The Legacy of Don Carson
In high school and college, one of my great fears was that my interests were too wide. I would be involved in too many activities. I was afraid of becoming a “jack of all trades and master of none.” Someone forgot to tell Dr. Don Carson that he should be concerned with this also. The only difference is that Carson has become the “jack of all trades and master of all of them.” The contribution he has given to the Church through his writing, professing, and preaching has been massive. From Johannine studies, to Emergent Church interaction, to New Testament Greek Exegesis and Syntax contributions, to New Perspective on Paul, to deeply devotional and pastoral works on suffering, spiritual reformation, spiritual growth, and the doctrine of love, along with many others. He is truly a “renaissance” man. He has authored, co-authored, and edited over 45 books. Here is a list of a few of my favorites that have either been extremely helpful in study or spiritual growth:
- The Gospel According to John – the best commentary on the Gospel of John, exegetical or popular level.
- The Difficult Doctrine of Love – The best work on the doctrine of love. The love in John 3:16 is understood at a more profound level in the Church because of this book.
- How Long, O Lord: Reflection on Suffering and Evil – There are few books that have made me set down my book and weep. If you want to know a little of Carson’s heart, read this book.
- A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers – A fantastic foundation for prayer and how to think with purity.
- Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church and The Gagging of God - Extremely gracious, but pulls no punches. These two books were helpful in being able to articulate problems within the Emerging Church and Post-Modernism.
- Exegetical Fallacies – Ok, in all honesty, there was more than one occasion is “using” this book that I wanted to poke my eyes out, but its helpfulness in understanding, articulating, even categorizing exegetical fallacies in major exegetical and theological works (like Kittel TDNT) cannot be overstated.
I don’t know much of Don Carson’s life to give a detailed account, but there is a few details here and there that I have gathered from his books and sermons. He was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Carson on December 21, 1946. Their family always toed the poverty line, as Thomas was an evangelist and church planter in Quebec, Canada, while working low paying jobs. You can read much of Don Carson’s young life and the ministry of his dad in How Long, O Lord? and Thomas Donald McMillan Carson: A Tribute (Banner of Truth). You can also listen to a very moving account of his father success in church growth amongst a long life of persecution and (what seemed to be) apparent failure in the Desiring God National Conference 2006 The Supremacy of Christ in the Postmodern World Q&A. Also, Andreas Kostenberger, has written a small biography on Carson.
While his books prove to be incredibly useful, his lectures and sermons are wonderful to listen to. He has a three-part lecture on the New Perspective on Paul, where he also gives a wonderful exposition of Galatians 2:
The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament – If you have ever felt despair in this area, take hope:
There are only a few men who have had such a wide contribution to the Church and Evangelical scholarship. F. F. Bruce had a wide variety of work in both Old and New Testament scholarship, but nothing like Carson. We might have to go all the way back to Calvin and Luther to see both the scholarly and pastoral influence that Carson has today. Unfortunately, there a few like him. May his days be long and his influence longer.