Category Archives: don carson

Adam According to Alister

I have tremendous respect for Prof. Alister McGrath. He is surely one of Christianity’s foremost apologists, and is a brilliant scholar of the Reformation. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of driving him to and from a conference and enjoyed the short time spent together. He has PhD’s in both the sciences and theology from Oxford and taught there for a long while, before going to London. He has authored a large number of scholarly books on the Reformation, the history of atheism, theology, spirituality and the sciences. He has also debated famous atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

In this video (yes, that’s spittle dribbling down my chin–look at that library!!), Dr. McGrath discusses the significance of Adam and Eve for theology and takes a more Barthian approach to seeing Adam as theologically significant, but not necessarily historical. This isn’t surprising as Dr. McGrath also holds to theistic evolution, and is an admirer of Thomas Torrance, a well-known Barthian who wrote much on science and theology.

Without wanting to sound presumptuous–who am I to take issue with Alister McGrath???–it strikes me that when he draws the parallel between Adam and Christ there is an incongruity. If Christ is an historical person, as McGrath would affirm, and he undoes the work of Adam, as McGrath said, how can it be that Adam didn’t exist? Everything in the story of redemption is historical but Adam, which hardly seems to make sense. John Piper, at the end of this video, makes the same point. An historical Christ, an historical redemption, requires an historical Adam and an historical Fall.

For a more thorough exegetical treatment that supports Piper’s view, see Don Carson’s essay “Adam in the Epistles of Paul.”

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Keller, Piper and Carson on Mercy Ministries

This six part video series is from the 2008 meeting of The Gospel Coalition. It is a discussion between Tim Keller, John Piper and Don Carson on the subject of mercy ministries (i.e. helping the poor, etc). I like what Piper says about wanting to eliminate all suffering, especially eternal suffering. I think that strikes the biblical balance. I also like how Keller pushes back and adds some nuance. Anyways, the whole thing is pretty helpful. I like the first video, so you can click through to the subsequent ones after it’s done.

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Bauckham on Universalism

Don Carson, in his talk on universalism at the 2011 meeting of The Gospel Coalition, made reference to Richard Bauckham’s essay on the history of the subject. I thought I’d link it for people’s interest. Bauckham is a world-class scholar — a generalist who has the authority of a specialist on any subject he writes. This article should prove to be an embarrassment to any who might buy into Rob Bell’s historical-theological claims in Love Wins hook, line and sinker. Check out Richard Bauckham, “Universalism: A Historical Survey,” Themelios 4.2 (September 1978): 47-54.

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Gospel Coalition in Hamilton

The Gospel Coalition will be holding a conference in Hamilton, Ontario on April 24, 2010. The speakers will be Don Carson and Mike Bullmore. They will be discussing the gospel and the need for gospel coalition. I’ll be there…you can count on that! More info here.

Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days: The Need for the Gospel Coalition
D. A. Carson  |  2 Tim 3:1-4:8

The Functional Centrality of the Gospel
Mike Bullmore  |  1 Cor 15

New Beginning: What Is the Gospel and How Does It Work?
D. A. Carson  |  John 3:1-21

Entrusted with the Gospel: Communicating the Gospel in a Post-Christian Age
Mike Bullmore  |  1 Thess 2:1-16

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Justification vs. Self-justification

Last night Vicky and I headed down to Knox Presbyterian Church on Spadina and Harbourd to hear Don Carson speak at Knox’s Summer Fellowship. Carson’s been a regular speaker at these fellowships since his days in Toronto. It’s figured that he’s been speaking at them for some 25 years.

Last night he preached from 2 Corinthians 12 on our strength in weakness. His sermon was excellent – informative, biblical, practical and convicting. He dealt with Paul’s “boasting” before his opponents, namely his boasting in the things that he was villified for: his lack of rhetorical ability, his itinerant ministry, etc. Carson showed how Paul was a man who was so utterly concerned about preaching a gospel of free grace that he did everything in his power to not bring it shame by his life or words. In Paul’s weakness in light of the thorn in his side, he was reminded that God’s grace is sufficient and that in weakness God is made strong.

