on March 8, 2010
D.A. Carson can preach.
I was introduced to this preaching when he spoke at my church's Bible conference a few years back on the person of Jesus Christ. I was blown away by Dr. Carson's intellect, his ability to point out things in scripture I'd never seen before, his passion for Christ, and the witty, entertaining way in which he was able to do all of this. He simply made the Bible come alive to me in way I'd never experienced before.
His new book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, did exactly the same thing.
Carson examines 5 different texts from the Bible from Matthew 27, Romans 3, Revelation 12, John 11, and John 20. These are heavy passages, dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus, his raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the disciple Thomas' doubting. The other passages tackle "the center of the whole Bible" (Romans 3), which connects the Old and New Testaments, as well John's prophetic visions in Revelation. Difficult parts of the Bible to explain, to say the least, but Carson is able to plumb the depths of these theologically packed passages in such an insightful and concise way as to make them manageable and beautiful. The book is simply a feast for those who love to hear the Bible taught passionately and clearly.
It's hard to pick a favorite chapter as they were all fantastic, but I really enjoyed the discussion of the stories of Lazarus and Thomas. We've heard these stories so many times; it would be easy for them to feel familiar and less powerful than they should. Carson's talent doesn't allow for this response. He brings you right into the settings of the passages, and you feel like you're watching the story unfold before you for the first time, seeing the actions of Jesus in completely new ways. I've yet to find many other authors who have this skill for making the scriptures so real to me.
These 5 chapters were given as sermons at Mars Hill Church in Seattle back in December of 2008 as part of a Resurgence Conference. I was lucky enough to catch these sermons online. I don't always enjoy reading a book after hearing the material preached live, but the writing in Scandalous makes you feel like you're sitting there, talking personally to Dr. Carson as he explains and expounds upon the deep truths of scripture. He simply has a gift for exposition and it shines gloriously in this book.
on March 11, 2010
"Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the love of God? Go to the cross. Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the justice of God? Go to the cross. It is where wrath and mercy meet. Holiness and peace kiss each other. The climax of redemptive history is the cross." So says D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in his new book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.
Dr. Carson has been teaching since 1978, and it shows. He addresses deep and profound truths with clarity. What's the difference between propitiation and expiation? Carson cannot only explain it, but he can interest you while he does.He certainly held my interest. He even made me laugh. But more importantly, he informed me, convicted me, and challenged me. There was something highlighter-worthy on every page.
Scandalous has five parts. Each is distinct, keeping the book interesting, yet each ties into the main topic: the cross and resurrection. Part one looks at four "Ironies of the Cross" unfolded in Matthew's gospel. Dr. Carson says that these ironies "show attentive readers what is really going on." Part two is an unpacking of "The Center of the Whole Bible," Romans 3:21-26. It's here that Carson explains the meaning of the cross and why it was necessary. Part three deals with Satan's rage and how it is overcome. In part four, Carson looks at the meaning behind the raising of Lazarus, and in part five, he discusses Thomas, the "converted skeptic."
I'm usually not excited about eschatology, but I loved Dr. Carson's exposition of Revelation 12. The main point here is Satan's rage against the woman (the believing community), and how it is overcome. How are believers to function as salt and light in light of the enemy? "We dare not withdraw into a little holy huddle. But we must recognize with every ounce of our being that what finally transforms society is the gospel," which is advanced by the "word of our testimony." What will happen in the meantime? "The world will continue to get both better and worse. The gospel will advance, and so will opposition." But even in the face of opposition, even in the face of Satan's rage, believers can be confident. The victory "has been secured by the blood of the Lamb."
As this book is about the cross and the resurrection, which is the heart of the gospel, a theme that continues to run through the book is this advancing of the gospel mentioned above. What was the main point that Jesus made in raising Lazarus? "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever believes in me will never die," (John 11:25-26). Jesus bears witness to himself. And John, in recording the event, bears witness to Jesus. He advances the gospel.
And what is the point of the story of Thomas the skeptic?
