Archives For D.A.Carson

Tolerance or Intolerance?

Greg Strand – December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

In light of the way in which tolerance and intolerance are understood today, and in light of how any perceived notion of intolerance, as understood and defined by the one, is responded to today, it is good to be reminded of what each term means, not just in definition, but also in practice.

In an editorial from a few years ago in Themelios, D. A. Carson clears up the fog: “Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Tolerance used to be understood to be the stance which, while disagreeing with another’s views, guarded the right of those views to be heard. The new tolerance insists that disagreeing with another’s views, saying they are wrong, is intrinsically intolerant. But frankly, that notion of intolerance is incoherent. The Labour Party doesn’t agree with the Conservatives; Marxists don’t agree with Capitalists; Muslims don’t agree with Christians. Each pair may acknowledge some commonalities, but on many fronts, they differ. Yet each tolerates the other if each insists that the other has equal right to speak and convince others of their position. Intolerance is introduced, not when one says another party is wrong, but only when the views of others are quelled by force or corruption.

According to this understanding, in today’s culture many of those claiming to be tolerant are some of the most intolerant.

A few questions:

  • How do you understand tolerance and intolerance?
  • How does that affect your life and response to others?
  • How does the love of Christ control and guide your thoughts and behavior?

D. A. Carson, the general editor of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, has given oversight to the whole project and also written the study notes on John and a few other essays. One of those, which follows from his article on “The Bible and Theology,” is “A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible” (2637-2639).

In this essay Carson addresses the importance of salvation history. This is foundational to the discipline of biblical theology. I include excerpts from some of the key sections of the essay.

What Is Salvation History?

Although the word “history” sometimes refers to what has taken place, it more commonly refers to the story or account of what has taken place. No human account of what has taken place can ever be exhaustive; we simply do not and cannot know enough. . . . Salvation history is thus the history of salvation – i.e., the history of events that focus on the salvation of human beings and issues involving the new heaven and the new earth. . . . at least in part it is the account of what God has done, of the events and explanations he has brought about in order to save lost human beings. (Even what salvation means, what it means to be “saved,” is disclosed in this history.) From this, four things follow:

  1. Salvation history is part of world history. It may tell of some events that other historians are not interested in, but it so describes real events that it necessarily overlaps with other histories.
  2. Salvation history is real history. It depicts events that really did take place.
  3. Salvation history includes not only events caused by other events that take place in the natural world but also events caused directly by God. Sometimes, of course, God works in providential ways through the natural order. . . . But when God raises Jesus from the dead, there is nothing natural about God’s action: this is the direct intervention of God, displaying his might in contravention of nature. Nevertheless, Jesus’ resurrection happened; it took place in history.
  4. Although the Bible contains a good deal of salvation history, it contains things other than salvation history. For example, it includes wisdom literature, lament, law, prophecy, and much more. But even these disparate kinds of literature that make up the Bible are written at discrete points along the Bible’s story line. In other words, salvation history provides the backbone to which all the parts of the Bible are connected.

When addressing The Shape of Salvation History, the broadest way to summarize it is through creation, fall, redemption and consummation. There is, of course, much more to say under each of those major epochs in redemptive history. The key to remember is that the convergence, culmination and turning point of all of salvation history is “the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah.”

Carson concludes this essay by making five statements that highlight the importance of salvation history.

The Significance of Salvation History

  1. The story line of the Bible, the sweep of salvation history, provides the framework on which so much else in the Bible depends. For example, it would be impossible to trace such themes as the tabernacle/temple, the priestly ministry, the Davidic dynasty, and the Messianic hope apart from the salvation-historical framework in which these themes are embedded. Thus, the discipline of biblical theology is grounded on the appropriate grasp of salvation history.
  2. The Bible’s salvation history largely establishes the direction of its movement. . . . Salvation-history is cohesive and discloses God’s purposes in the direction in which the narrative unfolds.
  3. The trajectories that run through and are part of the history of redemption gradually point to the future and become predictive voices. For example, the promise of a Davidic dynasty (2 Sam 7:11b-16), a promise made about 1,000 years before Jesus, a dynasty that endures forever, is fleshed out in Ps 2, given new and rich associations in the eighth-century BC prophecies of Isaiah (Isa 9), and provided with further images in the sixth-century BC ministry of Ezekiel (Ezek 34). One this trajectory is established, thoughtful readers look along this trajectory and cannot fail to discern ways in which the depictions of Davidic kings point forward to the ultimate Davidic king.
  4. Very often these trajectories (or ‘typologies,’ as they are often called) in the history of redemption become intertwined to form rich tapestries. For example, although it is possible to follow the themes of tabernacle/temple, Jerusalem, and the Davidic dynasty as separate trajectories . . . they come together in 2 Sam 6-7: the ark is brought to Jerusalem and the groundwork is laid for the temple, David’s dynasty is established, and Jerusalem, now the capital of Israel, is becoming the city of the great King. From this point forward these themes repeatedly wrap around each other, so that mention of one often pulls in one or both of the others.
  5. Above all, salvation history provides the locus in which God has disclosed himself in events and in the words that explain them. As salvation history is the framework of the Bible’s story line, so it is the locus of the revelation of the living God, the Lord of history.