Particularly convicting for me was Carson’s application. He quoted a friend of his as saying that the most blatant manifestation of human depravity is seen in self-justification. In life, when things don’t go our way and we make mistakes, is our initial reaction to justify our actions? I know mine is. I felt like Carson was speaking directly to me. What a great reminder that he gave in the doctrine of justification. I don’t need to justify myself! I’ve been justified by/in Christ!

I think this is one of those messages that will stick with me until my dying day. My prayer is that the Lord would use it to keep my from trying to justify (vindicate) myself before others and rest instead in Christ’s justification.

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Commentary Rating Website

I only just found out about this awesome website. Best Commentaries rates commentaries. This is a great place to start building your commentary collection. It’s like having Carson’s NT commentary rating book and Longman’s OT rating book online, for free!

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Themelios Online

I have been reading the academic journal Themelios for years with great profit. Recently it went online for free after a long time of being a print journal. In my mind, Themelios is one of the great evangelical journals available today alongside Evangelical Quarterly, The Trinity Journal, Tyndale Bulletin, Eusebeia, Westminster Theological Journal, etc.
With this change to online status (including archived back issues!), Themelios also has a new editor: D.A. Carson. Thankfully, Carl Trueman is still involved in an editorial role. These two scholars together make this journal a must read.
The second online issue is now available here. The main website for the journal is here. Make sure you bookmark this site and check it regularly!!!

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More on the TNIV

Don Carson has a good article at the TNIV site called “The Debate Over Gender-Inclusive Language.” In it he interacts with Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress who argue against gender-inclusive Bible translations. Carson deals with certain key passages that some argue are distorted because of the change from “he” to “they” in the TNIV such as found in the Beatitudes or Hebrews 2:6. I think Carson brings a lot of balance to the debate.
Also helpful in understanding the history of the debate, including areas of agreement and disagreement on both sides of the issue, is Mark Strauss’ article, “Current Issues in the Gender Language Debate: A Response to Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem.”

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Blomberg on the TNIV and Inclusive Language

In the last year and a half or so I began to use the TNIV in my English preparation for Greek exams and really liked the correspondence between it as a translation and the Greek text. I was surprised at how well the TNIV expressed the meaning of the original language. Before that I had been a user of the ESV and thought it to be the best translation that captured the meaning of the text, retained the theological language that was lost in the RSV and had a greater readability than something like the NASB.
One question that popped into my head when I began reading the TNIV was what I thought about the issue of inclusive language (e.g. “he and she” instead of “he”). It was around then that I read D.A. Carson’s The Inclusive Language Debate, that settled the issue in my mind and I became a constant reader of the TNIV.
New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg has posted his thoughts as a translator for the TNIV on the Koinonia blog. I agree with him and hope that the TNIV becomes the standard translation for Evangelicals.
Demystifying Bible Translation…

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Anne Rice and N.T. Wright on Writing

Anne Rice is well known for her vampiric novels, the most popular of course being Interview With A Vampire, which was also made into a movie. In recent years, Rice has been converted to Christianity. A large part of her conversion had to do with reading the scholarly works by theologians like D.A. Carson, Leon Morris, Richard Bauckham and N.T. Wright. In fact, Rice credits Wright’s books on Jesus as being key in her change of thinking.
A couple of years back Rice and Wright shared a stage and discussed matters of faith and culture, in particular, writing. I listened to the discussion some time ago, and while there was much I didn’t necessarily agree with, it was intriguing to hear both of their thoughts on a range of subjects. Check it out here. The direct link is here.

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Ordinary Pastor

Last night I had the pleasure of reading Don Carson’s recent book about his dad entitled Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (2007). I picked it up from the Sola Scriptura Ministries booktable at the Worship in Song conference hosted by Grace Fellowship Church (an awesome conference btw).
I don’t have time to get into an indepth review of the book, but suffice to say that it will prove to be an encouraging read to serious pastors everywhere. It details Mr. Carson’s time at Seminary (TBS), his call to evangelise in Montreal and pastor in Drummondville, the struggles experienced in a small church, the move to Hull and the care given to a wife with Alzheimers. This survey barely scratches the surface of the gold that is in this book. It was funny, serious, insightful, sad and encouraging. Don Carson did a great service to the memory of his father as well as to the church who can learn from it. Buy this book for you pastor for Easter!!!

