Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: D.A. Carson- The Cross and Christian Ministry

91680: The Cross and Christian Ministry The Cross and Christian Ministry
By D.A. Carson / Baker

What can a first-century view of the cross teach us about Christian leadership? Plenty, says this respected New Testament scholar. In his thorough exposition of 1 Corinthians, Carson explores factionalism, servant-leadership, shaping "world" Christians, and other issues to help you gain a better understanding of what the death of Christ means in ministering to God's people. 144 pages, softcover from Baker.

When I pick up a book by D.A. Carson my expectations are always high. He has consistently written books whose combination of scholarly insight and practical application are of the highest quality. This book is no exception. This is not a new title from Dr. Carson, it was written (or at least copyrighted) in 1993. I probably would never have read it but I received a free copy when I attended the 2012 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville. I wish I had read it a long time ago. 

 Carson examines five different elements related to Christian leadership and the implications of the Cross of Christ regarding them. The wonderful thing about this book, however, is that it is not simply a good book that deals with these issues on a topical level. There are many Christian books that make wonderful and Biblical points but do not demonstrate the methodology by which their conclusions were derived. Some others give glimpses of their methods of interpreting but do so only through short or varied passages. That is not the case with this book. Although the book is dealing with application to a particular topic it does so though a sustained exegesis of Biblical passages. He is not pulling out verses, rather he is working through complete teaching segments from 1 Corinthians. The five topics are therefore derived from Paul’s argument rather than using parts of Paul’s argument to supplement his own. The sections are as follows: 

 1) The Cross and Preaching: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 
2) The Cross and the Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 
3) The Cross and Factionalism: 1 Corinthians 3 
4) The Cross and Christian Leadership: 1 Corinthians 4 
5) The Cross and the World Christian: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 

 In each of these sections Carson walks the reader through the implications of Paul’s timeless argument for the Church in our day. At the end of each section he includes a handful of questions that draw the reader to examination and reflection on the Biblical text. The questions are basic who, what, when, where, how, and why questions that allow the reader to trace Carson’s use of the text to develop each of his main points. The organization of the book, and its brevity make it a great resource for those who are looking for a study guide on Christian leadership or ministry. I found the chapter on Christian leadership to be particularly insightful and helpful. 

 This is an excellent book. It is exegetical in its approach, clear in its presentation, well organized, and practical in its applications. As usual, Dr. Carson demonstrates a keen ability to make insightful observations in the text and draw out their significance in a way that is instructive and encouraging. It was the best book I have read in quite some time. I highly recommend it.


  1. Thanks for sharing that.

    For all interested, this title is included in the 7 volumes included in this collection, available for pre-order from Logos.

    The Select Works of D. A. Carson (7 vols.)

  2. Thanks Jonathan. I am sure that the collection would be worth the price. Dr. Carson is truly a gift to the Church.