July 15, 2005

D. A. Carson Audio Messages and Our Motives in Evangelism

D. A. Carson Audio Messages

There are some excellent audio messages in the link below by D. A. Carson on subjects ranging from Open Theism, The Emerging Church, and Postmodernism.

Christway Media
D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament Trinity Evangelical Divinity School BS, McGill University MDiv, Central Baptist Seminary, Toronto PhD, University of Cambridge, 1978­ Prior to joining the faculty at Trinity, Dr. Carson served more than three years as a pastor and several years in part-time itinerant ministry in various parts of Canada and Great Britain. He also spent three years on the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Vancouver, British Columbia, and served two of those years as dean. He is the author or editor of more than forty books, including The Sermon on the Mount, Exegetical Fallacies, Matthew (EBC), Showing the Spirit, How Long, O Lord?, The Gospel of John, The Gagging of God, and (with Dr. John Woodbridge) Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon, and Letters Along the Way.
I am an audiophile of sorts. At my place of work, I am able to sort packages and listen to my MP3 player at the same time. I recently downloaded Carson's material on Open Theism, and they are excellent! If you enjoy good audio teaching as well, be sure to check out the site above.

Here is an excerpt from the section on Open Theism, Philosophical and Theological Issues Part 1:

Our Motives in Evangelism

Notice what he says about Hyper-Calvinism in that audio clip. There is a sense in which they engage in evangelism in the sense of warning sinners about their accountability before God regarding the law, but they only offer Christ to "sensible sinners," i.e. those sinners showing genuine conviction and a desire to repent. So, it's not the case that they are against evangelism in that sense, but they redefine evangelism in such a way as to restrict free offers (although Carson doesn't quite express it that way). This point reiterates what I said in an earlier post. One would have to be a special kind of moron to deny that the bible teaches that we should evangelize, so only a few in history have ever drawn that conclusion. What some classic Hypers did was redefine evangelism so as to eliminate indiscriminate offers. After all, why would we want to offer Christ to all when God does not? Some High Calvinists say that we offer Christ to all only because we are ignorant about the elect status of people prior to faith. Our indiscriminate offers are then based in ignorance. This is also a serious mistake. We offer Christ to all men because 1) We are commanded in scripture to do just that (Matt. 28), and 2) It is God-like to do that. Just as we are to love all men because God loves them (Matt. 5:45), so we should reach out to all men with free gospel invitations to all men because God, through Christ and his church, does so. None of the above statements are antithetical to historic Calvinism or to scripture. Notice what this passage says:

NRS 2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Observe also what John Calvin says on 2 Peter 3:9:
9. But the Lord is not slack, or, delays not. He checks extreme and unreasonable haste by another reason, that is, that the Lord defers his coming that he might invite all mankind to repentance. For our minds are always prurient, and a doubt often creeps in, why he does not come sooner. But when we hear that the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us, there is no reason why we should any longer complain of tardiness. He is tardy who allows an occasion to pass by through slothfulness: there is nothing like this in God, who in the best manner regulates time to promote our salvation. And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent.

This is a very necessary admonition, so that we may learn to employ time aright, as we shall otherwise suffer a just punishment for our idleness.

Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive all to repentance, so that none may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way.

But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God [Tony's comment: Calvin is here referencing God's secret will, i.e. the decretive], according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel [Tony's comment: Now he is referencing the revealed will of God, i.e. the preceptive]. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

But as the verb χωρὢσαι is often taken passively by the Greeks, no less suitable to this passage is the verb which I have put in the margin, that God would have all, who had been before wandering and scattered, to be gathered or come together to repentance.
Calvin's Commentaries on 2 Peter 3:9

John Calvin is excellent here. His comments above would frighten your average "Calvinist" today. Calvin not only says that God desires repentance from all men without exception, but he sees the necessary logic and says he desires their salvation. He says, "So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost." Be sure to read Calvin carefully. In this passage of his commentary, the "us, our, all mankind, all, each, every individual, any" etc., are all universal in scope. The immediate context of each word shows that to be the case. Calvin has an excellent balance on the well-meant offer of the gospel as is seen here. Calvin weaves together the general love and/or common grace of God with the free offer. For he says, "...the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us..." And again, "So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost."

God is not interested in mere external obedience to his commands regarding evangelism. He is interested in our motives, or why we do what we do. Christ-likeness should be our motive, and it is Christ-like to freely offer the gospel to all men because we desire them to be saved. We would not want anyone to be saved if it were not for the Holy Spirit motivating and working in us to desire such things. Motives matter, and our evangelistic motives should be godly. He seeks to save lost sinners and stretches out his hands all day to rebellious sinners with sincere invitations.

NKJ Isaiah 65:2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts;

NKJ Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

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