Tag Archives: da carson

How Theology Drives Spirituality (Thinking and Doing Are Inextricable!)

It’s very common in evangelicalism to either be a “thinking Christian” or a “doing Christian.”  I think that these divisions are bunk.  I think that thinking drives doing.  Theology drives spirituality.  I recently had the opportunity to say as much at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, a church featuring a thriving discipleship ministry led by my buddy (and fellow TEDS PhD grad) Doug Hankins.  Here’s the link to the original talk.  If you want to ponder this topic further, check out John Piper’s Think.  There’s some discussion of this theme in the book I coedited from 2011 that Piper and D. A. Carson coauthored.

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Gender Roles and the Gospel

Here’s a great video on complementarianism (or biblical gender roles) from The Gospel Coalition featuring John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson (HT: JT).  I found all three panelists’s remarks stimulating (and I enjoyed Carson’s anti-Zwinglian militarism at around the 9-minute mark!).

Piper, as Piper does, got ramped up in the first part of the video, and said some truly inspiring things about the need to guard this doctrine and not shrink back against the rushing tide of culture.  His boldness, clarity, and zeal for the gospel is as inspiring to me today as it was thirteen years ago, when I first heard of him.  Both he and Carson made painstakingly clear that the church must speak up about this issue, costly as this may be, culturally speaking.

I am thankful that TGC is hosting such nuanced and helpful video discussions, and I hope this video proves constructive to you as you sort out this issue.  God’s glory is in this.

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Jared Compton of Detroit Seminary on Women Having it All

My friend Jared Compton, finishing a PhD on Hebrews under D. A. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, just published a thoughtful and constructive blog on Theologically Driven, the excellent faculty blog of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jared wrote about biblical womanhood, riffing off the recent Atlantic essay by Anne-Marie Slaughter that explored why modern women still, after so many years of seeming advance, have so much trouble “having it all.”  Here’s a snatch:

[U]se Slaughter’s piece to remind and encourage the women in your life with young children that their present calling requires just as much intellectual energy, ambition, creativity and sheer effort as do the more high-profile jobs Slaughter describes. The goals of motherhood are just as noble, just as important, just as demanding as any of these more glamorous careers. Mothers are tasked to shape and nurture creatures made in God’s image to fulfill God’s purposes in the world. Those of us with young children know well that motherhood isn’t for the faint of heart or the weak-willed; it’s not simply for those who couldn’t make it into law school or who don’t have an M.B.A. It may take nerves of steel to negotiate a multi-million dollar contract, but at least these sorts of deals don’t normally occur in the dead of night or involve anyone vomiting. Motherhood is a calling for the best and brightest. It’s not simply something a woman does because she failed to dream big enough.

Read the whole thing.

Keep an eye out for Jared–I remember taking “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” a legendary TEDS doctoral seminar taught by Carson, with Jared.  He consistently sparked the most discussion and drew the most praise from Carson, who does not exactly throw praise around.  God willing, he should author some serious scholarship that will bless God’s church (and if you play basketball with him, he’s got that gritty Detroit style going on).

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Things You Should Read: The New Themelios Journal

Just saw that the new Themelios is out.  You will want to give this one some time.  Oodles of good pieces and reviews geared at thinking Christians of all types.

The new issue includes a nice piece from D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on the imperative behind missions.  Here’s a snatch:

But the best warrant for Christian mission is Jesus himself. He claims all authority is his, but he speaks not as a cosmic bully but as the crucified Lord. He insists that men and women have rebelled against his heavenly Father, but he joins himself to the human rebels so as to identify with them. He declares they deserve punishment, then bears the punishment himself. He claims to be the Judge they will meet on the last day, and meanwhile entreats them to turn to him, to trust him, and live. If one is going to follow a leader, what better leader than the one who demonstrates his love for his followers by dying on a cross to win them to himself? What political leader does that? What religious leader does that? Only God does that!

And then, in a small piece of mimicry, his followers are challenged to take up their cross and follow him. If one of the results is a worldwide missionary movement, I for one will pray for it to thrive.

