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Archive for the ‘D.A. Carson’ Category


Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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Since I’m preaching through Galatians, one of the topics or themes is justification: how we are in a right relationship with God.  It is the main idea of the letter since they had fallen prey to false teachers with hetero-gospels.

I thought it would be a good time to list my recommendations for books on the doctrine of justification.

Great Books I’ve Read:

The Doctrine of Justification by Jame Buchanan.  This is THE book any serious student of the doctrine must read.  I loved this book, and was challenged by this book.  He traces the history of the doctrine, then explains the doctrine.  There is plenty of historical data (keeping in mind it was originally published in 1867) that helps us gain some perspective on the current deviations from the biblical doctrine.  It is rather lengthy, and this may turn off some people.

Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification by R.C. Sproul.  R.C. wrote this, in part, in response to Evangelicals and Catholics Together.  He saw that movement as undermining the heart of the gospel.  This is typical RC- good stuff written for average people.  He has a gift for making theology accessible to laypeople.

Justification By Faith Alone by Charles Hodge.  The old Princeton theologian tackles the subject thoroughly in this book.

The Future of Justification & Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper interact with the current attacks on the historical Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone (but that is not alone).   Piper does a good job, and a fair job, but they are polemical theology.  He is disputing a matter.

Books I Hope to Read Someday:

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith by John Owen.  I’ve got this in my Works of John Owen volumes.  I’ll get there.  He can be a difficult read, but I find it immensely rewarding.  As the subtitle reads, he explains it, confirms it and vindicates it as only he can.

Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine by John Fesko.   A bit pricey, it also looks at the classic formulation of the doctrine in light of current challenges to the doctrine.

Justified in Christ: God’s Plan for Us in Justification edited by K. Scot Oliphint.  It contains chapters by Westminster professors past and present.

Justification by Francis Turretin.  This is edited from his Institutes of Elentcic Theology, which is very good.  It presents theology in a question and answer format.  He was one of the early Reformed “scholastics”.  Sproul highly recommended Turretin when his Eclentic Theology was finally reprinted by P&R.

Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation by Brian Vickers.  It covers both the imputation of our sin to Jesus, and His righteousness to us.

Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification by Mark Seifrid.  This is part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology Series edited by D.A. Carson.  A bit academic, but focused on biblical theology.

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Yes, John Piper has another new book out (I’m already behind).  It is called Finally Alive, and it explores the biblical doctrine of regeneration, being born again.  This is a much needed book since there is so much misunderstanding about what it means, and how it radically affects our lives.

You can look at sample pages.

Not sure about that cover.  Yeah, I know it is about the leaves blowing as a sign of the wind, and regeneration a sign of the Spirit’s work in our lives.  Still … unless you’re already biblically literate it’s lost on you.

Here is some more info from WTS Books:

“I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book.” – D. A. Carson

Publisher’s Description: When Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘You must be born again’, the devout and learned religious leader was unsure what Jesus meant. It would seem nothing has changed. Today ‘born again Christians’ fill churches that are seen as ineffectual at best, and even characterised by the ‘mosaic’ generation as ‘unchristian’.

The term ‘born again’ has been devalued both in society and in the church. Those claiming to be ‘born again’ live lives that are indistinguishable from those who don’t; they sin the same, embrace injustice the same, covert the same, do almost everything the same.

Being ‘born again’ is now defined by what people say they believe. The New Testament however defines Christians very differently.

“When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), he was not sharing interesting and unimportant information. He was leading him to eternal life… If he does that for you (or if he already has), then you are (or you will be) truly, invincibly, finally alive.” (John Piper)

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Steve McCoy did a Big 5 on Prayer

Here are some of my favorite books on prayer:

Here are some of the books on prayer that I am interested in reading:

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Who said New England was a spiritual wasteland?  Okay, much of it is.  But I found some good sermons and lectures while visiting a website for a church in Portland, ME.

2006 Northern New England Presbytery (PCA) Missions Conference, Speaker Richard Pratt

2008 Northern New England Presbytery (PCA) Missions Conference, Speaker D.A. Carson

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Less than $15 at WTS Books!

Less than $15 at WTS Books!

I own and read this book under its previous title: Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology.  I’ve recommended the book to friends, and on my blog.  I guess that title was a bit over the top for some people.  It was re-released as God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery.  Ray Ortlund’s book is still part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

This is a great book on a very difficult subject.  It makes for must reading if you are reading, studying or preaching from any of the prophets that wrestled with Israel’s apostasy.  It works through the many passages that show how ugly it is, and how prevalent our temptation really is.

