Tag Archives: D. A. Carson

Carson: Hodge’s “Storehouse of Facts”

“Frequently quoted as proof of his irremediable dependence on Scottish Common sense are the following words from Charles Hodge: ‘The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science.  It is his storehouse of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches is the same as that which the natural philosopher adopts to ascertain what nature teaches.’  These words are commonly taken to reflect at least two unfortunate shifts: first, an uncritical dependence on induction in theology, a method taken over directly from Baconianism mediated through Scottish Common Sense; and, second, a novel view of the Bible that deemphasizes its role as a guide for life, a source for truths necessary for salvation, and a means of grace, while seeing it as a ‘storehouse of facts,’ the quarry from which systematic theology is hewn.

Probably too much is being made of this sentence.  It is essential to recognize that Hodge make his remark in the context of his treatment of the inductive method as applied to theology — and to nothing else.  Hodge develops the thought further to show such principles as the importance of collecting, if possible, all that the Bible has to say on a subject before proceeding to inductive statements on the subject, undertaking the collection (like the collection of facts in science) with care, and constantly revising the induction in the light of fresh information.  He does not in this section of his work seek to establish the nature of the Bible’s truthfulness; his subject is prolegomena, not bibliology.  When Hodge does, in fact, turn to the doctrine of Scripture, he is immensely sophisticated and balanced; but here his focus is elsewhere.  The most that could be deduced from this one passage  about Hodge’s doctrine of Scripture are his beliefs that all the Bible is true, that its content is the stuff of systematic theology, and that its material is sufficiently interrelated to belong to the same system.”

Collected Writings on Scripture, D. A. Carson, 72.


Friends You Should Meet (7) — D. A. Carson

It’s no secret that I love books.  Here in my study I often feel like I’m surrounded by good friends.  In this series of posts, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends, both the old ones from centuries ago and the more recent ones.  I’ll describe their strengths and, where necessary, their weaknesses.  The aim is to help you find good friends for yourself — in other words, to find edifying reading that will give you a better understanding of the Christian faith, a greater grasp of the gospel, and a deeper love for Christ.

Donald Carson is the only Canadian-born friend we’re going to meet in this series.  He’s also the only author that I’m currently reading.  In front of me I have his Collected Writings on Scripture.  I hope to have a review of that posted here shortly.

Carson was born in 1946 in Montreal, I believe.  His father was a Baptist pastor and missionary, first among English-speaking Quebeckers, then among the French.  For Don Carson, one of the results is bilingual fluency.  He did his undergrad studies at McGill University in Montreal, and then obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto.  Carson was ordained in 1972 at a Baptist church in Richmond, BC.  He then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in New Testament studies at Cambridge.  After some years as a professor at a Baptist seminary in Vancouver, he moved to Wheaton, Illinois, to take up a position teaching New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He’s still there today.  He’s written numerous books and articles.  He frequently speaks at conferences and is actively involved with the Gospel Coalition.

Why is D. A. Carson important? Carson has  three endearing qualities.  First, he is a New Testament scholar with a high view of the Bible.  He believes fervently in biblical inspiration and inerrancy.  Unfortunately, there are not many high-level NT scholars with such views of their subject matter.  Second, Don Carson loves the gospel.  This is reflected in his work with the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel.  His passion for the good news also surfaces in just about everything he writes.  Third, Carson, like Mike Horton, is able to produce both high-quality scholarly writing and popular works that will edify any Christian.

Where do I start? If you’re looking for something to whet your appetite, the best place to start is Carson’s biography of his dad, Memoirs of an Ordinary PastorYou can download it for free here.  Then ease into Carson’s biblical scholarship with his helpful little volume, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.   If it’s devotional reading that you’re looking for, check out his Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of JesusYou can find my review here.  If you’re a seminary student, or if you’re a pastor and haven’t read it yet, Exegetical Fallacies is a must-read.  If you have an interest in postmodernism and hermeneutics, The Gagging of God is a thorough treatment.  Finally, if you’re looking for a more complete author profile, Andreas Köstenberger has something helpful.

What to look out for? Well, if you haven’t guessed it already, Carson is a Baptist.  I don’t view the denial of infant baptism as a minor, insignificant matter.  However, honestly I don’t recall reading anything from Carson that has ever lept out at me as being distinctly Baptist.  It’s not as if he makes a point of arguing for believers’ baptism in each of his books, or even laying the foundation for that position.  I think his purposes are higher.  Another point worth mentioning is that Carson is not a cessationist — he believes that charismatic gifts did not cease with the time of the apostles.  But again, this is not a strong theme tainting his writings.  With regards to the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), Carson is Calvinistic.  He holds to the doctrines of grace.  Moreover, he frequently refers to the importance of confessional Christianity.  He doesn’t mean that as a reference necessarily to the Three Forms of Unity or Westminster Standards, but to the kind of Christianity that grounds itself in confessions generally oriented to the Protestant Reformation.  Though I don’t care for the expression myself, some would call him a “Reformed Baptist.”

I heard Don Carson speak earlier this year at the Canadian Gospel Coalition Conference just a few streets over from us here in Hamilton.  I was impressed.  He writes well, but speaks even better.  Pretty much anything that Carson writes, I’ll read.  If he’s speaking nearby, I’ll be there.  I guarantee that this friend will edify you as well.


Book Review: Scandalous

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, D. A. Carson, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010.  Paperback, 173 pages, $17.99.

I’ve always enjoyed and been edified by Don Carson’s books.  From his commentary on Matthew to his Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God to his surgical dissection of postmodernism in The Gagging of God to the loving story of his father in Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, I’ve come to expect excellence from this author.  Recently I had the opportunity to listen to him speak just a couple of blocks from where I live.  He was one of the featured speakers at the Canadian Gospel Coalition Conference.  I heard a man with conviction, intelligence, and a gift to communicate basic gospel truths clearly and effectively.  Shortly afterwards, I received Scandalous.  This book is comprised of five presentations that he made at a conference in Seattle in 2008.  It’s vintage Carson.

The five presentations here are all expositions of Scripture passages having to do with the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  The passages are all found in the New Testament.  As to be expected, three of the expositions are from the gospels (Matthew 27; John 11 and 20), while the other two are drawn from Romans 3:21-26 and Revelation 12.  So, we get teaching from narrative passages, an epistle, and apocalyptic – a holistic picture of what the New Testament teaches about the cross and resurrection of Christ.

There are three valuable features of this little book.  Of course, at the top has to be the faithful teaching that you’ll find from Scripture.  Carson is a seasoned, careful student of the Word of God and that’s evident throughout.  But all of that faithful teaching means little if it can’t be successfully communicated.  Carson knows how.  With fresh, vivid language and timely illustrations and anecdotes, he keeps the reader’s attention throughout.  The last feature that I value in Scandalous is its devotional character.  The author is passionate about his message and his passion contagiously directs the reader’s heart to Christ.  Various excerpts from hymns and poetry (some of which Carson himself has written) contribute nicely to this aspect.  The book makes for excellent devotional reading on a Sunday afternoon.

This introductory explanation to the cross and resurrection of Christ is a treasure.  These are truths that can be easily taken for granted.  Don Carson is dedicated to making sure that we don’t.  Even though I write a lot of reviews I don’t often say this, but I will about Scandalous:  highly recommended!