"He saw and believed, and by his witness, by his confession he still speaks and, by God's grace, generates faith in countless later generations who come to share his faith because of his witness to the truth. Like Thomas, because of Thomas, they believe, they have eternal life, and they are blessed...Here is the function of a converted skeptic. And thus, it's the function of every believer."
But evangelism is not the focus of the book. The focus, instead, is Jesus Christ and what He accomplished. And it is this focus which makes me so highly recommend this book.
"In all of our theologizing, in all of our debates about how the New Testament uses the Old Testament and the precise meaning of inerrancy and all the other subjects that must be addressed, do not ever lose the heart of the issue: 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ' (2 Cor. 5:19)."
Thank you, Dr. Carson, for faithfully advancing the gospel.
I received a review copy of this book from Crossway.
on June 19, 2011
D.A. Carson's book "Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus" is made-up of five edited sermons preached at one of Mark Driscoll's Resurgence conferences.
The first chapter explores "The Ironies of the Cross," showing spiritual truth in spite of spiritual blindness. Next, Carson unpacks the Gospel and describes how it flows from the cross - along the way giving one of the most helpful explanations of propitiation I have ever read.
The third chapter focuses our attention on the church and how victory is assured over Satan because of the cross. Carson then explains the death and resurrection of Lazarus and what it reveals about our need for and provision of salvation through Jesus. Finally, the story of Thomas is used to discuss the ever present problem of doubt.
I would recommend this book as a resource to understand many of the important implications arising from the literal death and resurrection of Jesus. But I have one serious complaint (as someone once said, I speak as a fly to a theological giant):
There is no exposition of the resurrection story. Carson chose to deal only with the implications of the event as it touched his other points. Consequently, this is a fine book on Christ's death. However, it fails to fulfill its promise to explain the resurrection, leaving me disappointed that Carson's exegetical gifts were not brought to bear on a part of the Gospel that is so often neglected.
Indeed, most tend to focus exclusively on the cross. But the cross without the resurrection is merely a story about a good man. The resurrection changes Jesus from being apparently a "good example," to what he really is: the living Son of God. Let us remember and live in light of the resurrection not just during the Easter season, but until our Lord returns again - in his resurrected body.
on April 7, 2010
First-rate scholar and exegetical authority D.A. Carson delivers an outstanding book on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scriptural texts that he expounds are:
- The Cross (Matthew 27:27-51)
- The Center of the Whole Bible (Romans 3:21-26)
- The Triumph of the Lamb (Revelation 12)
- Lazarus Raised (John 11:1-53)
- The Resurrection of Jesus (John 20.24-31).
A natural and unforced, yet potent and emotive read.
Romans 3:21-26 "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
The reader will especially enjoy Carson's exposition of Romans 3:21-26, his astute analysis of John 11 and the raising of Lazarus, and his view of doubting the Resurrection: a look at Thomas before and after his Resurrection faith. This engaging read is filled with precise exegesis and s enjoyable, winsome, yet profoundly deep.
D.A. Carson is evangelical and Reformed with a heart and a style that reaches all modes of Christians and many non-Christians as he encourages them to trust in the truth and goodness of God in Christ.
Countless Christian leaders recommend this work including:
--Mark Driscoll (Pastor, Mars Hill Church)
--Mark Dever (Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church)
--Bill Kynes (Pastor, Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church)
--Stephen T. Um (Pastor, Citylife Presbyterian Church)
--Crawford W. Loritts, Jr. (Pastor, Fellowship Bible Church).
This is a fine book concerning truly vital and significant subjects.
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
on July 8, 2010
Based on a series of lectures D.A. Carson delivered at Seattle's Mars Hill Church in 2008, this book investigates five aspects of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection that are particularly scandalous. After all, the message of the cross is an offense (Galatians 5:11). It is a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). It is folly to the weak and perishing... but it is also the power of God for those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). Too often we glaze over the real meaning of the cross. We don't realize how truly scandalous it is, nor how wonderful it is for those who believe in Christ. Thankfully, Carson has given us this great book to teach us a familiar message in a fresh new way!