I’m glad this book is still available, and wish more pastors would read it.  This is particularly true in America where Satan’s strategy to neutralize the Church is seduction rather than persecution.  We live in dangerous times as prosperity (and the prospect of losing that prosperity) silently seduces us from faithfulness to the Holy One who has created, redeemed and adopted us.  It is the silent spiritual killer that is corrupting many sermons, books and churches.

Sorry if I sound alarmist, pessimistic and negative.

This book is not an easy read.  It is a bit academic in that it assumes some working knowledge of the original languages.  It is also difficult due to the metaphors Scripture uses to convey how corrupt Israel was in pursuing false gods or engaging in synchretism.  Scripture often sexualizes it (and translators work to make it PG) to drive the point home, shocking us for holy purposes.  Even if you never preach on those difficult texts, this book will help you keep such texts in mind as you encounter the common call to return to God with all your heart, to love the Lord with all we are and to be blameless before Him.

No, not an easy read but a very important read.  I’m glad D.A. Carson asked Ray Ortlund Jr. to make this a part of the NSBT series.

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WTS Books is having a summer sale until 7/30, so you had better hurry up!  They offer flat rate shipping and books are 50% off, so now is the time to buy!  I just wish I had a book allowance to enjoy this great opportunity 😦  However, if enough of you, my fair readers, visit via my blog I’ll get a good gift certificate!

Here are some Cavman recommendations-

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WTS Bookstore now has The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor available for $9.89 (34% off the list price).  This is the collection from the 2006 Desiring God Ministries National Conference.  As a reader who loves to mark up his books I’m looking forward to this one so I can better internalize messages like Tim Keller’s.  He’s given it in different forms over the years, but it will be great for me to have it in writing.  It also includes chapters by Mark Driscoll. D.A. Carson, David Wells and Voddie Baucham, Jr..

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I finally got to read D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers.  It because of books like this that Carson is becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors.

In some ways this was a difficult book to read.  I felt like I should be stopping more often to pray.  My original intention was to spend time praying after each chapter.  Sadly, time constraints and other responsibilities limited my opportunities to do just that.

Being as distract I have been in the 3 weeks since I began reading this book, I suspect that I missed much I could have benefited from.  At some point, I hope to utilize this book in a sermon series In the School of Prayer, in which I’ll focus on biblical, gospel priorities for prayer through Paul’s prayers.

The title is appropriate.  Spiritual reformation will not, cannot, happen apart from prayer.  But not just any prayers.  Prayer is not a formula, but what we need is to regain biblical priorities in our prayers.  Paul’s prayers reveal the types of things we ought to pray for, which we typically don’t.

In addition to looking at some of Paul’s prayers themselves, Carson includes some other material.  Particularly helpful is the chapter A Sovereign and Personal God which interacts with the reality of God’s sovereignty and its proper and improper effects on our prayer lives.  I wonder how much of this was culled (summarized) from his book Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.  But we must avoid the extremes of so pushing His sovereignty that we forget His uses of means (including prayer) and become entirely passive; or so pushing his personhood that we forget His sovereignty and think of Him as a mere reacter to circumstances (open theism).

Another chapter that made my reading ‘uncomfortable’ was Excuses for Not Praying.  Sadly most pastors have been there.  And most congregants have been there.  We have turned prayer into a duty instead of a delight (okay, delightful duty).  As a means of grace, we have much to gain through prayer.  But something about proper prayer means that we have to forsake our control over how our prayers are answered.  We learn to submit to God in prayer, and this is one of the rubs for us.  Unfortunately, the flesh continues to create numerous excuses not to pray.  But the Gospel extends more reasons to repent and pray.

This is a book people who are serious about their Christian life should read.  It will  encourage and challenge them not just to pray, but to bring their prayer concerns more in line with the purposes of God. 

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Here’s where it’s at.  I really wish I could have gone to the meeting earlier this year.  It just wasn’t in the budget.  But have no fear….

As reported elsewhere by many others, the Gospel Coalition website is up.  I like the subtitle “for the next generation of gospel-faithful ministry.”  This is chock full of resources.  It is far from complete, but they do have the plenary sessions in audio and video available (including Keller, Piper, Carson).  They have a number of articles by current gospel guys like Tim Keller and C.J. Mahaney.  And they have articles from dead gospel guys like Calvin, Luther, Boston, Warfield.

