‘The God Who Is There: a Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith and the Big Story of Scripture’ by D.A. Carson.

This course by D.A. Carson takes people through the big story of Scripture. It is thoughtful, engaging and theologically rich. The course comprises 14 videos (which are free!), each of which is accompanied by the audio-only version plus a transcript. There’s also an accompanying book and a leader’s guide which are available for purchase. It’s primarily written for seekers and new Christians. But it would be a great refresher course for those who have been Christians for a longer time – they would undoubtedly discover new insights here, too. This would make a great resource for small groups, as well as for individual study.

In the preface to his book, Dr. Carson writes, “If you know nothing at all about what the Bible says, the book you are now holding in your hands is for you. If you have recently become interested in God or the Bible or Jesus but quite frankly you find the mass of material rather daunting and do not know where to begin, this book is for you. If you have been attending a Christian church for many years in an indifferent fashion—it’s a nice extracurricular activity now and then—but have recently come to the conclusion you really ought to understand more than you do, this book is for you. If you have quite a few of the pieces of the Bible stored in your mind but have no idea how the exodus relates to the exile or why the New Testament is called the New Testament, this book is for you. If in your experience the Bible has lots of data but you do not see how it conveys God to you or introduces Jesus in a fashion that is utterly humbling and transforming, this book is for you.”

Dr. Carson continues, “This book is not for everyone. The person who does not want more than a bumper sticker introduction to Christianity may find this book a bit much. What I have tried to do here is run through the Bible in fourteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on one or more passages from the Bible, unpacks it a little, and tries to build connections with the context, drawing the lines together to show how they converge in Jesus. By and large I have assumed very little prior acquaintance with the Bible. What I do assume, however, is that a reader will get hold of a Bible and have it near at hand.”

The course is available HERE. Here you’ll find the 14 videos (with audio-only versions) together with the transcripts – all of these are free! The course introduction page also provides links to the book and the leaders’ guide, which are available for purchase through Amazon (they can be purchased through other retailers as well). The video and audio series fairly closely parallel the chapters of the book. The leaders guide, in addition to helping people to lead classes or small groups, provides suggestions for further reading.

A sample chapter of the book is available HERE.

The videos have also been published on YouTube. The playlist is available HERE.

David J. Jackman, former president of the Proclamation Trust, London, England, writes, “This may well prove to be one of the finest and most influential books D. A. Carson has written. A comprehensive apologia for the Christian faith, it is rooted in engaging exposition of major biblical texts, tracing the chronological story of God’s gospel grace with rich theological insight. Skilfully related to the objections and issues raised by twenty-first-century culture, it will inspire and equip any Christian who desires to communicate Christ more effectively and can confidently be given to any inquirer seeking to discover the heart of biblical faith. It is the best book of its kind I have read in many years.”

‘Defending against defeater beliefs.’ Two talks by Don Carson

Don Carson gave two talks at the FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) Leaders’ Conference in Torquay this year. They’re entitled Defending against Defeater Beliefs. The FIEC’s website page for the first talk is HERE; the page for the second talk is HERE.

In the first session, Dr Carson briefly overviewed seven defeater beliefs that challenge, and can defeat, our own Christian beliefs. He said, “. . . it’s become a little more difficult to do evangelism, a little more challenging, not because the gospel has changed, but because the nature of the defeater beliefs that are challenging the gospel are progressively more diverse, progressively more antithetical to . . . Christianity. So let me . . . give a survey of . . . seven [defeater beliefs] with a few comments along the line and then I’ll close by returning to this point regarding the importance of the Bible storyline.”

The ‘defeater beliefs’ that Dr Carson deals with are these:

1 “There cannot be only one way to God.”

2 “Freedom is tied to our capacity for individual self-definition, . . . for individual self-identity; we choose our own self identities.”

3 “This freedom . . . includes our right to define sin for ourselves.”

4 “What I’ve learned to call the new tolerance.”

5 “Moralistic therapeutic deism.”

6 “God couldn’t possibly send people to hell – or if there is some kind of punishment, it’s for really bad blokes like Stalin, but it’s not for nice people like me.”

7 “The God of the Bible is Himself spectacularly morally flawed.”

In his conclusion, Dr Carson said, “What is required for this and all the other defeater beliefs at the end of the day is not only some individual answers . . . [but] an alternative biblical theological framework – the Bible’s storyline. . . . Ideally you want to take people from a frame of reference in which they’re holding a whole lot of defeater beliefs, which if you tackle them one by one . . . you’re likely to get smashed down one by one . . . and present instead an alternative picture, a big story, which changes all of those defeater beliefs into something else. Now, this can be done in a lot of different ways. It can be done by one-on-one Bible study to invite people into beginning to read the Bible and find out how it clashes with their own assumptions . . . .” There are quite a few resources that cover the Bible storyline. Two that Dr Carson mentioned are God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts (described HERE), and his own resource The God Who Is There. This is available as a book with a leaders’ guide, and also a video series. The videos and transcripts are available free of charge HERE; you will also find audio versions of the talks here, together with details of the accompanying book and leader’s guide for group study.

