"Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the love of God? Go to the cross. Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the justice of God? Go to the cross. It is where wrath and mercy meet. Holiness and peace kiss each other. The climax of redemptive history is the cross." So says D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in his new book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.
Dr. Carson has been teaching since 1978, and it shows. He addresses deep and profound truths with clarity. What's the difference between propitiation and expiation? Carson cannot only explain it, but he can interest you while he does.He certainly held my interest. He even made me laugh. But more importantly, he informed me, convicted me, and challenged me. There was something highlighter-worthy on every page.
Scandalous has five parts. Each is distinct, keeping the book interesting, yet each ties into the main topic: the cross and resurrection. Part one looks at four "Ironies of the Cross" unfolded in Matthew's gospel. Dr. Carson says that these ironies "show attentive readers what is really going on." Part two is an unpacking of "The Center of the Whole Bible," Romans 3:21-26. It's here that Carson explains the meaning of the cross and why it was necessary. Part three deals with Satan's rage and how it is overcome. In part four, Carson looks at the meaning behind the raising of Lazarus, and in part five, he discusses Thomas, the "converted skeptic."
I'm usually not excited about eschatology, but I loved Dr. Carson's exposition of Revelation 12. The main point here is Satan's rage against the woman (the believing community), and how it is overcome. How are believers to function as salt and light in light of the enemy? "We dare not withdraw into a little holy huddle. But we must recognize with every ounce of our being that what finally transforms society is the gospel," which is advanced by the "word of our testimony." What will happen in the meantime? "The world will continue to get both better and worse. The gospel will advance, and so will opposition." But even in the face of opposition, even in the face of Satan's rage, believers can be confident. The victory "has been secured by the blood of the Lamb."
As this book is about the cross and the resurrection, which is the heart of the gospel, a theme that continues to run through the book is this advancing of the gospel mentioned above. What was the main point that Jesus made in raising Lazarus? "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever believes in me will never die," (John 11:25-26). Jesus bears witness to himself. And John, in recording the event, bears witness to Jesus. He advances the gospel.
And what is the point of the story of Thomas the skeptic?
"He saw and believed, and by his witness, by his confession he still speaks and, by God's grace, generates faith in countless later generations who come to share his faith because of his witness to the truth. Like Thomas, because of Thomas, they believe, they have eternal life, and they are blessed...Here is the function of a converted skeptic. And thus, it's the function of every believer."
But evangelism is not the focus of the book. The focus, instead, is Jesus Christ and what He accomplished. And it is this focus which makes me so highly recommend this book.
"In all of our theologizing, in all of our debates about how the New Testament uses the Old Testament and the precise meaning of inerrancy and all the other subjects that must be addressed, do not ever lose the heart of the issue: 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ' (2 Cor. 5:19)."
Thank you, Dr. Carson, for faithfully advancing the gospel.
I received a review copy of this book from Crossway.