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The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   93
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.53" Height: 0.25"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2000
Publisher   Crossway Books/Good News
ISBN  1581341261  
EAN  9781581341263  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In doing away with trivialities and cliches, this work gets to the heart of this all-important doctrine from an unflinching evangelical perspective. Yet it does so without losing its personal emphasis: for in understanding more of the comprehensive nature of God's love as declared in His Word, you will come to understand God and His unending love for you more completely

Publishers Description

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

That is precisely what makes this doctrine so difficult. The only aspect of God's character the world still believes in is His love. His holiness, His sovereignty, His wrath are often rejected as being incompatible with a "loving" God. Because pop culture has so distorted and secularized God's love, many Christians have lost a biblical understanding of it and, in turn, lost a vital means to knowing who God is.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost. In this treatment of many of the Bible's passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does. Carson blends his discourse with discussion of how God's sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.

In doing away with trivialities and cliches, this work gets to the heart of this all-important doctrine from an unflinching evangelical perspective. Yet it does so without losing its personal emphasis: for in understanding more of the comprehensive nature of God's love as declared in His Word, you will come to understand God and His unending love for you more completely.

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More About D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.

TIMOTHY KELLER is founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He is the best-selling author of The Prodigal God and The Reason for God.

Thabiti M. Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and Pure Church. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.

Mike Bullmore (PhD, Northwestern University) serves as the senior pastor of Crossway Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin. He was formerly professor of homiletics/practical theology and department chair at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Mike lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his wife, Beverly. They have three children.

Bryan Chapell is the senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Peoria, Illinois. He is also the host of a daily half-hour radio Bible teaching program, Unlimited Grace, and the founder and chairman of Unlimited Grace Media ( Bryan previously served as the president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and is the author of a number of books, including Holiness by Grace.

ANDREW M. DAVIS (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC. In addition to his PhD, he also holds an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He served as a church planter in Japan from 1994 to 1998.

Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is the senior pastor at University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. He serves as a council member at the Gospel Coalition and blogs at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed. He serves as Chancellor's Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and is a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something, Crazy Busy, and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children.

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the chancellor & CEO and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.

Richard D. Phillips (DD, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) is the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He chairs the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and coedits the Reformed Expository Commentary. He is also a chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, a council member of the Gospel Coalition, and a trustee of Westminster Theological Seminary.

Philip Graham Ryken (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the eighth president of Wheaton College. Formerly, he served as senior minister of Philadelphia's historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written or edited more than 40 books, including the popular title Loving the Way Jesus Loves, and has lectured and preached at universities and seminaries worldwide.

Tim Savage (PhD, University of Cambridge; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) has been senior pastor of Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, since 1988. Tim and his wife have two adult sons.

COLIN S. SMITH is the senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, IL, where he has been since 1996. He is the author of The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life and can be heard on his Unlocking the Bible broadcast with Moody radio.

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at

Stephen Um (PhD, University of St. Andrews) serves as the senior minister of Citylife Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He also serves as a council member for the Gospel Coalition. Stephen lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife, Kathleen, and their three daughters.

Sanders (Sandy) L. Willson (DD, Crichton College) has been the senior minister at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee since 1995. Sandy is a cofounder of the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies as well as a cofounder and chair of the Nexus leadership mentoring program. He also serves on the boards of the Gospel Coalition, World Relief, Union University, and Reformed Theological Seminary. Sandy and his wife, Allison, have five children and ten grandchildren.

