Tag Archives: don carson

Al Mohler and Patrick Schreiner on Seminary: Why Not Get All You Can?

I’ve enjoyed a recent round of posts on seminary from SBTS MDiv graduate Patrick Schreiner.  Patrick is a sharp thinker and writer.  I would encourage you to read his short, punchy posts on the seminary experience and how to do it well.

From his insightful blog, Ad Fontes:

“The windup of my 10 pieces of counsel:

  1. Take the hardest classes.
  2. Learn the Languages.
  3. Take some professors who will teach you the art of exegesis, and others who will teach you the science.
  4. Be in ministry/don’t be in ministry.
  5. Take teachers, not classes.
  6. Concerning grades.
  7. Stay away from distance learning.
  8. Take teachers who will teach you a method.
  9. Go for depth and breadth.
  10. Seek out a mentor. 
  11. In sum: Love God and do as you please.”

Here’s a snippet from number six that I thought was well-done:

Dr. Shawn Wright put it perfectly; “For some of you it would be a sin to get an A in this class, for others of you it would be a sin not to get an A.”

Dr. Wright understands everyone comes in with a different situation lingering behind the happy faces in class. Some are working full time, and have 3 kids at home, and taking a full load. Others are single and being supported from the outside.

Generally it is right to try to get good grades. You will probably learn more and get the most out of the classes by striving for A’s. Therefore study hard and learn the material.

However, at the same time, if you are not looking to get your PhD or teach, it does not matter as much. Few church search committees will bypass you because of a C on your transcript. (They rarely ask for the transcript).

For some, the most spiritual thing to do before a test, is to go home, take care of their kids, cook for their wives, and not study for the test tomorrow.

This is good stuff.  Many moons ago, I wrote a three part series on my own reflections from the Southern Seminary MDiv: Seasons of a Seminarian parts one, two, and three.  Glad to see other seminarians passing on advice about the long, hard, and highly rewarding task of completing an MDiv, the biggest, baddest master’s degree of them all.  There is a reason churches look for the MDiv.  It signifies that you have labored to gain tools for Christocentric ministry in order that you might “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

As Al Mohler said recently on a Gospel Coalition panel (listen to the panel audio with Mark Driscoll, Mohler, Ligon Duncan, David Helm, Bryan Chappell, and Don Carson), why would you not want to do all you could to prepare for the ministry of God’s Word, the most precious, complex, and meaningful endeavor one could undertake?  Why would you not get every drop of learning you can?

(Image: SBTS Archives)


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What Is the Gospel, and Why Care?

Greg Gilbert’s brand-new What Is the Gospel? (Crossway–IXMarks, 2010) is dynamite.  Pick this book up to remind yourself of the essential of the essentials.  A short (127pp), small, readable, punchy text, What Is the Gospel? dispels the cloudiness surrounding the exact character of the gospel today.  Pastors, disciplers, Bible study leaders, and many others would find this a great book to pass on to believers, young believers, and unbelievers.

The book’s subject matter is deceptively easy to obscure.  There are many definitions given of what exactly the gospel is today.  Is it the proclamation of the kingdom?  Do we do the gospel?  Or is it a message to proclaim?  If it is a message, what is the core content of this message?  If you read widely in evangelicalism today, you’ll find all kinds of answers given to these questions.  There is indeed a great depth to the gospel, a many-sidedness, but I think Greg is quite right that there is a core to it that cannot be minimized or replaced.

On a personal note, I remember reading Greg’s 9Marks reviews almost a decade when I was a college student.  I read them and thought, “I want to write like that.”  Greg has a sharpness to his prose and a clarity to his thought that is unusual.   With this particular book, I liked Greg’s section on three ways that the gospel is unhelpfully defined.  For example, there is massive confusion today on how kingdom and cross, and social justice and evangelism, fit together.  Do you emphasize one?  Both together?  How do you figure this stuff out theologically, spiritually, exegetically?  Greg’s book is a starting point on this tricky matter.  I hope we’ll hear more from him on this.

