Monday, January 6, 2014

"Scandalous" by D. A. Carson: A Review

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (RE: Lit)Dr. Donald A. Carson is one of my favorite authors, theologians, and scholars. After reading his book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, an insightful look at the Emerging Church movement, I have followed his career. Dr. Carson is one of the smartest Evangelicals alive today and his influence is massive.

I recently received a copy of his new book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (RE: Lit) and was not disappointed.  Carson's insights and writing have always been top notched and this is no different.  The book is a collection of five sermons he preached at Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA.  Each chapter surveys various aspects and importance of the cross and resurrection including its ironies, propitiatory work, suffering, and skepticism. 

Perhaps my two favorite chapters were on Matthew 27:27-51a and Romans 3:21-26.  In these, and all of the other, chapters, Carson combines great exegesis and sound theology.  The chapter on Matthew 27 reveals the ironies of the cross.  For example, the one who saves cannot save himself.  Likewise, the one who has all the power is powerless.  Carson revealed aspects of this text I have never noticed before.  This text is riddled with irony and that irony is centered on the cross and what it means.

Likewise, the chapter on Romans 3 was extremely insightful.  Carson, and he is not alone in this, believes this passage to be the center in the Bible.  In order to understand the gospel, we must understand this text.  Carson spends much of his time dealing with the reality of sin (discussed in Romans 1:1-3:20), propitiation, and expiation.  Of many of the books I have read on the subjects of propitiation and expiation, Carson provides a thorough without being boring theological discussion, of the subject.  He offers a clear and precise explanation and application of the important doctrines.

It is refreshing to hear a Reformed theologian discuss both aspects. Conservatives often emphasize propitiation at the cost of expiation.  Liberals do the same in reverse, emphasizing expiation at the cost of propitiation.  Carson avoids both errors and shows why they are both central to the gospel.

My one complaint about the book regards its origins.  This is a book of five sermons on the cross and resurrection.  As a result, it lacks the cohesion and an adequate introduction and conclusion. In fact, there is no conclusion at all. The book just ends.  I am not against turning one's sermons or sermon series into a book, but I prefer making the connections. Carson offers a wonderful book, but it is more of a collection of sermons put in book form rather than a cohesive argument or thesis.

But regardless, this is still an excellent book that all Christians should read. Christians can never study and meditate on the cross enough. Certainly Carson's book needs to be a part of every Christians reading list. The cross and the resurrection are central to our faith and our salvation.  Praise be to God!
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