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Love in Hard Places Paperback – June 27, 2002
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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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Top Customer Reviews
This book's origin was a series of lectures that Carson gave just prior to the attacks of 9/11/01. Initially, the lectures were designed to address the very real and difficult situations that Christians find themselves in relative to exercising Christian love. This book takes much of the core lecture material and expounds upon it, particularly in regards to Christian love towards Bin Laden. It is a book that raises many difficult questions and seeks to find answers in Scripture that are defendable.
Carson begins by demonstrating the falsity of glib definitions of Christian love, and in doing so, demonstrates to the reader that Christian love is not a concept of bumper sticker simplicity, but is in fact a very involved and complex doctrine that a person could spend a lifetime studying and not totally get their arms around it. He then proceeds to take this doctrine of love as laid out most clearly by the two great commandments of Christ, and apply it to difficult real life issues where the church is arguably deficient.
There were many highlights in this book. Carson's examination of the doctrine of love itself is worth the price of the book. It was very refreshing to watch an elite Bible scholar meticulously analyze the doctrine of Christian love and showing what it is, and what it isn't. Carson has long been known for achieving the all too rare balance of taking the whole counsel of Scripture into account, while not stretching Scripture beyond what it says. So many evangelicals, even evangelical scholars, tend to lose their balance either through practicing Biblical reductionism or Biblical expansionism. Carson does neither, and the reader therefore gains confidence that this is a scholar who is truly seeking the truth responsibly within the confines of Scripture.
Carson's discussion of racism and church discipline are very good. But I thought the most provocative section of the book was his discussion on Osama Bin Ladan and the whole area of just war theory and what Christian love looks like in these areas. Carson raises many good questions in this section that both hardened pacifists and hardened advocates for war will find difficult to deal with. But I agree with Carson that these questions need to be asked and thoughtfully explored. Given the current state of international affairs, this section of the book is about as timely and relevant as one could ask for. Christians in particular should read this very carefully.
So in short, this book is thoughtful, practical, insightful, caring, and deeply relevant for our times today. Given that so much of the modern American church is out of step with what Carson says in regards to Christian love, it's hard for me to recommend any other book written in the past year as highly as I recommend this one. It is hoped that this book will achieve a wide readership and that both liberal and conservative Christians will pay attention to Carson here. The church, and therefore the world, will be much better off.
"Love in Hard Places" follows from Dr. Carson's earlier work entitled "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God". This earlier volume focuses on the five different ways the Bible speaks of the love of God, which Dr. Carson briefly summarized in chapter 1: intra-Trinitarian, providential, invitational, elective and conditional. In this book, the opening chapter takes a further look at the double commandment to love God and to love one's neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). Dr. Carson provides us with helpful insights on addressing the issue of "love in hard places", beginning with the first hard place - our own hearts and lives.
In the second chapter, Dr. Carson discusses Matthew 5:43-48 on loving the enemies. Distinction is being made between "little enemies" (Christian enemies) and "big enemies" (persecutors of Christians). In many instances in dealing with enemies within the church, forbearance driven by love is called for, instead of confrontation as per procedures set out in Matthew 18. Dr. Carson also addresses the issue on whether the love of Christians for Christians is an inferior love. The attacks of "big enemies", apart from physical or of violent nature; often include mental, emotional and intellectual persecutions. Dr. Carson expresses that we should not only expect persecution but we should love our enemies, our persecutors, and pray for them. It is not easy until we extend our reflections from the diverse ways the Bible speaks of love to the diverse ways the Bible speaks of forgiveness.
Over the next two chapters, Dr. Carson devotes the book to the issue of forgiveness. The first part (chap. 3) deals with the basics of Christian love and forgiveness. It is important to recognize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is an obligation of love for all Christians but reconciliation, while it is the desired end, can only be realized by the repentance of the offending party. The second part (chap. 4) takes on two hard cases: racism and Osama Bin Laden. In the latter, the just war theory and what Christian love looks in these areas are being discussed.
The final two chapters deal with love and the denial of the gospel (chap. 5) and love and the intoxication of the diligent routine (chap 6). The fifth chapter looks at love and correction, as in the case of Paul's rebuke of Peter in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-21). The sixth chapter concludes with the lessons from the church in Ephesus on how not to forsake our first love for Christ and "succumb to numbing, resolute faithfulness" (p. 184).
"Love in Hard Places" is immensely practical and reflective. Though a little `heavy' for a layman, it is nevertheless, a highly recommended book for serious contemplation of God's love and our responsibility to love as Christians. Reflect on it and live it!