Here’s a little bite to chew on from the provocative and rewarding book, which has a foreword by Don Carson and blurbs from too many Christian leaders to count (Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, Akin, Akinola, etc.):

The Bible actually gives us very clear instruction on how we should respond to any pressure to let the cross drift out of the center of the gospel.  We are to resist it.  Look at what Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians.  He knew the message of the cross sounded, at best, insane to those around him.  He knew they would reject the gospel because of it, that it would be a stench in their nostrils.  But even in the face of that sure rejection he said, “We preach Christ crucified” (! Cor. 1:23).  In fact, he resolved to “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  That’s because, as he put it at the end of the book, the fact that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” was not just important, and not even just very important.  It was of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). (110)

Amen.  Pick up this little book, and gain clarity on a central matter that we are constantly tempted to minimize, whether on a theological level through direct challenge, or on a personal spiritual level through listening to our doubting hearts.  The gospel is clear, simple, a message to proclaim, and the means by which we and our wicked souls will be saved.

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The Ten Best Films of 2009, the Year That Wasn’t

David Denby, film critic at The New Yorker, just released his list of the top-ten films of 2009.  Because I am an American, and thus am genetically predisposed to find top-ten lists interesting, I noticed it.

Actually, it’s well worth looking at.  Denby is a skilled critic.  I like that he, with all TNY commentators, is stingy with his praise.  I like stinginess.  There’s not enough of it these days.  With stingy people, you know when you’ve done well.  With non-stingy people, you never know whether you’ve done well or poorly, because you can’t tell from their response.  It’s been fun to have the legendary Don Carson for (an amazing) class this semester, because when your argument is strong, you know it; correspondingly, when it is weak–well, let’s just say you have no trouble figuring out where you stand.  I love that.

Anyway, here’s the list.  A couple of selections from it, none of which I necessarily endorse or encourage you to watch:

  • “The Hurt Locker”: Kathryn Bigelow understands that an action movie has to be coherent in space—you have to know where the American soldiers are in relation to the bombs that they’re trying to defuse. Hair-raising. With a great performance by Jeremy Renner.
  • “The White Ribbon”: The dread-master Michael Haneke’s portrait of a guilty Northern German town just before the First World War. The long takes and crisp black-and-white cinematography produce an aura of vague but sinister stillness. You come out of it feeling bruised and contented at the same time.

The whole list is worth perusing.

Can I close with a comment of my own?  I haven’t seen many of the films Denby cites, but I thought that this was a terrible year for the cinema.  My wife and I have a desperately hard time finding good films to watch (I can’t recall any good ones I saw that were made this year, honestly).  The whole year stunk, in my opinion.  Is it just me, or has filmmaking slid down the tube really fast in a really short period of time?

The long-form tv series actually far outperforms movies in many cases, in my opinion.  Two hours is already a tough amount of time in which to establish a plausible narrative, engrossing, well-rounded characters, and meaningful tension.  Much better to have five or six seasons in which to develop characters, plot lines, action, irony, and the like.

Anyway, that’s all from me.  I am pessimistic about the cinema, but optimistic about long-form series.


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John Piper Tunes in and So Can You: The Henry Center Website Report

Piper-Carson 066

An update from the Henry Center on its website.  We’ve been pushing the site in recent days, and it’s great to give a very brief public report:

What do folks like John Piper, Justin Taylor, Millard Erickson, and Thabiti Anyabwile have in common?

Answer: They all check the HCTU website and listen to its content.

Plenty of other folks have been, too. Let us give you some exciting stats that show how successful the year has been for the Center:

  • Over 100 people tuned in via webcast for the Ravi Zacharias lecture
  • Top five pages on the HCTU site in the last year: 1) Media, 2) Blog, 3) Trinity Debates, 4) Piper-Carson, 5) Scripture & Ministry
  • In the last year, between 15,000 and 20,000 unique visitors have browsed the site (!)
  • Traffic on the site in general is up nearly 200% from previous years
  • Over 1000 people watched the Ware-Grudem debate from one year ago, including people from Australia, Germany, China, and numerous other countries

There’s a snapshot for you.  We at the Center want you to know that we are committed to providing excellent content, offered for free, that will benefit the Lord’s church as it seeks knowledge of God, understanding of the Almighty, in pursuit of His maximal glory.

So please–keep checking the site, and encourage others to do the same.  We’re thankful that folks like John Piper, Justin Taylor, Millard Erickson, Thabiti Anyabwile, and you are doing just that.


