D. A. Carson is a biblical scholar that I have appreciated greatly over the years. Whether it be his biblical commentaries on The Gospel of Matthew and The Gospel of John or his many other biblical-theological works, I have found anything he writes to be a worthwhile read.
In 1996 Carson wrote a book called The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism that won the Gold Medallion Book Award in 1997. This is a stout read and some sections are not for the faint of heart but it is a profound examination of true Christianity over against the religious pluralism which is dominant in our day.
Here are some helpful words for Christians who want to live out the gospel as they walk as pilgrims in the earth:
“First, it is vital that we draw the right lessons from the Great Commission. An influential book by Harry Boer, argues that so far as the evidence from Acts goes, the early church did not evangelize out of a self-conscious obedience to the Great Commission. There is no committee formed to chart a course, no incitement to preach and witness on the grounds that we have been commanded to do so. Rather, effective evangelism takes place because believers simply can’t stop talking about their new-found knowledge of God by faith in Jesus the Messiah…” The Gagging of God, p. 435
Carson also adds the following insight:
“In the Bible, when God visits his people in a way powerful way and they are characterized by zeal, godliness, and witness, there may be less self-conscious, programmatic obedience and more obedience that grows out of a delighted God-centeredness” p. 436.
Carson cautions us that the theological moorings of the contemporary North American church are not always sufficient to deal with the challenges of pluralism because we tend to miss this all-important point that Christianity is all about God and it is God who grows the church. He continues with some wise words of concern when he looks at the current evangelical landscape:
“More frightening is the impression that the social sciences hold the key for church growth and renewal. The assumption seems to be that we are basically okay theologically, spiritually, morally, in our prayers and passion and understanding, and if we just add this component we are bound to see fruit…Worse, the emphasis on awareness of the social sciences tends to divert people from things that are forever basic: the truth of the gospel, a living walk with the living God, love for men and women, an eternal perspective, hatred and fear of sin, a passion for holiness, a profound desire to see Christ exalted… I worry when these things are not front and center” p.474.
I share both Carson’s theology and his appraisal of the challenges facing the church today. Let’s be careful to learn the right lessons from the Great Commission. These right lessons would include the following: It is essential that our lives are gospel-centered and gospel-saturated. This means the glory of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus should both humble us and thrill us at the core of our being. This means that our growing appreciation for the beauty and perfection of God’s nature should prompt a desire for personal piety and holiness. This means the reality of our persistent sinfulness should motivate a heart-felt penitence. This means the doctrines of grace should invigorate and strengthen us. This means the call to take up our cross and follow Jesus should inspire a passion-filled, world-forsaking allegiance.
My prayer for readers of this blog is to know and experience the impulse of a delighted God-centeredness that overflows in real gospel living.