Tim Earnshaw | Nov 10th, 2010

Written by D.A. Carson
England: IVP, 2010

Everything we know and appreciate and praise God for in all of Christian experience both in this life and in the life to come springs from this bloody cross.

So writes Don Carson in his new book Scandalous. The book is a collection of sermons given at a Resurgence conference in Mars Hill, Seattle in 2008. They take five key texts from the earliest witnesses of Jesus' death and resurrection and unpack not only what happened but what these events mean.

Don Carson a leading evangelical scholar who has written and edited more books than most people have read. But in this book we hear not only the theologian but the pastor. It is not designed to be exhaustive and isn't heavy reading but it does dig deep as it takes us into the very heart of Christianity. Don writes with a clarity and a faithfulness that allows us to hear the text and with a passion and a forcefulness that help us feel the weight of them. When I was a student someone said to me, "It's worth walking over cut glass to hear Don Carson preach." Thankfully I've never had to and with Scandalous we can hear him not only preach but preach on the most central of topics from some of the most significant passages.

There are talks on five texts; Matthew 27, Romans 3, Revelation 12, John 11 and John 20. In the five talks we hear narrative, epistle and the book of Revelation. Because each chapter was originally a talk they are filled with helpful illustrations and applications. While primarily pointing us to Jesus and his glory they are also a great model for us of how to listen to the Bible and how to communicate it to others.

I particularly enjoyed Don's treatment of the narrative of Jesus death. He helps us listen well as he shows the way the story is told communicates for us not simply what happened but the significance of what was happening. That the narrative itself is communicating theology.

The book is not a systematic treatment of the atonement and doesn't aim to answer all the modern objections to a biblical understanding. If that is what you are after you will be well served by John Stott's classic The Cross of Christ or Leon Morris's The Atonement or more recently Pierced for our Transgressions by Jeffery, Ovey and Sach. However, as a pastor Don not only explains these passages but does so in the context of our modern objections. Therefore, as he unpacks these central passages, lots of significant issues and questions surrounding the cross and resurrection are dealt with. By coming at these issues from the texts in which they arise Don is able to keep bringing us back to the word of God. He deals with some key theological issues surrounding the atonement with clarity and insight, while always with an eye on how these issues show God's character and increase our confidence in him.

Scandalous is a great read as we hear the centre of our faith taught, defended and applied by a man so obviously gripped by it.