Plenty more to come in coming days: a Rich Mouw lecture, a debate on evangelism of the Jewish community, and a conference in July 2010 in Tokyo, among many other things.

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Live-Blog: Mark Dever at the Gospel Growth Conference

deverI’m here at the People Growth conference, cosponsored by the Henry Center, where Mark Dever is currently speaking on “The Four P’s of Ministry.”  However, I think that he may have retitled, or subtitled, the message, “The Person and Work of the Shepherd” from 1 Peter 5. Not sure about that.

Without further ado, here are some insights from Dever’s talk, which I would commend to your listening.  My notes are in brackets.


The judge spoken of here [1 Peter 5] is also our shepherd.  Psalm 23.  Read from Ezekiel 34 to illustrate how the Lord, the ultimate shepherd, also functioned as the judge of the Israelite shepherds (the leaders).

If we would be good shepherds, we must remember that we are merely stewards.  The wicked shepherds of Israel worked for their own good; the ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ, laid down His life for the wicked.

Suffering, then glory; suffering, then glory.  This is often the way pastoral ministry works out.  There are definitive trials to being a pastor–so the examples of figures like Christ and Peter show us.

The Four P’s: Preach, Pray, build Personal relationships, and be Patient.

On preaching, remember Ezekiel 37, where God’s Spirit goes out with His Word.  Preaching to dry bones is a ridiculous thing to do unless God’s Spirit accompanies His Word. [Note: this is the official 9Marks text.  I swear.  For good reason!]  What people have been born by they need to be sustained by.

Don Carson and Dever were in Brazil.  He realized that he was having a hard time with the whole translation thing, whereas Carson was doing well.  Dever wondered why this was so; he realized that he includes rhetorical flourishes in his preaching that were perhaps being missed or obscured, while Carson has only substance, and thus was communicated with enviable clarity [This drew a great deal of laughter.]

It is essential that we pray. We need to pray for a true understanding of God’s Word.  Every time we pray we show that we depend upon on God.  When Carson came to Cambridge and preached material from A Call to Spiritual Reformation, the prayers of people in Dever’s context changed.  They became bigger and more God-centered.  So: what would our prayers from the past week sound like if they were broadcast over the loudspeaker? Dever cited John Stott, who once heard “village prayers to a village god.”  [That is an extraordinary line.]

So, pastors: pray for your congregation to grow in love.  Pray for the church’s testimony to the community.  Pray that God would work in the congregation such that His own character would be revealed in the church.  Pray for sinners to be converted, and for personal evangelism efforts.  We evangelicals often feel guilty about our lack of prayer.  Don’t focus on guilt–focus on praying more.

One of the best things you’ll do in your ministry is to cultivate personal relationships. [At this point, Dever read a lengthy passage from The Trellis and the Vine, which he spoke of in glowing terms, noting that it lays out the proper way to get involved in the church and seek out people who need personal investment.]

Finally, you need patience. If you’re a young man, especially under 30, you need to find an older man who can help you develop a patient perspective on ministry.  This is one of the hardest things for young pastors to learn, but one of the most essential.


All in all, this was a deeply edifying and provocative talk, as I have so often found Mark Dever to be.  It was a treat to hear him, and here’s hoping that the People Growth conference goes as well on Thursday and Friday as it did today.  We had more than 150 people turn out, including folks from Atlanta, Louisville, Kansas, Missouri, Australia, England, the Philippines, and more.

I’m very thankful for Marty Sweeney of Matthias Media (the main sponsor),  Robert Kinney (and Colleen Gallagher) of the Simeon Trust, and Ben Peays of The Gospel Coalition for making this excellent event happen.  It’s been a treat to work together with three terrific evangelical organizations to make this conference come together, and here’s hoping that it will encourage pastors and church workers to continue to root their ministry–and the measurement of their ministry–in the gospel.


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Get BibleMesh with Brand New Tim Keller Video

keller2Would you like to be able to view a Christ-centered narrative walkthrough of the Bible by Tim Keller?  Would you like to read hundreds of clear, concise, authoritative articles about the core story, doctrines, people, events and ideas of Scripture?  Would you like to be able to take unbelievers and young believers through this content?