They also have their confessional statement and a theological vision for ministry.  This really is a place to bookmark and visit often.  So often groups get caught up in issues.  This is about the Big Issue, the Ultimate Issue.  It is a unity that is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart.  Unconfessed sin, nurtured sin, will always be a barrier between God and those he has made in his image.”  D.A. Carson in A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers

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Some friends have asked me why churches die.  In some ways that is a difficult question because the circumstances of each congregation that closes are different.  There are economic and demographic shifts that may contribute greatly.  That being said, I’ll spend some time addressing some of the other reasons that churches die.

The first is prayerlessness.  I know this was a factor for our congregation.  When I arrived there, they had a prayer meeting each Wednesday evening.  The only people who showed regularly were an elder and his wife who played piano, a deacon and his wife, and one of the ladies in the church who was on the search committee that called me.  That was it.

Over time, the elder died of cancer and the search committee member grew disenchanted with my ministry (often the person who most wants you there turns on you first when their -usually unexpressed- expectations are not met).  That left me, the pianist, the deacon (later an elder) and his wife.  We were joined by my new wife (I was single when I was called).

Our congregation never had a serious commitment to corporate prayer.  Many of them prayed privately, but what we find in Scripture (particularly the Book of Acts) is the great importance of praying as a body.  For instance:  the 120 were together praying on Pentecost when the Spirit came to empower them to be witnesses to Jesus.  Peter preached to the curious and angry, and God saved over 3,000 people that day.

These new Christians were devoted to prayer.  The context in the last section of Acts 2 is them gathering together.  One thing they did together was PRAY.  In Acts 4 they prayed after the release of Peter & John from jail.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they preached the word of God boldly.

In Acts 6, they chose 7 deacons to serve the Jerusalem church so the apostles could focus on prayer and the ministry of the word.  The order may be significant.  Spurgeon believed it was.  He believed that prayer groups that met were the engine that drove the power of his preaching.

In Acts 10, while praying to God, Cornelius received the vision from God telling him to send for Peter.  This began the great movement of the gospel among the Gentiles.  In Acts 12, Peter was released from prison while the people were praying for him and his release.  In Acts 13, during a time of worship and fasting (I’m sure they were praying), the Spirit told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to bring the gospel to Asia and Europe.

We don’t just need the preaching of the Word, but it must be accompanied by a commitment to prayer.  God uses means, and one means He has ordained for the church to grew strong, receive God’s blessings in Christ, expand through evangelism etc. is prayer.  Just as Calvin talks about Word and Spirit going together, so we can see that they are joined as we pray.

Churches that don’t pray will not be bold in evangelism.

Churches that don’t pray will not see the ministry of the Word preach as effective.

Churches that don’t pray won’t make much progress in godliness.

Churches that don’t pray will eventually die.

This is why I’m set to read D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation.

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The Westminster Bookstore has some of the CCEF authors on sale right now, up to 50% off.  I just picked up Ed Welch’s When People are Big, God is Small and Paul Tripp’s War of Words.  Already had the David Powlison book and Paul’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.  There were some DA Carson books I’ve been meaning to read, so I got those as well.

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And I’m in good company!

In a Friday the 13th chapel message outlining the “Message, Mission and Vision” of Liberty, Dr. Falwell said many things I would agree with, to be sure.  However, Tom Ascol notes he then said something that I would not agree with:

“We are not into partcular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact we consider it heresy.”

 I think Tom Ascol’s comments are pretty good, so here are some:

“What I regret is that he finds particular atonement to be “heresy.” This must mean that he and Liberty believe that those who hold to particular atonement to be heretics. Among the countless numbers of people whom he would brand with the H-word are many who would make any evangelical Who’s who list (including Bunyan, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Carey, Boyce, Mell, Dagg and Lloyd-Jones, to name but a few of the dead ones). I find this sad.

“Does Jerry Falwell and Liberty University really judge John Piper to be a heretic? If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy.”

I was once called apostate for not believing that they King James Version, authorized by a Catholic English King to be standard Bible for the Church of England and translated from what are currently inferior texts, is not the only translation a Christian may use by a Catholic-hating, independent fundamentalist (ah, the irony).  And now I am a heretic.  Well, actually Dave Hunt called “me” one by denouncing Calvinism as heretical.

The late John Gerstner, known for an inflammatory comment or 2, had nothing on this type of reasoning.  I wonder what this will cost Falwell.  This is far more serious than mischaracterizing a women’s basketball team.  Oh yeah, pretty much nothing but some fundraising cash.

Jerry, you may condemn me but you’re still my brother.

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This is the final installment on Ryle’s chapter on Sanctification where he compares and contrasts justification and sanctification.  The inability to distinguish them has led to many a departure from biblical Christianity.  This is a very important topic.

So… how are they alike?