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NPP and Covenantal Nomism

The following is a paper that I wrote for New Testament Theology last year at TBS. It’s only a short paper, so it’s fairly shallow. The New Perspectives on Paul are much more complex than what I’ve been able to say. Sadly, I didn’t get to emphasis the positive aspects of NPP contributions and responses by critics. So, here goes:

Introduction

For twenty or so years New Testament scholarship has been embroiled in a controversy over the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP).[1] Although James D. G. Dunn in his Manson Memorial Lecture at the University of Manchester coined the term in 1982, the essential thinking of the NPP stretches much farther back into history.[2] One could trace its steps back a hundred years to the writings of Albert Schweitzer where the seed that germinated and eventually grew into the NPP could be found.[3] However, the key players that properly developed the thinking of the NPP wrote more recently. In fact, some are still writing on this subject today. This paper will highlight a select number of New Testament theologians and provide a brief overview of their thought relative to the New Perspective on Paul. The “chosen few” are Krister Stendahl, Edward P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn and Nicholas Thomas Wright respectively. After summarizing the pertinent contribution of each of the men, a brief response to the common substance of their thought will collectively be provided.

Krister Stendahl
A key claim of the NPP is historical-theological. This may seem strange considering that the regular cast of characters involved in the NPP is comprised of New Testament scholars. However, when one considers the nature of Biblical interpretation and its relevance to the field of New Testament studies, historical considerations are in order. Therefore it is wholly appropriate that a man of Martin Luther’s stature and significance be evaluated. The view of the NPP respecting Luther has to do with the Wittenberg Reformer’s struggle against the medieval Roman church. It is their contention that Luther read this struggle with sin and his relationship to a holy God back into the New Testament, in particular into Paul’s struggle with the Judaism of his time. This apparent act of anachronism by Luther has led to a great number of misunderstandings concerning such soteriological categories as justification, righteousness, works of the law, imputation, etc. This has then led the NPP to reevaluate Paul contrary to Luther and his followers.[4]
Ironically no other scholar has influenced such a view of Luther than the Swedish Lutheran Krister Stendahl. In 1963 Stendahl published an essay in the Harvard Theological Review entitled “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” in which he first argued that Augustine’s reading of Paul was impacted by his conversion experience in the infamous garden in Milan. The personal struggles felt by the bishop of Hippo not only then impacted Augustine’s understanding of Paul, but served to impact all of western Christianity that followed in the same manner.
Stendahl in turn argued that Luther’s misunderstanding of Paul was of Augustinian proportions. Like the namesake of his order, Luther the Black Augustinian, was deeply impacted by sin in his conversion experience. The result of his sensitivity regarding sin led Luther to a more individualistic understanding of salvation as per the Apostle Paul.[5] Stendahl contrasted the Reformer’s “introspective” conscience with the Apostle’s “robust” conscience and determined that the two did not match. Pre-conversion Luther had been obsessed with his sinful status before God and wrestled deep in his psyche over how he could be reconciled with his Creator. This then interfered with his exegesis of Paul and has tainted all exegesis following him.
The Apostle Paul, however, did not have such a struggle because he viewed himself as being already involved in a right relationship with God. Therefore, for any true interpretation to be had of Paul requires one to go over Luther’s head for a fresh picture. According to Stendahl, Paul’s central issue did not have to do with personal, individual sin; rather his primary concern was community relations. Specifically, Paul did not ask the question, “How am I right with God?” Instead, he asked two questions: “What happens to the Law when the Messiah has come?” and “What are the ramifications of the Messiah’s arrival for the relationship between Jews and Gentiles?”[6] Stendahl understands Paul to argue that the Law drove Jews to belief in the Messiah in order to show that Gentiles did not need to have the Law imposed upon them in order to be included in the people of God. The Gentiles have now become partakers of the promises given to Abraham, and this not through the Law but through faith.[7]
This argument of Stendahl’s, later developed in “Paul Among Jews and Gentiles,”[8] called for a reevaluation of Pauline theology in light of these two questions. Sin no longer should be seen as the driving issue for the Apostle, rather the important question was that of the role of the Law in Jew/Gentile relations. The centrality of these questions and their answers cut against the grain of all Reformational understandings of Paul. Stephen Westerholm summarizes Stendahl’s view well by saying, “For Stendahl, then, the ‘use’ of the law as ‘God’s mighty hammer’ bringing complacent sinners to despair has little support in Paul. The roots of the notion are rather in problems peculiar to the modern West. Hence the function and indeed the definition of the law need reexamination.”[9]