In his second talk on defeater beliefs, Dr. Carson deals with this question: how can we be sure that what we believe is true? He begins, “Yesterday I gave a brief overview of defeater beliefs and how they work and how Christians should think of them. Today I want to deal with just one such defeater belief. Someone responds to our witness by saying, “You can’t be sure of your interpretation; you can’t be sure that what you’re saying is the truth – it’s just not possible.” Now what lies behind that is a whole lot of postmodern assumptions. But sometimes when we are hit with something like that we don’t know immediately how to respond. We’ve just been sidelined. Our very dogmatism, which might be attractive to some, becomes the ground for dismissal by others. And so we need to think through how this defeater belief works, and how to begin to respond to it.”

Dr D.A. Carson is Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

‘Exodus: understanding one of the Bible’s major themes’ by D.A. Carson

The Passing of the Jews through the Red Sea from Wikimedia

The Passing of the Jews through the Red Sea painted by Wilhelm Kotarbinski (1848-1921).

The Exodus from Egypt was the key saving event in Israel’s history (see, for example, Deuteronomy 4.32-40, 6.20–25, 1 Samuel 12.6–8, Psalm 105.26-45, Jeremiah 32:20–21).

An Ask Pastor John podcast on the Desiring God website featured guest Don Carson speaking about the Exodus. The podcast’s introducer writes, “The Exodus of God’s people out of Egypt is “the greatest redemptive event in the Old Testament”, says Don Carson. To let that sink in for a moment, imagine this: If our publishing age is marked by the cross, it is because the cross the shorthand for the death and resurrection of Christ. His cross marks the centerpiece of redemptive history. But before the cross there was the Exodus. And so if the world of publishing today talks about the cross-centered life, and the cross-centered church, it would seem that a fitting analogy would be to perhaps imagine Old Testament era saints to have been inspired to write and publish books on the Exodus-centered life and the Exodus-centered synagogue. It is a major key to understand the Old Testament, and it is a major key to unlocking the meaning of the entire Biblical plotline. To explain I called Dr. Don Carson.” Hear (or read) what Dr. Carson said HERE.

I have posted a study comparing the Egyptian Exodus with the greater Exodus accomplished by Jesus Christ HERE.

CREDITS Text in quotations © Desiring God Foundation.

‘Getting Excited about Melchizedek’ – an audio message by Don Carson

Melchizedek, Abraham, Colin Nouailher

Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Jastrow : Wikimedia Public domain

‘Melchizedek and Abraham’, attributed to Colin Nouailher (painted between 1560 and 1570) and held by the Louvre. Melchizedek meets Abraham and his troops (the figures are depicted in clothing and armour of the 16th century).

Melchizedek isn’t a Bible character that we imagine anyone could get really excited about. Yet he’s one of the most significant pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament. He prefigures Jesus as our High Priest and King. Augustine wrote: “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” Melchizedek is one of the outstanding instances of this principle.

Melchizedek was the priest of the true God and king of Salem. Salem seems certain to have been the city later called Jerusalem. In Genesis 14 we read that Abraham and his allies defeated a confederation of kings who had seized Abraham’s nephew Lot. Then we read: “After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14.18-20). We next encounter Melchizedek in Psalm 110. David wrote: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110.4). In the New Testament, the only passages that relate to Melchizedek are Hebrews 5.5-10, 6.20-7.25. The writer tells us: “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5.5-6).

If anyone could get us excited about this mysterious Old Testament priestly king, it’s Don Carson – one of the finest Christian speakers and writers of the present day. Dr Carson tells us: “. . . precisely because he is both king and priest, the figure of Melchizedek turns out to be one of the most instructive figures in the entire Bible for helping us put our Bibles together. He helps us see clearly who Jesus is. . . . . . . . he turns out to be utterly revolutionary in opening our eyes to the glories of our Savior.” With his characteristically clear and compelling way, Dr Carson takes us through the Bible passages that relate to Melchizedek and explains how significant this man is.

The audio of Don Carson’s message (as MP3) is available HERE. The video is available HERE and HERE. The text is available HERE.

Don Carson preached this message at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 national conference at McCormick Place in Chicago. The eight plenary addresses from that conference, including Dr. Carson’s address, have been edited by Dr Carson and published under the title The Scriptures Testify about Me. The publishers’ descriptions of this book are online HERE and HERE.

Don Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, USA. Dr. Carson has written or edited more than fifty books, including The Gagging of God, An Introduction to the New Testament, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, How Long, O Lord? and The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. He has served as a pastor and is an active guest speaker in church and academic settings around the world.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.