There are many reviews to read.  In Historical Theology/Church History, Tony Chute of California Baptist University assesses a new book on evangelicalism, while Nathan Finn of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary analyzes a new monograph on John Stott.

I chipped in on a book penned by Carl Trueman.  Here’s a teaser:

It is fallacies Trueman is after in the fourth chapter, “A Fistful of Fallacies,” and it is fallacies he finds. Denouncing reification (pp. 142-46), oversimplification (pp. 146-52), post hoc propter hoc (pp. 152-56), and several other missteps common in the guild, Trueman again suggests by dint of material that the historian’s task is a careful one. He also briefly weighs in on “providentialism,” or an overly confident reading of the hand of God in discrete historical events. Of course, providence is for Trueman “a sound theological doctrine” (in another realm the Westminster divines breathe a sigh of relief), but to his mind, the universality of providence means that it is “of no great use in particular explanations” (p. 167). There is a whole school of evangelical historiography that will read the rather short section on providence with some discomfort; I wondered as I read what Trueman would think of the way George Marsden closes his larger work on Jonathan Edwards by ascribing his greater significance to the greatness of God.

Read the whole issue.

 

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Do Academic Papers Matter, or Are They Pointless?

I just submitted a paper proposal for the 2012 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.  In the course of doing so, and after seeing a Tweet from a friend indicating a stronger desire to preach than give a paper, I thought I would say something brief about this.

In short, academic papers matter.  Too often in evangelical circles we act as if the real action is in pastoring.  I actually do believe that the church is at the center of God’s kingdom work, and the role of the pastor is therefore incredibly important.  But does theology matter?  Does scholarship count?  Do academic papers do anything meaningful?

Yes.  Yes, they do.  If you are personally tempted to think that preaching matters a great deal and Christian scholarship doesn’t, I’d ask a counter-question: the last time you preached, what did you use?  Did you crack open a commentary?  Did you consult a biblical theology that impinged on your topic?  Did you perhaps pick up a monograph from an academic series that touched on your topic and skim it for some context?  If you did, then I think you might have acted better than you speak.

Hear me carefully: I think pastors lead the charge in the work of Christ’s cosmic dominion-taking.  The local church is set up by the Lord to be a lab for discipleship.  The Christian school is not (though it can make very meaningful contributions).  We should dial down our rhetoric, though, when it comes to Christian scholarship.  The textual commentary that unearths countless precious insights from Scripture is inestimably valuable.  The monograph (single-topic academic book) that delves into new material in a field can reorient our whole theological paradigm.  The academic paper that drops into an important doctrinal and philosophical conversation can change the way people think and teach and even live.

There’s nothing in the Bible about establishing “academies.”  There’s no scriptural bifurcation between “church” and “academy” in the way that we know today (though 2 Kings 2 may indicate something of a nascent seminary in Ancient Israel).  Modern Christian scholars who aim to bless God’s people are “teachers” in the sense that Ephesians 4:11 intends. If you’re in the “academy,” don’t think of yourself as isolated from the life of the church.  Think of yourself as a vital part of it, one who is essentially set aside to delve deeply into various disciplines to create scholarship that, whether immediately or down the line, brings spiritual transformation.

Don’t speak badly or condescendingly about “academic scholarship” or “solitary research” or “teaching.”  Reconceive it; remix it; reinterpret what professors and teachers do.  The good ones make incredibly helpful contributions to the life and faith and thought of God’s people.  Remove the work of say, textual commentators from preaching and you are looking at a wasteland.  Are Don Carson’s commentary on Matthew or Alec Motyer’s on Isaiah pointlessly speculative?  Or are these and many other resources nothing less than crucial to the formation of textured preaching?

So, my friends, academic papers matter, as far as I can see.  Yes, you can do them such that they benefit absolutely no one; but even the high-level ones can reap significant rewards for God’s local churches.  Anything that offers sound thinking and builds up the minds and hearts of truth-lovers is welcome and, it seems, pleasing to God (Luke 10:27).