E.P. Sanders
Although Stendahl’s work on Luther’s “introspective conscience” was a watershed in recent New Testament studies, E.P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism[10] was an atomic bomb. Since the publication of this work in 1977, Biblical studies relating to Judaism, Paul and justification have not been the same. No respected scholar studying any of these subjects would neglect interaction with Sanders’ seminal work.[11]
Working along similar lines as Stendahl, Sanders believed that all New Testament scholarship influenced by Luther had misread Paul. More than that, they had misread Judaism. One of the significant aspects of Sanders’ work is that he brought primary Jewish sources to the fore in New Testament studies; sources that had long been relegated to quotations from secondary literature. By interacting with the Jewish writings directly, Sanders brought about a methodological revolution.[12]
When evaluating the Judaism of the Second Temple period, Sanders did not believe that a systematic theology of Jewish beliefs was to be found. Instead, he sought to determine a “pattern of religion” that gave a general characterization of Judaism spanning the years of 200 BC to 200 AD. Sanders’ main concern when considering this pattern involved two questions. The first, how did one enter the religious community and the second, how did one remain within that community. To quote Sanders himself, “A pattern of religion defined positively, is the description of how a religion is perceived by its adherents to function – how getting in and staying in are understood.”[13] Although there are soteriological elements to Sanders’ questions, they are primarily sociological in that they are primarily concerned with the nature of the covenant community.
Sanders found the answer to these questions in a pattern of religion that he has termed “covenantal nomism.” It is this pattern that has dominated NPP literature, and functioned as the foundation for its adherents. Sanders summarizes covenantal nomism in eight points.
The “pattern” or “structure” of covenantal nomism is this (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the law. The law implies both (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey. (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression. (6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship. (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved. An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.[14]

Thus, for Sanders, according to the literature of Second Temple Judaism, covenantal nomism was the normal pattern of religion. What this meant for Sanders, and for adherents of the NPP, was that the Jews of both Jesus’ and Paul’s day looked quite different than the Jews of Lutheran interpretation. These were not Jews who were concerned with performing meritorious works to gain entrance into the people of God. Rather, as members of the covenant people, and that by grace, they were only concerned with maintaining covenant status. The significance of this for understanding Paul’s arguments with the Jews could not be overstated. The Jews of Paul’s day were not legalists who tried to merit favour with God by works righteousness; instead they had a well-developed theology of election and grace. If Paul had no reason to challenge them on the issue of works, his arguments must have been involved with an entirely different set of concerns. These concerns did not require Paul to discard his Judaism so much as it required him to renovate it. According to Sanders, Paul was still a covenantal nomist, though in modified form; for Paul, the conditions of entry into and maintenance within the covenant were different. Entrance into the covenant required baptism and maintaining covenant status required obedience to the laws of the new covenant.[15] Therefore, Paul’s problems with the Jews did not have to do with them earning salvation by works, rather, their problem was that Judaism was not Christianity.[16]
For the sake of space, only covenantal nomism has been considered here. Sanders has a greater and more complex understanding of Paul and Palestinian Judaism that cannot be evaluated in so short an essay. Briefly, these include the question of whether Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, or whether he merely received his call as the Apostle to the Gentiles; the nature of obedience within the covenant community as participationist – the “in Christ” motif; the question of whether one should argue from plight to solution or solution to plight when considering Paul; and a number of other issues. All of the above are intertwined within Sanders’ thought to provide a more holist support system for Sanders’ primary argument.
With all of this considered, the implications for Pauline studies are large. No longer are students of Paul to understand his arguments against the Jews as involving legalistic categories. Instead, words like “justification,” “works of the law,” and “righteousness” are to have sociological definitions. The Jews are not to be seen as legalists and Paul’s terminology in arguing against them are not to be understood forensically. A brief example would be the word “justification” that had traditionally been interpreted within the sphere of the law-court analogy. Now, in Sanders’ understanding, justification is about one’s status as being a member of the covenant people, not that one is declared morally righteous before God. This has had drastic consequences for how justification is now to be understood.
Sanders’ work laid the foundation for subsequent thought that has become known as the New Perspective. Any scholar who seeks to deal with the challenges brought forth by the NPP must deal with covenantal nomism and its implications. This can be done either positively in agreement with Sanders, or negatively in disagreement with him.[17] But in both cases, one still has to pay him strict attention.