The first chapter deals with four ironies of the cross: The Man Who Is Mocked as King Is the King; The Man Who Is Utterly Powerless Is Powerful; The Man Who Can't Save Himself Saves Others; and The Man Who Cries Out in Despair Trusts God. In each of these, Carson shows how there are multiple layers of irony in the text, and how understanding this irony "enables hearers and readers to see what is really going on. [It] provides a dimension of depth and color that would otherwise be missing."
In chapter two, Carson unpacks the passage which Martin Luther called "the center of the whole Bible": Romans 3:21-26. This is a very useful exposition, as it clearly shows how God's justice and righteousness were displayed in the death of His Son, and how the old covenant Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, making way for the availability of an undeserved righteousness apart from the Law. Perhaps most helpful is the careful differentiation explained between the definitions of "propitiation" and "expiation". These are some weighty theological concepts made accessible in layman's terms.
The third chapter deals with Satan's war against the offspring of the woman in Revelation 12. Carson shows how Christ's death and resurrection defeated Death and Satan, and gives us eschatological hope. In this life we will still have tribulation. Satan is violently waging war against God's people, because his time is short and he knows it. The cross gives us confidence that we have a share in Christ's ultimate victory over evil!
Next, Carson turns his attention to the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. There are many surprising elements to this miracle, particularly when seen in light of its context directly preceding Christ's Passion week. Each section of this book contains lots of great quote material, but this chapter may have the most. Here's one example: "Death is not normal when you look at it from the vantage point of what God created in the first place. It is normal this side of the fall, but that is not saying much. It is an enemy. It is ugly. It destroys relationships. It is to be feared. It is repulsive. There is something odious about death. Never ever pretend otherwise. But death does not have the last word."
The final chapter is especially helpful in this age of skepticism, as Carson investigates the doubts of Thomas the Disciple. He looks at several various causes of doubt (present in both believers and nonbelievers), and how each cause requires different solutions. The tone is optimistic, as we see the conversion of Thomas' doubt into adoration, and discover that even the most hardened doubters still have the gift of salvation by grace through faith open to them. The message of the cross, when understood and accepted fully, truly changes everything.
A relatively short book (176 pages) and written in a very conversational manner, Scandalous has the feel of a light-reading book even while covering very heavy material. Carson does an excellent job of maintaining the reader's interest throughout. I highly recommend this book to any believer, no matter how well-versed you may think you are in the cross. This is one message we can never hear too much!
on March 26, 2010
One of the endorsements for this book says the following: "What happens when one of the world's preeminent theologians expounds on some of the Bible's prominent texts? This book."
I think this about sums it up.
Scandalous is a collection of sermons given by D.A. Carson at a recent Resurgence conference. As the subtitle would suggest, they all focus upon the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
This is so important because as Christians everything pivots upon the historical reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Without this there is no Christianity. There is no hope. There is nothing.
And it is here that Carson is so helpful. He is as engaging as he is expositional. He helps us to see and value the greatness of Christ. We find ourselves again and again coming to have greater confidence in the Scriptures and greater love for and devotion to the Savior. And this is really where the book is so helpful; it is not a mere collection of exegetical notes, historical commentary, and theological proof texts. It is instead a devotional unpacking of each of the passages that cause you to be humbled and happy in Christ. In other words, the sermons hit your heart as well as your head, if I may make the distinction.
Here are the chapters:
The Ironies of the Cross (Matthew 27.27-51]
The Center of the Whole Bible (Romans 3.21-26)
The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb (Revelation 12)
A Miracle Full of Surprises (John 11.1-53)
Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (John 20.24-31)
I personally have heard many of these sermons, some multiple times. However, I am thankful for the folks at Crossway and Re: Lit for putting this together in a book format. So often we hear a sermon that would be helpful later on but do not `put it on our bookshelf' so to speak. Here in this volume we have the sermons bound and ready for future reference. Good stuff indeed.