Yes?  How?  It’s simple.  BibleMesh, a brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art online discipleship tool, is about to debut.  It features, among other great stuff, content in which New York City pastor and The Gospel Coalition Vice President Tim Keller lays out his narratival, Christ-centered overview of Scripture.  This is but one feature of the multi-platform scriptural learning tool that is BibleMesh. 

That means that you will be able to learn from and use a multi-media, multi-sensory experience that will teach you the biblical story as never before. Some of you saw the product preview at the Henry Center-sponsored Piper-Carson event at Park Community Church in April 2009. BibleMesh sponsored that event and also displayed at The Gospel Coalition 2009 and Together for the Gospel 2010, many of whose members have contributed to the site.

Honestly, when you see this site as a finished product, you will be blown away. Churches, Bible study leaders, college ministry workers, missionaries, individual Christians, and many more folks will hugely benefit from BibleMesh. I have seen chunks of the Keller video, and it alone is incredible.

Keep an eye out for BibleMesh–it debuts in June 2010.


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Don Carson, David Dockery, Tim Chester, and Ravi Zacharias: Events to Note (and Attend)

Piper-Carson 243I wanted to compile a list of some notable conferences coming up that folks should be aware of.  I get sent notice of great events somewhat regularly, and it’s a privilege to play a very small part of conference promotion.  All of these events are coming up in the next month or so.

1. Wednesday, September 23, 2009 | Ravi Zacharias | Ravi Zacharias International Ministries “Toward an Evangelical Understanding of Postmodernism and Mission” (Henry Center Scripture and Ministry lecture at 1pm in ATO Chapel at TEDS–free and open to all)

Event blurb from Dr. Zacharias: “Someone from India recently quipped to me, “India has gone from ancient to postmodern and skipped over the modern period.” Indeed, in distilling truth, it has been rendered to neutrality. How then, in a climate of cultural preferences (whether in the East or in the West), does one share the Gospel graciously and winsomely without it seeming like a cultural chiding or contravention? This is the essential challenge before us in the church today.”

2. In just one month, from October 6-9, 2009 in Jackson, TN, Union University is hosting one of the more interesting conferences to be held in conservative Christian circles in 2009-10.  It’s entitled Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominations” and it is worth attendance and attention. I would highly encourage those who can attend this conference to sign up.  It’s just $85 per person until September 15, 2009 (register here).  The conference will feature leading evangelical lights like David Dockery, Al Mohler, Timothy George, Danny Akin, D. Michael Lindsay, Duane Litfin of Wheaton, Ed Stetzer, and many more.

3. Lead09 is designed to promote the gospel, community and mission of the Church—to answer the questions many of us have been asking about what the Church is, how we fit into the Church and the mission of the Church. Featured speakers: Tim Chester and Jonathan Dodson.  Crucial info: October 9th & 10th 2009, Auburn, Maine, 560 Park Ave. Auburn Maine 04210. Cost: by September 18th -$75ea | after September 18th $100.

4. The Gospel Growth=People Growth conference to be held October 14-16, 2009 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL).  I highly recommend that you go if you’re in the area–you’ll benefit from talks by Don Carson, Mark Dever, Philip Jensen, and more.  It’s kind of a mini-Gospel Coalition.  It’s very cheap–$59 for students, $99 for pastors and others.  It’s sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Henry Center and The Gospel Coalition.

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Ministry Is About Faithfulness, Not Numbers: Gospel Growth 2009

But don’t take my word for it–let the Gospel Growth=People Growth conference to be held October 14-16, 2009 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) convince you.  I highly recommend that you go if you’re in the area–you’ll benefit from talks by Don Carson, Mark Dever, Philip Jensen, and more.  It’s kind of a mini-Gospel Coalition.

It’s very cheap–$59 for students, $99 for pastors and others.  It’s sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Henry Center and The Gospel Coalition.

Here’s the event blurb from the website:

At Matthias Media’s 2007 Conference, several hundred pastors, church workers and other ministry-minded Christians gathered at Washington’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church to think about ‘Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth’. We explored what the Bible says about gospel growth, and how it basically proceeds through three foundational Ps: Proclamation, Prayer and People.

At our 2009 conference, we’re going to zero in on the third and often neglected ‘P’: people. Because gospel growth happens in people and through people.