James D. G. Dunn
One New Testament scholar who has paid strict attention to and has gleaned much from Sanders’ work is James D. G. Dunn, one-time Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. As mentioned earlier, it was Dunn who had in fact coined the phrase the “new perspective on Paul.” This was said in light of the changes evident in New Testament scholarship since Sanders’ advocating of Jewish covenantal nomism. Although Dunn has contributed much towards the vast field of writings on the NPP, it is this essay that will briefly be explained.
Taking his cue from Stendahl and Sanders, Dunn argues that the traditional understanding of the Jews of Paul’s time is sorely lacking.[18] Agreeing with the moniker “covenantal nomism” for Second Temple Judaism, Dunn argues that the standard Lutheran hermeneutic has placed an improper grid upon Paul and has maintained a caricature of Judaism that has fed Christian anti-Semitism.[19]
Although Dunn is in substantive agreement with Sanders on the issue of covenantal nomism, he may perhaps be described as a “dissenting disciple.” Dunn believed that Sanders was essentially correct in his formulations, but that the latter did not follow through this insight with adequate consistency.[20] Contrary to what he perceived Sanders to be saying, Dunn does not believe that Paul’s switch from Jewish to Christian covenantal nomism was random or arbitrary.[21] Instead, Dunn saw Paul challenging those exclusivist Jews who identified themselves against the Gentiles by such boundary markers as food laws, circumcision and Sabbath.[22] These boundary markers are what are to be understood when Paul speaks of “works of the law.”[23] Traditionally such works were understood as being meritorious in an attempt to attain favour with God. But according to Dunn, these works had nothing to do with getting into a relationship with God. Rather, Jewish Christians were wrongly maintaining their Jewish identity instead of being one in Christ with Gentile Christians.
As with Stendahl and Sanders before him, Dunn’s thought has transformed the soteriological terminology that had been traditionally used to explain Pauline theology. Now, instead of the forensic categories of a “Lutheran” reading of Paul, words like justification, righteousness, etc., have taken on sociological connotations.[24] Alongside his predecessors, Dunn’s writings have resulted in a drastic re-reading of Paul and a reworking of the face of Biblical soteriology.

N. T. Wright
The final figure to look at in this summary of key New Perspective theologians is N. T. Wright, now Bishop of Durham. Out of all of the authors involved one way or another with the NPP, Wright is likely the most well known. He writes not only at an academic level, but has been greatly concerned with distilling theology into more popular forms for the average church-goer. Therefore, Wright’s understanding of justification as it relates to the NPP has found itself in the hands of more than just New Testament scholars. He thus cuts a wide path.
Probably the best place to obtain a satisfactory view of Wright’s teaching on justification is his popular level book What Saint Paul Really Said.[25] Wright, like Dunn, is in essential agreement with Sanders’ discovery of covenantal nomism within Palestinian Judaism. Also like Dunn, Wright has certain criticisms of Sanders, in particular the bishop does believe that justification language in Paul is drawn from law-court analogies and retains a specifically forensic definition.[26]
But Wright also assumes the veracity of much of what Sanders has argued. He believes, like Stendahl, that later Protestant orthodoxy misunderstood the essence of Paul’s gospel. Wright says, “It is not, then, a system of how people get saved.”[27] For Paul, according to Wright, the gospel is only a proclamation of “Jesus is Lord.” Gaffin summarizes: “This gospel proclamation…has four basic components: the death of Jesus, his resurrection, the crucified and risen Jesus as Israel’s Messiah/king, Jesus as Lord of the entire world.”[28] As Gaffin further comments, “Wright is emphatic that Jesus is Lord, but much less clear about how he is Savior.”[29]
Wright has, in many respects, continued the transformation in New Testament studies initially wrought by Sanders. The force with which he has redefined certain key soteriological phrases has accomplished this change. For instance, “righteousness of God” for Wright does not refer to the right standing of a believer upon being declared just before the site of God in justification. Instead, “righteousness of God” speaks of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people. According to Wright, “God’s righteousness…is that aspect of God’s character because of which he saves Israel, despite Israel’s perversity and lostness.”[30] Because righteousness is not about the believer’s status, rather God’s, and because Wright sees it as a forensic term drawn from the Jewish law-court, traditional conceptions of imputation are precluded. In what is likely his most famous statement regarding imputation Wright says,
If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom…To imagine the defendant somehow receiving the judge’s righteousness is simply a category mistake.[31]

