Appreciating Don Carson

DACarson222x296Dr D. A (Don) Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has had a profound influence on the shape of Christian thought in numerous different ways during the past four decades. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that his contribution should be acknowledged. In the case of a person in ministry, particularly an author, this is often done by means of a Festschrift, a collection of essays written by colleagues and/or students and/or friends of the honoree. Such a Festschrift has just been published by IVP to mark Don Carson’s 70th birthday: Serving the Church, Reaching the World. In fact, this is the second Festschrift presented to Carson. In 2011, Crossway published a collection of essays to mark Carson’s 65th birthday, entitled Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century.

Serving the Church, Reaching the WorldThese two books have quite different characteristics, reflecting the remarkable diversity of Don Carson’s interests. The earlier volume is a substantial collection of mainly technical essays relating to academic biblical studies. The new volume is relatively slight (171 pages) and is oriented much more towards the ministry and mission of the church. In fact the title is drawn from the strap line of the Word Alive teaching weeks, events which Don Carson has enthusiastically supported from their inception. While the essays are serious (and some may be quite demanding), they focus on issues which will be of particular interest to those involved in preaching and evangelistic ministry. The familiar names of contributors such as David Jackman, Jim Packer, William Edgar, Tim Keller and John Piper (along with able contributors whose names may not be so widely known) will give a good sense of what can be anticipated within the pages of this volume. A poignant aspect of the publication of this book is the inclusion of an essay by Mike Ovey, Carson’s friend and collaborator and formerly the principal of Oak Hill College, published posthumously following Ovey’s sudden death in January 2017.

I plan to write a fuller review of the two books and update this post with the review in due course. For the moment, I simply want to draw readers’ attention to these important books and to acknowledge my own sense of personal thankfulness for Don Carson. He has been a great encouragement and model to me as he has engaged in academic scholarship of the highest standard while, at the same time, remaining committed to the ministry and mission of the church throughout the world. Several of his books have been standard resources throughout my Christian service. In particular, I think of An Introduction to the New Testament (co-authored with Douglas Moo and, for the first edition, Leon Morris), and his wonderful commentary on The Gospel According to John,

Understanding the TimesMore recently, I have been grateful for his industry in organising and editing The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures. It was my privilege to serve with Don Carson for a period of time as part of the editorial team of the journal, Themelios. I have also benefitted from his teaching in person at various events (in both English and French!), beginning with a lecture he gave at the Free Church College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary) in the early 1990s while I was a student.

Don Carson is also one of the co-founders (along with Tim Keller) of the Gospel Coalition. I have appreciated the commitment displayed by Carson and Keller to both clarity regarding core gospel truth and cooperation between Christian brothers and sisters wherever possible.

If you have never read anything by Don Carson, and you are looking for something not too technical, I would recommend particularly his wonderful The God Who Is There that lays out the theology of the Bible for those without prior knowledge (see also the excellent videos) and his daily reading notes, available freely online, from For the Love of God.

I almost entitled this post ‘Honouring Don Carson’. But I changed my mind and wrote ‘Appreciating Don Carson’. Here is my reason: In the introduction to Serving the Church, Reaching the World, Richard Cunningham comments on Carson’s reluctance to have any attention drawn to him. In keeping with this, Carson consistently concludes prefaces in his books with the Latin phrase Soli Deo gloria, ‘To God alone be the glory’. Don Carson has always indicated that all honour should be given to his glorious God and saviour. And that I am entirely happy to do. But I think that it is possible to give honour and glory to God by recognising and appreciating the service of his servant, Don Carson.


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