Brunch with D.A. carson: A Conversation with SOLA
Hannah Chao | MARCH 7, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
Two thousand miles away from the polar vortex swirling around the Midwest where he lives, Dr. D.A. Carson had this to say about the 70-degree weather of Orange County:
“Somebody’s gotta serve as a missionary to California.”
Dr. Carson is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the author of many publications, and the president and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition. On January 26, 2019, he spoke at at a gathering of SOLA Network leaders at Living Hope Community Church, covering topics from the creation and growth of The Gospel Coalition, the centrality of the Gospel, and the importance of diversity.
TGC and the Centrality of the Gospel
The Gospel Coalition began when D.A. Carson and Tim Keller met in the early 2000s to talk about the future of Christianity in the United States.
“What would it take to create in the U.S. a kind of confessional center for historic, confessional biblically faithful gospel-centered broadly reformed expository ministry?” Carson recollected.
So Carson and Keller consulted with friends from different backgrounds to see who they should talk to and to pray about it.
During the mid-2000s, the group continued to grow, and eventually Carson wrote the Confessional Statement, and Keller wrote the Theological Vision of Ministry of what became known as The Gospel Coalition.
This name for the group was intentional. It easily could have been The Evangelical Coalition.
“But we didn’t call ourselves The Evangelical Coalition because we were already aware that in this country, evangelical means very different things in different groups,” Carson said. “In New York City secular streets, evangelical means something like protestant jihadist. You don’t want to spend your time trying to get rid of the slur.”
In addition, the founding members observed that in many evangelical churches, the Gospel often becomes assumed or overlooked.
“We want teachers and preachers who so handle the Word of God that they are coming back to the Gospel again and again,” he said. “It really is there and people need to see that it is there.”
The Importance of Diversity
D.A. Carson also spoke on cultural features that, from a Biblical point of view, can be praiseworthy or dangerous.
While Asian cultures focus on communalism can help people unify, the hierarchical structure can often be a constricting force.
“The underlay of Confucianism with its polarities of who’s up and who’s down, who’s in and who’s out, who’s top and who’s bottom has shaped [Asian] views of church ministry sometimes more than the Apostle Paul has in my view,” Carson observed.
But for Western cultures, individualism and democratic ideals can be blinding and unhelpful as well.
“We have notions of democracy and read notions of democracy into church government is a long way from what you find in Scripture,” he said. “The assumption that democracies are a preservation pattern for discerning the truth is just nonsense.”
Carson brought America’s recent political history to prove his point.
“If you have 300 million sinners casting their votes, you have 300 million sinners,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything except that you have 300 million sinners expressing an opinion.”
In other words, there is no one culture’s traditions or beliefs are Gospel truth. All things must go back to the Gospel and Biblical truth.
“God in his mercy uses cultural emphases that are part common grace and part distortion to help in chasing him, but in every case, they have to be tested by Scripture,” Carson concluded. “Thus the right handling of the Word of God to test all things and to hold onto that which is good is simply of unparalleled foundational importance for any group.”
Jennifer Yim who attended the brunch, said that a Saturday morning with D.A. Carson was, unsurprisingly, one for the books.
“People always want to know the behind-the-scenes and backstories, and I’m not sure whether I’m sorry to disappoint or proud to report: Behind ‘The Gospel Coalition’ and the man that is D.A. Carson, there is a deep foundation built stone by stone upon the Word of God, total dependence on His Spirit, and the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said. “From the humor of trying to configure ourselves around the room, to his testimonies recounting The Gospel Coalition’s history, to the constant refocus upon the centrality of Scripture, it is an understatement to say our staff and leadership were supremely humbled and immensely blessed.”
The SOLA Network thanks D.A. Carson for that Saturday morning, one filled with love for Christ, profound wisdom, and teaching encouragement. A man who is altogether quite ‘First-Class’ himself.
Hannah Chao is a writer and the editor for SOLA. She is also on staff as the administrator at All Nations Community Church. Hannah is a wife and a mom of two beautiful little girls. You can follow her on Twitter.