I have noticed that Dr Carson seems to have a bit of a broad range of popularity. What I mean is that there are folks who are not necessarily Reformed in their soteriology but still they like him. This would be a good book to get folks who may not be emphasizing that which of first importance. Like a bag of french fries this book drips the gospel. It is very helpful if this is your agenda.
on January 1, 2015
It might be a sign that I have read too many of Dr Carson’s books if they no longer truly impact me where I am at any given moment. I have read a lot of his books. I have listened to a lot of his sermons. I have read a lot of his formal journal contributions. I am like a junky for Carson, at one time actually spending money to purchase very poor cassette tape audio recordings of his sermons. But this time I found myself finishing his sentences and skipping over time-worn illustrations and yawning. The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus are amazing, mind blowing, earth shattering, soul undoing events. As Tim Keller notes: If Jesus is who he said he is, then everything changes.
In this book Carson did not do a good job of bringing those earth shattering realities to the surface or bringing my understanding of them to the point that my life is thoroughly, completely, utterly undone.
Scandalous is the first Carson book I have read in some time and, to be sure, I was disappointed. Disappointed enough that this will likely be the last Carson book I read. This is not to say it was a terrible book or that Carson’s scholarship was off or that his writing was, well, not Carsonish enough. It’s just to say that for the most part I was bored.
The book was cobbled together from a series of five sermons Carson preached at the 2008 Resurgence Conference at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I’m willing to bet that these five sermons were actually written down in other books that Carson has written at some point in the past (many of his illustrations have been used elsewhere). If anything positive can be said about the book it is that Carson is at least consistent: He hasn’t said anything new since I started reading his work twenty years ago. That is what makes the work a rather tedious and hum-drum affair for me.
Don’t get me wrong. As far as theology is concerned, Carson mostly is right on target. He never deviates from his essentially Reformed Calvinist point of view and even though he never once mentions the name ‘NT Wright’ (he does get in a dig at Steve Chalke and Alan Mann in the note on page 69) one can sense that underneath much of what Carson writes is a polemic against the so-called ‘new perspective on Paul’ and what many in the Reformed camp feel is a threat to the grip they have on theological power that goes along with the Reformed interpretation of the atonement (viz., penal substitution). I find it hard to believe that something so obvious needs so much defense.
It’s almost as if someone is trying to dress up an old theologian and make him into a hip, happening kind of guy. The cover is cool: ‘Scandalous’ is emblazoned on the cover in shiny, raised, blood spattered letters that would make Dexter proud. The rest of the cover is an appalling black. All the right cool people are quoted lauding the work. Yet none of this changes the fact that when you open the book and begin reading you are struck by the fact that the most modern poet Carson quotes is himself. There are plenty of quotations from hymns written by Martin Luther, Lidie Edmuds, William Cowper and others, and these folks are fine, excellent hymn writers and poets. But they are from yesterday. I found it terribly disconcerting that Carson resorted three times to quoting his own poetry in the book (72, 109-110, 167-168) and that he was the most modern poet he quoted.
I think if you have never read DA Carson before you will find this a helpful book and, perhaps, even a good book. Like I said, Carson is not wanting for scholarship skills. If you have never read him before you will get a very good introduction to the Reformed view of the cross (although the book is subtitled “The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus” the Resurrection of Jesus only gets one chapter to itself) and resurrection. This may or may not be a good thing. I think when we get so intent on defending a point of view we often fail to be challenged or changed by the story itself.
If you have read Carson before, I think you will be bored and/or disappointed. He has not given his readers anything different or anything new to think about in this book. I wish he had interacted with some of those he opposes since it would have made the book a better read. He would likely be pleased with that fact, but for his readers there will be much yawning and sleepy eyed skipping ahead to the next page or the next chapter. And that will likely not please him one bit.
2.5 Stars out of 5
"The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Attempts to make sense of the Bible that do not give prolonged thought to integrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are doomed to failure, at best exercise in irrelevance." This statement, taken from his preface, demonstrates the importance that D.A. Carson places on the cross. It is the center, the fulcrum of redemptive history. Yet, more and more, evangelicals are put in a position to defend or reclaim the historical doctrines which focus on the cross. This book is ammunition for that defense. Taken from five messages given at the 2008 Resurgence conference in Seattle, Scandalous examines five biblical passages and the contrary way in which the cross prevails.