D. A. Carson currently resides in Deerfield, in the state of Illinois. D. A. Carson was born in 1959.

D. A. Carson has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 9Marks
  2. Bible Savvy
  3. Expositor's Bible Commentary (Paperback)
  4. Gospel Coalition
  5. Gospel Coalition Booklets
  6. Justification and Variegated Nomism
  7. Pillar New Testament Commentary
  8. Re: Lit Books
  9. Theology in Community

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Multi-Dimensional Views of the Love of God  Oct 17, 2008
In the first chapter of the book, Prof. Carson, points out rightly, that people rarely consider the love of God to be a difficult and mysterious subject, but nevertheless it is one of the most misunderstood ones. The difficulty arises because of the two existing extreme views of the love of God that people tend to buy into; one is the view of the impassibility of God that gives you an impression of a cold compassionless emotionless God, and the other the view of God being a melancholic sappy "can't live without you" therapeutic type of God that gives you an impression and implication of a weak impotent God that in turns leads to a therapeutic gospel. With Scriptural evidences, Prof. Carson defies these two extreme views. Here is where I commend and respect him as a kind Calvinist, that I believe readers would discover the same by learning from his line of reasoning and the way he writes.

Furthermore, there are at least two reasons behind these two extreme views. First, we live in a culture where the view on the love of God is separated from other complementary truths about the attributes of God; mainly, the sovereignty, holiness, wrath, providence and personhood of God; what Carson calls "non-negotiable elements of basic Christianity" (p. 11). In other words, we filter the truths about God and only embrace what we want to hear because it is comfortable. "The love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable... it has been sanitized, democratized and above all, sentimentalized" (p.11). This tends to the view of an inordinately sentimental God. The second reason, related to the first one, is the tendency to compartmentalize the love of God, i.e., to hold an absolute view of a particular dimension of a multi-dimensional views of the love of God. This is the meat of the lesson. Carson teaches five ways the Bible speaks of the love of God; the intra-Trinitarian love, the providential love over His creations, the salvific goodwill of God toward the fallen world, God's particular effective love toward the elects, and his love conditioned upon obedience. Here is what happens when one of these is "absolutized, made exclusive, or made the controlling grid by which the other ways of talking about he love of God are relativized" (p.21). If one holds the first view only, the view of a remote impersonal uncaring God, similar to that of a Deist, is inevitable. When the second view is held as an absolute, it won't be surprising if one ends up embracing pantheism. As for the third view, which might be the biggest challenge for evangelicals, Carson commented "If the love of God is exclusively portrayed as an inviting, yearning, sinner-seeking, rather lovesick passion, we ay strengthen the hands of Arminians, semi-Pelagians, Pelagians, and those more interested in God's inner emotional life than in his justice and glory, but the cost will be massive" (p.22). Likewise, if the fourth view of the love of God is held exclusively and independently, one would easily end up being a Hyper-Calvinist. Finally, those who view the love of God as conditional only, have mistaken it and are misled toward legalism.

When discussing the issue of human freedom and responsibility and the sovereignty of God, as well as the doctrine of limited atonement, Carson does not seem to present anything new here, considering readers familiar with this perennial debate of free-will might have been aware of similar treatment by other heavyweight theologians; contemporary and classical, such as Profs. J.I. Packer, Mark Talbot, Sam Storms and John Piper, and of course Spurgeon, Luther's "Bondage of the Will" and the second book of Calvin's "Institutes," among many others. But Carson does teach a fascinating insight on the intra-Trinitarian love, by first pointing out to the eternality of the Sonship of Jesus Christ, refuting the argument that the Sonship only began at the incarnation. Then he specifically points out the specific way the Father loves the Son by showing Him all He does, and the Son loves the Father through his obedience; a model for our doing the same to God.

Having reminded the fallacy of the view of a therapeutic God, Carson also reminded the danger of a rigid view of the impassibility of God that "denies that God has an emotional life and that insists all of the biblical evidence to the contrary is nothing more than anthropopathism. The price is too heavy. You may then rest in God's sovereignty, but you can no longer rejoice in his love. You may rejoice only in a linguistic expression that is an accommodation of some reality of which we cannot conceive, couched in the anthropopathism of love. Give me a break. Paul did not pray that his readers might be able to grasp the height and the depth and the length and breadth of an anthropopathism and know this anthropopathism that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:14-21)" (p.59). In the concluding chapter, there are two pastoral counsels that stick in my mind. First, the love of God is not merely to be analyzed and understood as a "head" knowledge, for theology sake, but "it is to be received, to be absorbed, to be felt. Meditate long and frequently on Paul's prayer in Eph 3:14-21." Second, "Never, never underestimate the power of the love of God to break down and transform the most amazingly hard individuals." Here is where a beautiful illustration from "Les Miserables" is given (p. 81-82).