When one considers the weight that confessional theology has placed upon the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer, it is easy to see why many have been critical of Wright on this point.
There is much more that could be said of the theology of one so prolific as Wright. His views on justification alone, not including writings on the historical Jesus, Palestinian Judaism, New Testament interpretation, etc., are enough to fill entire monographs. Suffice it to say, in summary, Wright follows the same essential train of thought as Stendahl, Sanders and Dunn in terms of articulating a theology that strips Paul of his Reformation interpreters and sets him within the historical confines of his period without any later prejudice.

Concluding Response
A brief response to some of the common thoughts espoused by the men surveyed above is in order. Recognizing space constraints, only one or two points can be made, although much more could be said.
The obvious place to start is Sanders’ assertion that Palestinian Judaism is marked by a pattern of religion known as “covenantal nomism.” Because this is the hallmark of Sanders’ overall argument, and because it is a theme picked up by Dunn and Wright, if one were to show that covenantal nomism was not the only pattern of religion for the Jews of this period, much of the NPP’s bite would be rendered toothless. Probably the key critique of covenantal nomism has come from the first volume of collected writings called Justification and Variegated Nomism.[32] Itself a massive tome, one would do well to at least consult D. A. Carson’s introduction and conclusion to catch the drift of their essential argument.
What this volume has shown is that Sanders’ appraisal of covenantal nomism is reductionistic at best. The work of these scholars has shown a great diversity in opinion amongst the Jews of Paul’s day that go beyond merely covenantal nomism, although there are aspects of it in much of the Jewish writings. Carson’s concluding chapter summarizes the work by evaluating each essay highlighting the common conclusion that the Second Temple literature was diverse in nature. To quote Carson’s final paragraph,

Examination of Sanders’s covenantal nomism leads one to the conclusion that the New Testament documents, not least Paul, must not be read against this reconstructed background – or, at least, must not be read exclusively against this background. It is too doctrinaire, too unsupported by the sources themselves, too reductionistic, too monopolistic. The danger is that of the “parallelomania”…by which texts are domesticated as they are held hostage to the ostensible background called forth by appealing to certain other antecedent texts.[33]

In other words, although there is an element of truth to the existence of covenantal nomism during this period, it is not the only pattern of religion. One must evaluate all of the evidence, not just a selection, to determine what and who Paul was combating when he spoke of justification not being by works of law, etc.
The New Perspective on Paul has provided New Testament theologians much food for thought. Not all that its proponents have said is necessarily bad, in fact, some of their writings prove intellectually stimulating. However, that being said, certain of the NPP’s main emphases are wrongheaded and damaging. In particular the denial of key aspects of Paul’s doctrine of justification because of selective readings from the Second Temple period are especially bad. It is hoped by this author that the rise of the NPP has resulted in a positive aspect of Christian theology: that of theological development. Wherever there is error in the church, those corrective steps taken have been fruitful for the overall flavour of theology. May the positive contributions of New Perspective writers and their critics be to the glory of God and for the benefit of the church.