  1. “Both proceed originally from the free grace of God.”  It all comes back to grace, sovereignly administered by God.  He owes no one, and is free to give grace to whomsoever He will.
  2. “Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people.”  Often problems arise from equating justification with salvation.  Salvation encompasses justification, but is more than justification.  It includes the graces of regeneration, adoption, sanctification and glorification.  Therefore, the Scriptures talk about us having been saved (justification), being saved (sanctification) and will be saved (glorification).  All are rooted in grace purchased by Christ’s work on our behalf.
  3.  “Both are to be found in the same person.”  At the risk of being crass, but it is like one of those special buys on TV… “wait, there’s more.”  If you buy the bamboo steamer you also get everything else.  Those who are justified are also being sanctified.  No truly justified person will not be sanctified.  No one can be sanctified unless they are first justified.  We can distinguish these graces, but cannot separate them.  Just as we can distinguish between the two natures of Christ, but cannot separate them since the Incarnation.
  4. “Both begin at the same time.”  The act of justification marks the beginning of sanctification.  You may not feel very sanctified, or at all, but you are.
  5. “Both are alike necessary to salvation.”  They are a package deal, by grace.  All inclusive!  All purchased by Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice.

How are they different?

  1. (more…)

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I’ve been listening to a message from the Acts 29 Bootcamp by Daniel Montgomery.  This is the 3rd time I’ve listened to the Gospel-Centered Mess.  There is some really good stuff in here to think about regarding the need for the leadership to live the gospel at home and church.  I wish we were able to interview candidates with their wives more regularly to learn about their relational dynamic.  He gives some good advice about being straightforward about the ways they deal with their sin apart from the gospel (Genesis 3).  His influences include D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Richard Baxter and Billy Graham.

He also talks about some of the tough choices planters may have to make (my freedom to have a beer vs. the need for health insurance).  He’s about keeping the main thing the main thing.  At times it sounds “ungracious”, but so did Paul when he came across those who preached false gospels. 

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Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis has the sermons from their Christian Life Conferences available.  The 2007 conference featured Tim Keller and Dan Doriani speaking on how the Cross transforms us.  The 2006 conference featured D.A. Carson and Walter Kaiser.  I’m sure I’ll be challenged and encouraged by these messages for quite some time.  If you haven’t found these yet, you may want to check them out.

(HT:Reformissionary)

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While pumping that iron yesterday I was listening to Carson’s lecture on the emerging church.  I think I downloaded that from  Southern Seminary’s website, but I can’t remember.  But it was very good anyway.

Sounds like his book had already been released, and was being blasted by some folks.  My opinion is that they accuse him of things he didn’t do.  He was not being reductionistic, as if all emerging pastors and authors were the same.

In the lecture he affirmed some of the things that the emerging church is saying.  He does remind us that they are not the only ones saying them.  He finds decidedly non-emerging church like Capital Hill Baptist, Camelback Bible Church in AZ (I nearly took a position there upon graduation from seminary… one of those times you go “what was I thinking?”) among others.

(more…)

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I finished DA Carson’s book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.  As always I find him thought-provoking and his analysis penetrating.  There will be a review of the book on the other page (along with Powlison’s Seeing With New Eyes).

Here are Carson’s main complaints, which I cannot deny.

1. Their critique of modernism is superficial.  It is quite reductionistic.  There are problems with modernism, and they have distorted the church’s view of itself and its mission.  But it was not all bad.

2. Their analysis of postmodernism is superficial.  They focus on it effects, not one the fundamentally flawed theory of knowledge.  They push us into a false antithesis which undercuts the notion of truth.

3. Their most vocal spokespeople are doctrinally fuzzy at best, and heretical at worst (the last part is my assessment).  I’m thinking that if you deny the substitutionary atonement, you have missed the essence of Christianity.  You have substituted another religion in its place.  Sorta like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  McLaren, for one, has done this.

So, while I have great sympathies for the Emerging Church, I can’t buy into it.  I agree with many of their critiques of contemporary Christianity (though not all).  I share many of their longings for authentic community where lives are transformed and we aren’t afraid of the past.  But I can’t go all the way.  This makes me sad.  Not because I want to be all trendy.  But this hope for a more authentic church is currently mired in trendy worship, fuzzy/heretical teaching and is just as much captive to culture as the contemporary/modernist churches they despise.  It is the product more of their biases than biblical teaching.

[originally from my previous blog]

Update: Carson is primarily critiquing the Emergent Church which is the most radical of the Emerging Churches.  He is actually quite influential among what Mark Driscoll calls the Relevants.

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