Good things come in small packages. This little book is one such example.
Unconvincing  Jul 11, 2008
A Calvinist writes this book, so I'm assuming most people who read this review are Reformed, as I am.

I had been wrestling with the love of God for a while, and a professor recommended I read this book. I read it, and have to say, I disagree whole-heartedly with Dr. Carson's thoughts of God's love, and I'll tell you why.

In Reformed Theology, God chose whom He would save, and whom He would damn, before anyone existed, before anyone did any good or evil. The sovereignty of God is also stressed in Reformed Theology. My problem is, and maybe I'm blind as a bat, but I just can't see any love in giving a person material provision for their short stay here on earth.

Most people argue that God's rain falls on the just, and the unjust. Does that mean God loves the reprobate in a sense? I don't think so. God's tornado's fall on the just and the unjust too; His Tsunami's fall on the just and the unjust; His blizzards, hurricanes, and earthquakes, etc.. Ok, i'm just playing, I know what Jesus was saying, but I don't think He was trying to say God loves the reprobate though. Seriously,

It's like a farmer who wants to slaughter his sheep, and eat it. He gives her the best food to eat, nourishes her for months and months, cleans her, gives her the best place to sleep in the barnyard, but for what? Because he loves her? No, because he's going to slaughter her, and eat her like a fatted calf.

And this is basically what D.A. Carson, and others argue; They basically argue that God loves everyone equally, but loves the elect in a special way, and of course, this so called "love," is a lit, and very short fire cracker fuse, that runs out as soon as the reprobate breathes his last, and is seperated from God for eternity.

I do believe that God has common grace for the reprobate, and shows mercy, but I don't think those things equate to love.

What good is it for God to give you the whole world, and in the end, not save your soul?

God is not willing that any of His elect should perish, but that all the elect come to repentance. I think the reprobate benefits from that.

How could anyone see love for Edom expressed in Malachi 1:4? God lovingly tears down everything they try to build? Isn't the building supposed to be apart of the material provisions that God lovingly provides? God lovingly has indignation against them forever? I can't see it.

I did learn some things about the intra-Trinitarian love, and some other arguments I never thought about, so I'm grateful in that aspect, but all and all, I'm still an orthodox Calvinist, hyper-Calvinist, whatever you want to call me. This neo-Calvinism is spreading fast, maybe it's not neo.. I don't know, but I know one thing;

Jesus Is God.
excellent book  Nov 10, 2006
I read this book for a class that I was taking and I thought that it was an excellent book all around. I especially apprecaiated Carson's treatment of the intra-trinitarian love of God and wish he had spent more time on the subject.
God's Love is Matched by God's Justice  May 28, 2006
Any doctrine of the love of God must discuss the doctrine of the justice of God. Why? Because God is one. God loves and God judges. This is inseparable. How do we know? God commits genocide against Jews in the Old Testament in divine judgment. In the New Testament, God (Jesus Christ) comes back and judges and send people to eternal damnation in Hell. God as Judge is compatible with God of Love. God is one.
Excellent-One of Carson's Best  Jan 2, 2006
Having read the title of this book and after reading several of Carson's other books, I was looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint. I read the whole thing in one sitting.

A word of caution: if you've never heard of Calvinism or Arminianism and don't know what phileo and agape are you may be lost at several points. But don't let this discourage you from reading this book.

Carson's book gave me an immense appreciation for God's love and just how difficult a doctrine it is. To learn about the different ways the Bible speaks about God's love was really amazing and caused me to marvel at the great God I serve. Do yourself a favor and read this book. And if you like it, be sure to check out his sequel: "Love in Hard Places."

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