[1] In recognition of the diversity of opinion among scholars, it is better to think in terms of the New Perspectives on Paul. However, due to common parlance, the singular will be maintained.
[2] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), 183-214.
[3] For instance Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle trans. William Montgomery (New York: Holt, 1931).
[4] For more on the relation of Martin Luther to the NPP see Timothy George, “Modernizing Luther, Domesticating Paul: Another Perspective” in D.A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid eds., Justification and Variegated Nomism Volume 2: The Paradoxes of Paul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004), 437-463.
[5] Now as Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1976), 78-96.
[6] Stendahl, “Apostle Paul,” 84.
[7] Stendahl, “Apostle Paul,” 86.
[8] Krister Stendahl, “Paul Among Jews and Gentiles” in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 1-77.
[9] Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 149.
[10] E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977).
[11] Save for the notable Jesuit scholar Joseph Fitzmyer in his commentary on Romans.
[12] Guy Prentiss Waters, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2004), 36.
[13] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 17 (emphasis his).
[14] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 16.
[15] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 513.
[16] On this see Waters, Justification, 88.
[17] An example of recent scholarship that highlights both agreement and disagreement with Sanders is D.A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien and Mark Seifrid eds., Justification and Variegated Nomism Volume 1: The Complexities of Palestinian Judaism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001).
[18] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 185.
[19] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 61.
[20] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 188.
[21] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 188.
[22] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 191-193.
[23] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 191-202.
[24] For a summary of Dunn’s usage of such terminology in his larger body of writings see Waters, Justification, 98-109.
[25] N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997).
[26] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 97.
[27] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 45.
[28] Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Paul the Theologian: Review Essay” in Westminster Theological Journal 62 (2000): 124.
[29] Gaffin, “Paul the Theologian,” 125.
[30] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 96.
[31] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 98.
[32] See footnote 17 above.
[33] D. A. Carson, “Summaries and Conclusions” in Justification and Variegated Nomism Volume 1: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 548.

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Don Carson – Spiritual Life Conference


Just a reminder for those who can make it: GO TO THE TORONTO SPIRITUAL LIFE CONFERENCE THIS YEAR!!! D. A. Carson is the keynote speaker – well worth the price of the ticket (free).
Also, Carson will be speaking at the January Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Fellowship (aka. FRPS) on the Monday at 10am. The pastors meet at Thistletown Baptist Church on Kipling, near Albion.
On Tuesday he will be speaking at Tyndale College for their chapel service (don’t know the details).
On Wednesday he will be at Toronto Baptist Seminary speaking in our chapel at 11:15am. We’re at Jarvis and Gerrard in downtown Toronto.
So next week is definitely a Carson week. Make it worthwhile!

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R.C. Sproul on Worship Reviewed by Paul Martin

Last year I had the tremendous joy of taking Paul Martin’s course on Pastoral Leadership at Toronto Baptist Seminary. The course was quite practical and provided the students with great principles and models for leadership (who could forget the lecture on risk taking?). It was a very convicting and soul-searching semester for me; so much so that I went through much spiritual growth being confronted with my own sin coupled with the immense responsibility that pastoral ministry entails. For any who want a course in pastoral theology, take Paul Martin’s! Next semester I am looking forward to taking his “Worshipping Church” course. This is why I was happy to read Paul’s review of R. C. Sproul’s latest book on worship entitled A Taste of Heaven.
When I first became interested in things theological, in particular after I had become Calvinistic in my thinking, I read a number of Sproul’s books to great advantage. His book Chosen By God was very helpful in my early days of trying to understand predestination and election. Alongside that I read Faith Alone which provided a helpful look at the issues surrounding the relationship of Protestant and Roman Catholic thought on the doctrine of justification. Both books shaped my early theological developments.
Over the years, however, I began to grow disappointed with Sproul’s work. In particular, when I re-read the book that he co-authored with Gerstner and Lindsley called Classical Apologetics, I realised that maybe it was time to go beyond Sproul’s introductory works into something more substantial. Classical Apologetics was a text for a course on apologetics that I took in my undergrad. The professor was vehemently opposed to presuppositionalism and Cornelius Van Til. For a while, due to the professor’s influence, I was just as opposed. But as I began to read books by presuppositionalists, including Van Til himself, I realised how shoddy the Sproul, etc., book was. I won’t go into the details, but it really is a terrible book that fails to understand presuppositionalism and Van Til.
Therefore I wasn’t surprised when I read Paul Martin’s disappointment with Sproul’s latest on worship. It’s too bad in a sense because Dr. Sproul has done tremendous good in the Reformed community. His influence on the new wave of “young, reformed and restless” probably cannot be measured. I just wish that Sproul would go beyond his hobby-horses and give us something truly substantial before his days in ministry are over. Before you consider buying the book, read what Paul has to say and take his recommendation on buying Carson’s book instead.