Revealing the scandal of the gospel is not Carson's primary goal with this book. He does that to some extent by looking at the ironies found in Matthew's account of the crucifixion as well as the "surprises" found in the resurrection of Lazarus. However, his main objective is to prove that the cross is the pivotal point of redemptive history. It is the central moment of scripture. He proves this by examining Romans 3:21-26 as well as Revelation 12. In fact, the examination of Romans 12 is so thorough, it connects the dots - so to speak- for all of scripture and lays to rest many mistaken theories on the book of Revelation. This book is a great, readable help for anyone whishing to grasp the whole of scripture. Further, this treatise is a comfort to those worried about uncertain times and end-times prophecies.
Finally, Carson addresses doubt by examining none other than "doubting" Thomas. In the final chapter he looks at Thomas' skepticism, his belief, and the purpose he serves as a witness to the resurrection.
There are many aspects of the crucifixion and resurrection that may be scandalous. What is most so is that it was that moment, that weekend in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, on which all salvation hangs. Carson does an excellent job of bringing this to light and I highly recommend this book.
on March 23, 2010
In preparation for the Easter season, I read D.A. Carson's new book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. In it, Carson unpacks five Biblical texts and through those texts, explore the meaning of Jesus Christ's death on the cross and resurrection.
Dr. Carson writes in his preface:
"Nothing is more central to the Bible than Jesus' death and resurrection. The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Attempts to make sense of the Bible that do not give prolonged thought to integrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are doomed to failure, at best exercises in irrelevance. Jesus' own followers did not expect him to be crucified; they certainly id not expect him to rise again. Yet after these events their thinking and attitudes were so transformed that they could see the sheer inevitability that Jesus would die on a cross and leave an empty tomb behind, and absolutely everything in their lives was changed."
One reading of this book simply isn't enough. Dr. Carson works through Matthew 27:27-51; Romans 3:21-26; Revelation 12; John 11:1-53; and John 20:24-31. This book helps shed light on the meaning of the cross and resurrection in our own lives...and what could be more powerful than that.
Perhaps my favorite part of this book is it's sheer accessibility. I admit that I'm a reader. I have been since my mother would ground me to a bed with a stack of books. But Scandalous is easily readable and understandable. You don't need a theological dictionary and a concordance. And perhaps that's the greatest gift Dr. Carson could have given us - a book rich in theological truth that we can actually grasp!
on July 17, 2010
D.A. Carson's Scandalous surprised me with how enjoyable it was to read and how encouraging it was to my soul. Carson is a name that is synonymous with scholarship in the world of modern Evangelicalism.
A well-known professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the author of numerous books and biblical commentaries, Carson is someone that most evangelicals should read.
As a pastor, I have worked through a few of Carson's books. Generally, I found them to be lofty in their language and complex in their argumentation. Thus, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Scandalous is a very easy-to-read and compelling work. Carson's language is very accessible in this book. His illustrations are easy to understand, and his humor is surprisingly down-to-earth.
This book is a collection of five looks at five passages relating to Christ's death and resurrection. In each look, Carson puts forth very helpful thoughts to challenge and encourage Christians. I especially found Carson's look at the crucifixion and at the resurrection of Lazarus to be the two most interesting and helpful chapters. That said, none of the five chapters left me bored or confused. Each was clear, interesting, and refreshing.
I have very little negative to say about this work. One small point that did concern me, however, was one of Carson's choices of illustrations. He made a fine point with an illustration of how a man came to Christ after speaking with Carson about several logical points. However, the illustration also involved a young Christian lady going on dates with the lost man. This is advice that I would not give to any Christian, as the outcome of such relationships is very often not positive. Again, I recognize that Carson was making an entirely different point. I only wish that he had chosen a different illustration there for his point so as not to offer unwilling approval to weak Christians who wish to enter into dating relationships with non-believers.
Without question, I recommend Scandalous very highly. I believe that any Christian can benefit from and be encouraged by Carson's work. This book would make a fine read for groups who wish to read a chapter per week and meet for discussion and prayer. It would also make a fine springboard for a five-session Bible study. Simply put, this is excellent work by Carson, and I commend it to any believer.