June 3, 2010

D. A. Carson on the Love and Will of God

On Wednesday, May 26, 2010 on Iron Sharpens Iron, Chris Arnzen interviewed D. A. Carson (full audio also here) on the topic of "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God." I called in with a question. Here is the audio of my call with the first part of Carson's remarks:

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My Remarks and Question:
My question concerns the connection between God's love of benevolence and His willingness to save. I'm glad that in your book you're not only seeking to correct the Arminian mistakes where they flatten out [or equalize] God's love but also to confront certain higher forms of Calvinism. What we're seeing today is sort of a fusion between [the theology of] Herman Hoeksema, Gordon Clark and John Gill, such that some people are saying that, "Yes, God loves all but He doesn't desire their salvation, or the salvation of any of the non-elect." And so, [on the other hand] people like [J. I.] Packer, for instance, could say "God in the gospel expresses a bona fide wish that all may hear, and that all who hear may believe and be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-6; cf. 4:9-10). This is love in active expression.

Could you talk about the necessary connection between God's love of benevolence and God's desire to save all men in the revealed will?
Dr. Carson's Reply:
Well, when I lay out the five that our host has asked me to do, then I will try to make the distinction [see his second response below]. I don't want to universalize about who's in what camp. Many of these positions are in fact pretty subtle. Some people say the same thing in different terminology. My own approach in these matters is to focus on what the bible actually says and use biblical language in this respect so that the God of the bible is presented, as we will see in a few moments, as the one who does have an electing love. One shouldn't deny that. But on the other hand He's also the God who says, "Turn! Turn! Why will you die? The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked." When the bible says God so loves the world that He gives His Son, "world" is not meant so much to be taken as a big place, but as in John's usage of the word "world" it really means the whole human moral order in defiance of Him. And in 1 John 2 that can extend with an adjective "the whole world." There is a potential that is bound up in God's thrust toward the world and His honest invitation to the world, even while there is an element in the biblical use of language that is reserved for His own sovereign choice. I want to preserve both of those strands and be careful how I word things so that I don't build in an unnecessary and unsanctioned contradiction.
Dr. Carson's Later Remarks:

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And then there is a third: a kind of yearning, inviting, pursuing love toward His own image bearers, human beings, who nevertheless want to go independent of Him, who want to create their own idols, who dethrone Him, who de-God Him. But still, He's the God who displays Himself in remarkable love in many, many different ways. There is the remarkable prophecy of Hosea, about 8th century B. C., for example, where God actually dares depict himself as a kind of almighty cuckold, a betrayed husband who nevertheless still pursues those who actually rightly deserve His wrath. And in the same way this is the God who cries, "Turn! Turn! why will you die? The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked." This despite the fact that the bible, something like 600 times in the OT, nevertheless does speak of the righteous wrath of God. So this isn't sentimentalism; yet there is a tough-minded yearning love in which God seeks out people and entreats them, commands them, warns them, invites them to be saved. "'Come, now, let us reason together,' says the Lord" "Repent, for the remission of sins" There's so many different ways in which God Himself addresses human beings and displays this yearning, warm-hearted, sweeping invitation.

Dr. Carson also made some remarks about Christ's atonement and John 3:16. Here is the audio for those comments:

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Download Clip Here

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