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Filed under apologetics, books, cornelius van til, don carson, paul w martin, presuppositionalism, r c sproul, tbs, worship

D A Carson Audio

Here is a phenomenal resource: D. A. Carson Audio, a collection of audio lectures by D. A. Carson. I’ve listened to a good number of these recently and have found them to be extremely profitable. Carson is, as my friend so aptly put it, God’s gift to the church today.
Also, Ken Davis, the chair of the Toronto Spiritual Life Conference, noted in a comment on my blog that Carson will be speaking from January 27-30, 2008 on the biblical gospel. It will be held at the People’s Church in Toronto.

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D A Carson – Spiritual Life Conference

Although the website is not yet updated, the Greater Toronto Spiritual Life Conference will be having Don Carson as their guest lecturer. It will be held at The People’s Church on January 27-28, 2008. I’m not sure the cost, as the flyer I saw didn’t record one (I’m hoping it’s free!). I don’t know what the topic is either. But if it’s Carson, it should be good!!!

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Clint, Carson and the Atonement

Clint has posted some thoughts on an article he read by D.A. Carson on recent events in the penal-substitutionary atonement debate. As always, Clint’s thoughts are helpful.

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Carson on Wright on Evil

D.A. Carson has reviewed N.T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God. His isn’t as positive as Sproul’s was. I’ll have to read it myself I suppose.

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Filed under books, don carson, evil, n t wright, reviews

Emergin vs. Emergent

Emerging vs. Emergent

This is Mark Driscoll talking about the difference between “emerging” and “emergent” on the Desiring God website. He, along with D.A. Carson, David Wells, Tim Keller, John Piper and others will be speaking on the supremacy of God in postmodern culture. The conference is coming up in late Sept. I’d like to go.

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Filed under don carson, emerging church, mark driscoll, postmodernism, video

Mmmmm…Cookie

Last night I went to prayer meeting instead of going to hear D.A. Carson speak on Moses’ intercessory prayer at Knox Presbyterian. When I got home my wife had just made some chocolate chip cookies especially for me! What a wife!! How thankful I am to God that He gave me a wife who loves me, as expressed in a token of love — namely cookies. I’m also thankful that God made her with a sweet tooth so that she would give me cookies instead of carrots.
It turns out that I was quite glad that that I opted to go to prayer meeting last night instead of Knox. As much as I absolutely love hearing Carson speak, I was convicted that it was more important to go to prayer meeting. The conviction really came from my recollection of a conversation I had with Carl Trueman who explained his relationship with his pastor. Trueman is very intentional about being accountable to his pastor and is also intentional about supporting his pastor as much as possible. At the time I remember thinking that was so ideal, and that not enough Christians think this way, not realising that I could implement the same practice. Dr. Trueman meets with his pastor regularly for fellowship, but also for accountability. He said that he is particularly assiduous in this practice when he travels. Recognising his own limitations as a sinner, Trueman strongly believes that he needs his pastor to question him on the details of his trips. This is a means to keep him obedient to Christ while away. Would that every Christian had this conviction!
As it turned out, my pastor Christian and I were the only guys who showed up from the English congregation (highly uncharacteristic of Holy Word folk). We split into guys and girls for prayer, so it was just Christian and I. As much as I love fellowshipping with everyone at church, and I think that we should all attend prayer meeting, I was glad of the time spent chatting with Christian. It was a blessing to hang out and pray together.
It was also a blessing to come home to cookies! I’m going to have some now with my lunch. Oh yeah.

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