This approach to reading and understanding the Scriptures has had a profound effect on me. It has transformed my reading, understanding and teaching the Bible. It has opened my eyes to understand the Old Testament, including Leviticus!, in ways that are true and faithful to God’s redemptive intent, through their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It has enabled me to affirm joyfully that Christians affirm two testaments and one Bible, and, through the various ways and means of God’s revelation through words and events, Jesus Christ is the center and focus of it all. This is truly a Christian reading of Scripture!

One of the 28 essays included in the excellent NIV Zondervan Study Bible, based on the most recent NIV translation (2011), is “The Bible and Theology” (2633-2636), written by D. A. Carson, the general editor. This was recently published as a stand-alone essay entitled How to Read the Bible and Do Theology Well

The essay begins as follows:

It’s been said that the Bible is like a body of water in which a child may wade and an elephant may swim. The youngest Christian can read the Bible with profit, for the Bible’s basic message is simple. But we can never exhaust its depth. After decades of intense study, the most senior Bible scholars find that they’ve barely scratched the surface. Although we cannot know anything with the perfection of God’s knowledge (his knowledge is absolutely exhaustive!), yet because God has disclosed things, we can know those things truly.

Trying to make sense of parts of the Bible and of the Bible as a whole can be challenging. What kind of study should be involved when any serious reader of the Bible tries to make sense of the Bible as a whole? Appropriate study involves several basic interdependent disciplines, of which five are mentioned here: careful reading, biblical theology (BT), historical theology (HT), systematic theology (ST), and pastoral theology (PT). What follows looks at each of these individually and shows how they interrelate—and how they are more than merely intellectual exercises. (emphasis mine)

From here, Carson further addresses the five interdependent disciplines associated with the study of the Bible. He explains them through the questions they answer. I include pertinent excerpts, not the complete explanation.

Careful Reading: “‘Exegesis’ is the word often used for careful reading. Exegesis answers the questions, What does this text actually say? and, What did the author mean by what he said? We discover this by applying sound principles of interpretation to the Bible.”

Biblical Theology: “BT answers the question, “How has God revealed his word historically and organically.”

Historical Theology: “HT answers the questions, How have people in the past understood the Bible? What have Christians thought about exegesis and theology? and, more specifically, How has Christian doctrine developed over the centuries, especially in response to false teachings. HT is concerned primarily with opinions in periods other than our own. But we may also include under this heading the importance of reading the Bible globally – that is, finding out how believers in some other parts of the world read the text.”

Systematic Theology: “ST answers the question, What does the whole Bible teach about certain topics? or put another way, What is true about God and his universe?”

Pastoral Theology: “PT answers the question, How should humans respond to God’s revelation. Sometimes that is spelled out by Scripture itself; other times it builds on inferences of what Scripture says. PT practically applies the other four disciplines – so much so that the other disciplines are in danger of being sterile and even dishonoring to God unless tied in some sense to the responses God rightly demands of us.”

Although each of these disciplines can be a stand-alone discipline, they must be integrated, so not only is it important to understand the foundation but also the interrelationship between them. Exegesis is the ground, which forms and shapes, influences, each of the other disciplines. As Carson notes, “The final authority is the Bible and the Bible alone.”

After explaining how exegesis relates to the disciplines of biblical, historical, and systematic theology, he then delineates how the various disciplines relate to one another.

Carson concludes this essay with a reminder that although the study of the Bible is something to which we diligently give ourselves, the goal is not to master it but rather to be mastered by it. That is a mark of growing maturity, and one who rightly understands his relationship to God through his Word.

Since God created the universe, we are accountable to him, and he has authoritatively spoken in the Bible. Even if we earnestly try to understand God’s gracious self-disclosure on its own terms, that is insufficient if we do not respond to God as he has disclosed himself. Interpreters are inseparable from the interpretive process, and our attitude toward the text is important. Desiring merely to master the text is not enough; we must desire to be mastered by it. For one day we will give an account to the one who says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

As you study the Scriptures, what is your posture? In what discipline(s) do you need to grow? Are you aware of the resources that will guide you in that growth? Turning from the individual to the corporate, as we engage in this further study, which is important, remember that the Bible and the Bible alone is our final authority, and our posture before it reflects our posture before God. Might we be humble, contrite and tremble at God’s Word, and in this way bring honor and glory to Him.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Greg Strand – September 30, 2015 2 Comments

In 2011 the Committee on Bible Translation completed the most recent translation of the New International Version of the Bible.