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Doing Ministry with a Shelby Cobra Mustang Engine (Like Piper & Carson)

I just did an interview with Christ the Center, a podcast produced by the Reformed Forum, which is associated with Westminster Theological Seminary.  This is a high-powered theological podcast that has hosted such important discussions as the recent debate among Presbyterian theologians over justification and union with Christ (with Michael Horton and Lane Tipton) and the ongoing conversation about the gospel and sanctification (with Rick Phillips and Kevin DeYoung).

Camden Bucey, Jared Oliphint, and Nick Batzig hosted the conversation.  The topic was pastor-theologians and the book The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway, 2011), which John Piper and D. A. Carson wrote and David Mathis and I edited.

I had a fun and extensive conversation with the CTC guys, who are great guys with keen theological minds.  The topic in question related directly to the Reformed tradition, which has produced so many fantastic pastor-scholars (Calvin) and scholar-pastors (Warfield).  J. Gresham Machen is of course one of the five most important Christian figures of the twentieth century and fits nicely into the scholar-pastor mold.  He was a brilliant theologian who was nevertheless keenly focused on the church.  Much of his writing is deep but directly accessible to the thoughtful layperson.

Head over to the Reformed Forum and give this podcast a listen if you’re so inclined.  During the course of this hourlong conversation, we covered all kinds of things: why Piper and Dever might be wary of the term “pastor-scholar,” how pastors can own this role as theologian, and how church history relates to the present discussion.

About 15 minutes in, we cover the idea that being a pastor-theologian isn’t about escaping the hard work of pastoral ministry–counseling, evangelism, discipleship.  Instead, it’s about infusing all of that valuable pastoral labor with a 500-horsepower theological engine such that the work of the pastor is transformed and Christ is richly displayed in churchly ministry.

That’s what I’m after.  I think that’s what the CTC guys are after.  Can’t you hear the roar of that Christocentric engine?

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The Henry Center Presents Bruce McCormack on Election

This week and next, the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is featuring Bruce McCormack of Princeton Theological Seminary for the Kantzer Lectures in Revealed Theology.  The series title is “The God Who Graciously Elects,” and you can watch the live-stream of the final four lectures by clicking here.

This is a high-level academic lecture series aimed at scholars and other interested parties.  The language will be technical and the conversation theological and philosophical.  Though all won’t agree with everything McCormack posits, many will find fodder for thought in these lectures.  Personally, I am thankful for the investment the Henry Center has made in sponsoring elite theological conversation.  We need more, not less, of these kind of lectureships in evangelical circles today.

A word on Kenneth Kantzer, by the way.  Kantzer graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a PhD in Philosophy of Religion in 1950.  He was an intensely intelligent man but labored for most of his life to establish TEDS as a divinity school, recruiting faculty members like David Wells, Harold O. J. Brown, John Woodbridge, and D. A. Carson.  Now virtually forgotten, Kantzer wrote very little but made a mark on Protestant higher education through TEDS.  It is appropriate that the Henry Center honor him with its capstone lectureship.

Here’s a talk on evangelicalism (go to Carl Henry, and click “Know Your Roots” part two) that Kantzer gave some years back.  Those who wish to read a bit more about him can check out Doing Theology in Today’s World, edited by Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey.

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John Piper, Don Carson, and Transformed Pastors and Scholars

There’s a great deal of interest right now in what some have called the pastor-theologian and theologian-pastor movement.  John Piper and D. A. Carson are two of the more prominent faces of each of these enhanced ministerial vocations.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dustin Neeley of Church Planting for the Rest of Us, a fantastic blog offering tons of free resources for pastors and church planters, and talk about the book I coedited on this subject.

