The message of the Bible in 240 words

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

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The Necessity and Danger of Polemical Theology

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

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There Are Worse Things Than Dying

“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)

Destroying the Church is Dangerous

D.A. Carson: The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it—admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism—all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17). It is a

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Carson and Zaspel: Rest in the Gospel or Strive Unto Holiness?

This really scratches where I itch! From The Gospel Coalition: During the recent Together for the Gospel conference, Kevin DeYoung delivered an excellent message, “Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort.” My prolific friend and fellow Council member for The Gospel Coalition also has a book coming out on the subject, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Anyone attuned to the reformed evangelical blogosphere will know that Kevin’s sermon and book spring in part from lively in-house discussions over the last year about the nature of sanctification: its relationship to justification, the gospel, effort, and so on. (If that’s news to you, start here.) Those who have been tracking that ongoing discussion might be interested to know that many of these sanctification-related issues were recently addressed by D. A. Carson and Fred G. Zaspel at Clarus ’12, a TGC regional conference.   In keeping with the conference theme, “The Cross-Shaped Christian Life,” much of the panel discussion was

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Damn All False Antitheses to Hell

D.A. Carson: So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of the airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antithesis to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ. —D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 234. (HT: Justin Taylor)

How to Approach the Bible

Jonathan Parnell: The Bible comes from God; God doesn’t come from the Bible. Our knowledge of God is a different story. What we know about God, definitively and redemptively, comes from the Bible. And that is, the Bible that comes from God, who himself comes from nothing. These are the foundational pieces to understanding the doctrine of revelation, and therefore, the doctrine of Scripture. God, utterly independent and essentially revelatory, has made himself known. This is stunning. And it helps to read the Bible with it in view. D. A. Carson writes, To approach the Bible correctly it is important to know something of the God who stands behind it. God is both transcendent (i.e., he is “above” space and time) and personal. He is the sovereign and all-powerful Creator to whom the entire universe owes its existence, yet he is the God who graciously condescends to interact with human beings whom he has himself formed in his own image. Because we

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