This past August marked the publication of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, with D. A. Carson serving as the general editor.

To hear from Carson about the format and content of this new study Bible and to learn more about it, see the following link: NIV Zondervan Study Bible For further resources from which you can learn and share with others, go to the Share Page.

Zondervan briefly explains, “The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is built on the truth of Scripture and centered on the gospel message. It’s a comprehensive combination of newly crafted study notes [“20,000 all-new verse-by-verse study notes”], articles [“28 relevant and theologically rich articles”], book introductions and study tools [“hundreds of full-color photos, more than 90 maps, and over 60 charts”] that present a biblical theology of God’s special revelation in the Scriptures.”

Rather than attempt to summarize, it is best to give the floor to the Carson, the general editor, and allow him to articulate the characteristics of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (“Preface,” xxiv).

First, all our contributors revere Scripture as the Word of God and joyfully bow to its authority. Our desire is not so much to be masters of the Word, as to be mastered by it. That shapes how we approach the text and how we write about it. Our aim is to bring glory to God by helping people think his thoughts after him, and to ring understanding and edification to his people as they do so.

Second, this study Bible is based on the NIV, which continues to be the best-selling, most widely circulated modern-English version of the Bible in the world. This version remembers that not only the words of the original languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek – are inspired by God, but so also are the phrases, the sentences, the idioms, the kinds of writing that make up the Bible, and all must be taken into account and worked through to generate a smooth and faithful translation.

Third, this study Bible aims to provide enough detail to answer the questions that many readers raise when they read the Bible without indulging in all the details that might be better lft to separate commentaries.

Fourth, in addition to the notes on the biblical text, this study Bible provides an excellent collection of charts, maps, brief essays providing the historical circumstances when each biblical book was written, and may photos and illustrations.

Finally, this study Bible emphasizes biblical theology. By this we mean that we have tried to highlight the way various themes develop within the Bible across time. We hope to encourage readers to spot these themes for themselves as they read their Bibles, becoming adept at tracing them throughout the Scriptures.

All of us who have worked on this project will be satisfied if readers come away from the Bible with increased understanding, greater grasp of the gospel, greater confidence in Scripture, more love for the Lord Jesus, renewed fear of sin and renewed love for the church, and greater joy in God.

This has all the features of other study Bibles, and yet one of the unique contributions is the focus and emphasis on biblical theology. To carry out this approach Carson has included 28 essays on major biblical themes that are developed from Genesis to Revelation, focusing on “how God has revealed his word historically and organically,” thus engaging in a whole Bible biblical theology.

    1. The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus Is Central (Timothy Keller)
    2. The Bible and Theology (D. A. Carson)
    3. A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible (D. A. Carson)
    4. The Glory of God (James M. Hamilton Jr.)
    5. Creation (Henri A. G. Blocher)
    6. Sin (Kevin DeYoung)
    7. Covenant (Paul R. Williamson)
    8. Law (T. D. Alexander)
    9. Temple (T. D. Alexander)
    10. Priest (Dana M. Harris)
    11. Sacrifice (Jay A. Sklar)
    12. Exile and Exodus (Thomas Richard Wood)
    13. The Kingdom of God (T. D. Alexander)
    14. Sonship (D. A. Carson)
    15. The City of God (T. D. Alexander)
    16. Prophets and Prophecy (Sam Storms)
    17. Death and Resurrection (Philip S. Johnston)
    18. People of God (Moisés Silva)
    19. Wisdom (Daniel J. Estes)
    20. Holiness (Andrew David Naselli)
    21. Justice (Brian S. Rosner)
    22. Wrath (Christopher W. Morgan)
    23. Love and Grace (Graham A. Cole)
    24. The Gospel  (Greg D. Gilbert)
    25. Worship (David G. Peterson)
    26. Mission (Andreas J. Köstenberger)
    27. Shalom (Timothy Keller)
    28. The Consummation (Douglas J. Moo)

Here is an immediate use for me. In addition to our individual Bible reading, Karen, my wife, and I are reading and discussing these essays. They are truly rich, a veritable feast of biblical theology in bite-sized and nutrition-packed morsels (2-3 pages each). They illuminate the beauty of God and his Word in and through redemptive history.

There are many excellent study Bibles available today. This new one, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, under the general editorship of D. A. Carson, who has taught at TEDS, our EFCA seminary for many years, is one of the best. I encourage you to purchase one. And even more so, I encourage you to read and learn from the notes and essays. But even more than that, I implore you to read God’s Word.

“The Doctrine of the Scriptures”

Panel Discussion #1 with D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Douglas Moo, Kenneth T. Wessner Professor New Testament, Wheaton College, and John Woodbridge, Research Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Greg Strand, Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing for the EFCA, Moderator.

You can access all the resources (audio, PDF notes and PP slides) from the Theology Conference and Preconference here, and you can access all the videos here.

Points to Prepare

Points to Ponder