” Keller adds, he also sees many who are striving to embody the biblical tension of gospel ministry in which we are “both offensive and attractive”
Not everyone recognizes Jesus’ authority; others sense the power but do not respond with faith. Even some who naturally belong to the kingdom, that is, the Jews who had lived under the old covenant and had been the heirs of the promises, turn out to be rejected. They too approach the great hall of the messianic banquet, lit up with a thousand lamps in joyous festivity; but they are refused admission, they are thrown outside into the blackness of night, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). The idea is not that there will be no Jews at the messianic banquet. After all, the patriarchs themselves are Jews, and all of Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews. But Jesus insists that there is no automatic advantage to being a Jew. As he later says to those of his own race, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given
D.A. Carson: The revelation has come to us in the natural world, in great events of miraculous power attested by witnesses, in the personal work of the Spirit of God, in the enormously rich variety of writings that make up the Bible, and supremely in the person of Jesus Christ. These are not mutually exclusive channels. For instance, most of what we know propositionally about Jesus is found in the Bible, including those parts that preserve the testimony of witnesses – so here we have Jesus himself, witnesses who have left words about him, and the Bible that preserves them and conveys them. First, the content can be indeed, has been- put into propositions, creeds, catechisms, statements of faith. It has substance. Of course there is an interpretive element in all our confessions, for finite beings cannot know anything without interpreting it. Only omniscience can escape the limitations of perspectivalism – of looking at things form a limited perspective.
Though Keller and Carson could both be described as “pro-revival,” they are clear about unique dangers that have historically attended outpourings of God’s Spirit. “There is the danger of domesticating, of packaging, that can often end up making it feel phony,” Carson observes. As Keller adds, “Some are attracted to the glitz, others just want the attention.” He cites Jonathan Edwards’s little-known Thoughts on Revival for a sober-minded reflection on the false experiences that sometimes attend revival because of human sin. Keller and Carson on Revival from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
Sam Storms: In a recent editorial for the on-line theological journal, Themelios, (“Do the Work of an Evangelist,” 39, 1, April 2014), D. A. Carson had some interesting remarks on the nature of the Christian gospel. “For some Christians, ‘the gospel’ . . . is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: ‘Biblical Leadership,’ ‘Learning to Pray,’ ‘What to Do with Your Money,’ ‘Christian Marriage,’ and so forth—none of which falls under ‘gospel,’ but only under post-gospel discipleship. In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that ‘gospel’/’evangel’ is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news
D. A. Carson: How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing. Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood
D.A. Carson: Everything that we know and appreciate and praise God for in all Christian experience both in this life and in the life to come springs from this bloody cross. Do we have the gift of the Spirit? Secured by Christ on the cross. Do we enjoy the fellowship of saints? Secured by Christ on the cross. Does he give us comfort in life and death? Secured by Christ on the cross. Does he watch over us faithfully, providentially, graciously, and covenantally? Secured by Christ on the cross. Do we have hope of a heaven to come? Secured by Christ on the cross. Do we anticipate resurrection bodies on the last day? Secured by Christ on the cross. Is there a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness? Secured by Christ on the cross. Do we now enjoy new identities, so that we are no longer to see ourselves as nothing but failures, moral pariahs, disappointments to our parents—but deeply loved, blood-bought, human
(HT: Justin Taylor)
D.A. Carson: […] For the Bible to be coherent, then, it follows that the gospel must resolve the problem of sin. What is the gospel? In recent years that question has been answered in numerous books, essays, and blogs. Like the word “sin,” the word “gospel” can be accurately but rather fuzzily defined in a few words, or it can be unpacked at many levels after one undertakes very careful exegetical study of εὐαγγέλιον4 and its cognates and adjacent themes.5 We could begin with a simple formulation such as “The gospel is the great news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.” Then one could adopt an obvious improvement: “The gospel is the great news of what God has done in Jesus Christ, especially in his death and resurrection” (cf. 1 Cor 15). Or we could take several quantum leaps forward, and try again: The gospel is the great news of what God has graciously done in Jesus Christ, especially in his
All Christian blessings and resources are grounded in the blood of the Lamb. Do you find yourself accepted before this holy God? If so, it is because of the blood of the Lamb. Have you received the blessed Holy Spirit? He has been poured out because of the blood of the Lamb. Do you have the prospect of consummated eternal life in glory? It was secured by the blood of the Lamb. Are you in the fellowship of saints, brothers and sisters who love Christ, the church of the living God, a new body, the body of Christ on earth? This is bought, secured, and constituted by the blood of the Lamb. Are you grateful for the spiritual armaments that Paul tells us to deploy (Ephesians 6)? The entire arsenal is at our disposal because of the blood of the Lamb. May we go to God in prayer? It is because of the blood of the Lamb. Do we find our wills
Sound theology should shape everything we do in corporate worship. But what does that mean for music in particular? Don Carson recently sat down with worship leaders Keith Getty and Matt Boswell to discuss the relationship between the truth we believe and the songs we sing. Theology and Music from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
Justin Taylor: D. A. Carson argues that polemical theology is biblical but can also be dangerous: . . . any robust theology that wounds and heals, that bites and edifies and clarifies, is implicitly or explicitly engaging with alternative stances. In a world of finite human beings who are absorbed in themselves and characterized by rebellion against God, polemical theology is an unavoidable component of any serious theological stance, as the Bible itself makes clear. But then he points to the dangers: Nevertheless there is something wrong-headed about making polemical theology the focus of one’s theological identity. This can be done in many ways. There are well-known scholars whose every publication has an undertone of “everyone-has-got-this-wrong-before-me-but-here-is-the-true-synthesis.” Some become far better known for what they are against than for the overflow of their worship or for their generosity to the needy or even for their affirmation of historically confessed truth. Still other Christians develop websites and ministries whose sole aim is to confute
“I do not know how many times I have sung the words, “O let me never, never / Outlive my love for Thee,” but I mean them. I would rather die than end up unfaithful to my wife; I would rather die than deny by a profligate life what I have taught in my books; I would rather die than deny or disown the gospel. God knows there are many things in my past of which I am deeply ashamed; I would not want such shame to multiple and bring dishonor to Christ in years to come. There are worse things than dying.” —D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 120. (HT: Justin Taylor)
Justin Taylor posts: Daniel Darling, writing for Leadership, asks Don Carson, “You’ve often said that the Church is three generations from losing the gospel entirely. What advice would you give to pastors and church leaders to ensure that this doesn’t happen?” Here is his answer: This question is an important one, but very difficult to answer in a few lines. Read and meditate on the Scriptures constantly, and self-consciously place yourself under Scriptural authority. Walk with epistemological humility—and that means carefully learning from Christian leaders in the past so we do not tumble into precisely the same mistakes. Devote yourself to disciplined prayer. A prayerless person is a disaster waiting to happen. Never stop evangelizing: it is much easier to get sloppy about the gospel if you are not proclaiming it and seeing men and women come to Christ. Develop close attachments with a handful of trusted people who are experienced and discerning, and make time for edifying fellowship. If you
“Using audio from Don Carson, this short video challenges us from the Bible how we must be sharing our lives, opening up the Bible and changing generations as we point them to Jesus.”