It was great to talk about a conception of the pastor and scholar that has captured my attention.  As in the previous video I did with Dustin, he asked good open questions that we could have talked about for hours.  If this little video does not sate your thirst, I would encourage you to grab the book–it’s little and cheap.  If you want to watch the original messages given by Piper and Carson at the 2009 Henry Center event held at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago, go here.  They came on the heels of the Gospel Coalition national conference.  Nearly 2000 people showed up.

I’m planning to write more about this topic.  For now, here’s a snippet from a piece I wrote for the Gospel Coalition that interacts with one facet of this movement, the need for robust theology for the purpose of church health and personal transformation.

Many ministers of God’s church worked as pastor-theologians, laboring in their studies amidst the many duties of ministry to produce sermons and works that would feed their people meat and not milk (Heb. 5:12-13). This is true of countless pastors in varied areas of Christian history: John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Sibbes, Owen (not me, the Brit), Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones, to name a very few.

There is a reason we still read the sermons and writings of these men, antiquated as their language may be, strange as we may find their historical contexts. They sounded the depths of the Bible in their preparation and created faithful, doxological, and utterly consequential messages. Few if any modern preachers will match Edwards; every preacher can, however, feed his people a biblical feast each Sunday that will enlarge their understanding of God and set their affections on fire, loosing Christocentric citizens of the kingdom to take dominion of their minds, their practices, their families, their communities, and the earth itself.

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Book Alert: Josh Harris on Theology; Carson, Moo, Naselli on the New Testament

Josh Harris has just released Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why it Matters (Multnomah, 2010).  I am working my way through it and finding it a rewarding read.  The purpose of this book: to communicate the need for a deeper walk with God, a theologically rich way of life.  This is an excellent aim, and it is carried out with Harris’s trademark lively, friendly style.  The guy has a great sense of humor and, most importantly, a passionate love for the Lord.

This would be a helpful book for any Christian who hungers to know God more intimately but who struggles to know where to start.  So many books, so little direction.  Harris walks the reader through his journey into a theological life in accessible terms, allowing us to see how his own faith has deepened and his vision of God has expanded over time.  Pick up Dug Down Deep, and get a copy or two for your child, your friend, your coworker who could benefit from a wise, pastoral, engaging word from a faithful man.

Wanted to pass on word about a splendiferous new book on the New Testament that will richly reward its readers: Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Doug Moo (edited by Andy Naselli, PhD student under Carson at TEDS; Zondervan, April 2010).

I’ve looked through this edited version of a previous NT introduction by Carson and Moo and it looks very helpful.  Andy put in hours on this project, whittling down the content of two respected NT scholars to the kernel of NT doctrine.  Be prepared for all kinds of data in a small, 160-page format (and look for Andy’s trademark numbered lists!) that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds and levels.  If you’ve ever wanted, for example, D. A. Carson’s thought in bite-sized form, here it is.

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New Essay by William Lane Craig: Arguments for God

The Henry Center sponsors a really cool and helpful program called the Christ on Campus Initiative, which produces articles and essays.  The series is designed to provide college students and thinking Christians with apologetic resources necessary to meet the intellectual challenges of the day.  The editorial team for the series is chaired by D. A. Carson of TEDS.

The latest essay is by William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, and is entitled “Five Reasons for God”.  Building off of the five commonly known arguments for the existence of God, Craig engages the New Atheists, showing how they attempted to handle these ideas and how, ultimately, their responses fail.  Whether or not one’s apologetic method includes the five proofs, this essay will make for highly stimulating reading.

Here’s Craig’s conclusion (read the whole thing):

We’ve examined five traditional arguments for the existence of God in light of modern philosophy, science, and mathematics:

1. the cosmological argument from contingency

2. the kalam cosmological argument based on the beginning of the universe

3. the moral argument based upon objective moral values and duties

4. the teleological argument from fine-tuning

5. the ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to his actuality

These are, I believe, good arguments for God’s existence. That is to say, they are logically valid; their premises are true; and their premises are more plausible in light of the evidence than their negations. Therefore, insofar as we are rational people, we should embrace their conclusions.

The Henry Center is glad to make “Five Arguments for God” available for free to all.

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