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The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God Paperback – December 10, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; unknown edition (December 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581341261
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581341263
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tim Challies TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Until I read this book I never would have considered that God's love was a difficult doctrine. The Trinity is a difficult doctrine to understand - impossible even. The eternal nature of God - that is another difficult or impossible one. But the love of God? I wouldn't have believed it. But having read this book I believe it now.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson is just a short book (96 pages) that is drawn from four lectures Carson delivered in 1998. There was a small amount of editing performed, but the conversational nature of the speech carries through the text. It makes for an easy read, despite some deep theology.

Carson begins by outlining five reasons why this is a difficult doctrine. First, he suggests that while most people believe that God is a loving Being, this belief is set within a foundation other than Scripture. Second, many complementary truths about God are disbelieved by many within our culture (and our churches). Third, postmodernism reinforces a sentimental, syncretistic and pluralistic view of God. Fourth, the church has fallen into believing a sentimentalized version of God's love that is not consistent with God as presented in Scripture. And fifth, the church portrays this as a simple doctrine and overlooks certain important distinctions that prove this to be a difficult doctrine.

From this foundation, Carson builds the book around four themes: the distortion of the love of God; the fact that God is love; God's love and God's sovereignty; and God's love and God's wrath. As we would expect from Carson, he goes straight to the source - to God's revelation of Himself in Scripture - to correct false assumptions and provide a deep discussion of what God's love entails.
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Format: Paperback
A thin book examining the different ways that the bible describes the love of God, Carson discusses some difficult but worthwhile material. Don't be fooled by the brevity of this book which is theologically dense and probably worth reading more than once.
Do you believe in God's grace and salvation by faith and sometimes find yourself in conflict with those who would emphasise the Christian obligation to obey God's laws? Do you believe in the justice of God, his righteousness and wrath and sometimes find yourself in conflict with those who emphasise salvation by faith, not of works? Carson describes six different ways that the bible describes God's love and shows how these seemingly different concepts can be held in productive "tension" within the Christian life
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As other reviewers have mentioned, this book is adapted from a series of four lectures and only 78 pages long. Carson has kept an informal tone throughout the entire book. On the downsides, I think the book assumes at least some knowledge of Greek (which was fine for me, but may not be for everyone) and his discussion of theories of the atonement was rather limited--if you don't already know what Calvinism and Arminianism are, then his discussion of that issue will probably be somewhat cryptic. However, I think these drawbacks are minor and the book is excellent and definitely well worth reading. Do yourself a favor and purchase this book.
Also, this book is written by a Calvinist, and does carry Calvinistic presuppositions in places. I think this is fine (as I find Calvinism to be Biblical), but it is worth noting. The author's New Covenant Theology does not enter into the book at all, except maybe in the ABSENSE of discussion of covenants in any fashion (there is no concept of covenantal love, for example, in Carson's categorizations--really this is his fifth category, but he needed to expound on it), but this is forgiveable.
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Having read the title of this book and after reading several of Carson's other books, I was looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint. I read the whole thing in one sitting.

A word of caution: if you've never heard of Calvinism or Arminianism and don't know what phileo and agape are you may be lost at several points. But don't let this discourage you from reading this book.

Carson's book gave me an immense appreciation for God's love and just how difficult a doctrine it is. To learn about the different ways the Bible speaks about God's love was really amazing and caused me to marvel at the great God I serve. Do yourself a favor and read this book. And if you like it, be sure to check out his sequel: "Love in Hard Places."
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Format: Paperback
Carson addresses a topic which has been so poorly handled so many times that many would find it difficult to imagine it as a "difficult doctrine." Before we will see God's love as a difficult doctrine, we'll need to ask questions like these:

Does God love people who will go to hell?
If so, how can they go to hell?
If God loves people who will go to hell the same way he loves me, how can his love for me be seen as special and comforting?

Once we try to answer these questions with the bumper sticker theology of "Smile, God loves you," we begin to see this doctrine as a difficult doctrine indeed.

Carson's handling of this topic is precise, direct, scholarly, and warm-hearted. First, he describes five senses in which Scripture speaks of God's love. Next, he addresses the definition of love as rooted in the character of God himself. The final two chapters address God's love in relation first to his sovereignty, and then in relation to his wrath.

THE UPS

First, Carson is gifted as a thinker, theologian, and writer. You'd be hard pressed to find a more gifted scholar in Christianity in our day. The warmth of his love for God is therefore powerful and penetrating. I find reading him beneficial regardless of the topic simply as instruction in clear thinking, precise theology, calculated writing, and simple devotion to God.

Second, I was helped by Carson's handling of this very difficult subject. He does not shy away from the fact that God cannot possibly love the unbeliever in the same way he loves his own and still be God. Yet, he is unashamed to proclaim God's love to all people. This precision, yet balance, is much needed in our theological landscape in Australia.
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