It happens in people. You can have growth in numbers, in budgets, in programs, in activities, in staff, in baptisms, in buildings, in reputation, and even growth in the quality of preaching, but unless individual people are growing in knowledge, in faith, in godliness, and in love as disciples of Christ, it’s all a noisy clanging gong. Are your people really growing? How would you know whether they are or not? Who is discipling each person in your congregation?

Ministry really is all about the three p’s: prayer, proclamation, and people:

Gospel growth also happens through people. Jesus commissioned every disciple for disciple-making, and a pastor-teacher’s job is not only to Proclaim and to Pray but also also to equip, train and mobilize People for the task. Gospel growth multiplies as Christians get involved in the three P’s: in prayerfully speaking God’s word to other people, in whatever way they can, large or small, at home or at work, in small groups or one-to-one. Is this happening where you are? Or is the ministry basically done by the staff? How many people in your congregation, for example, would be willing and able to do the foundational personal discipling work of following up a new believer and establishing them in the basics of the faith?

Here’s the schedule (all at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School):

10am Registration Open
11am D.A. Carson Introduction, On Biblical Exposition
12:30pm    Lunch Break
2pm Jensen and Helm Preaching Workshop: Principles of Biblical Exposition
3pm Jensen, Dever and Helm Q&A
3:30pm Break
4pm Mark Dever The Four Ps of Evangelical Ministry
5pm Dinner Break (Registration Open at 6pm)
7:15pm Phillip Jensen Biblical Theology of Ministry 1: The Aim and Method of Ministry in People
8:45pm Phillip Jensen Q&A
9am Phillip Jensen Biblical Theology of Ministry 2: All God’s People as Prophets and Disciple-Makers
10:30am Break
11am David Helm Training Initiatives
12:30pm Lunch Break
2pm Jensen and Payne Training Session
4pm Dinner Break
6:30pm Phillip Jensen What is Training? People not Programs.
7:30pm Break
7:45pm Marty Sweeney Obstacles to Training
8:15pm Marty Sweeney Q&A
9am Tony Payne Training Practices
10:15am Break
10:45am Phillip Jensen How a Training Mentality Leads to Gospel Workers
11:45am Phillip Jensen Q&A
12:30pm Closing

Hope to see you there.

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The Link 8.22.09: Leeman on Discipleship, the Super-Rich, and Mosques Swallowing Synagogues

piper_hands1. Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks has a great series of posts that discusses how immanence and transcendence relate to various aspects of Christian ministry.  It’s way, way deeper than your average deal.  Here’s part one; part two; and part three

2. John Piper discusses what to do when storms, or “tornadoes,” hit in life. (Photo: BlisstheFamily)

3. The Super-Rich are suffering, according to the NYT.  Why does it seem like they like this?  It’s a good thing to have lots of rich people.  Disparity of wealth does not by any means tend to societal harm.

4. This is a noteworthy national religious development: Islamic mosques are increasingly located in formerly Jewish synagogues.

5. Mike Anderson of The Resurgence has notes from the first session of RE:Train in Seattle.  Not your typical seminary note-taking–pretty cool stuff.

6. Did you know that the People Growth conference featuring Carson, Jensen, Dever and others has a $59 student/church planter rate?  That’s amazing.

7. Have you heard of Zolitics?  Now you have.  It’s slated to be the top bi-partisan “poli-tainment” site on the web

–Have a great weekend, all.

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The Link 6.19.2009

retrain1. Mark Driscoll and Rick Melson discuss the new Resurgence training center.  Cool training model.  Some of the profs featured in it are to the right (in case you couldn’t tell).

2. W. Bradford Wilcox of National Review has a great article up on “Five Myths of Manhood”.  Interesting stat: for all the talk about “stay-at-home” dads, just one percent of married families with children had one.  And a 2007 Pew study found that only 20% of women with children want to work full-time.  Tuck those figures away.

3. Mike McKinley on sermon introductions.  Looking forward to hearing him and others at the 9Marks/Baptist21 panel at the Southern Baptist Convention next week.  Two organizations doing great things for the kingdom.

4. Did you miss the Piper-Carson media from a while back?  If so, here it is.

5. The whole microfinance thing has led to Harvard students being sponsored by individuals.  Could this be a portent of things to come–students being sponsored by individual donors?  Interesting to think about…

–Have a great weekend, all.

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