love-of-god-carsonOne of the most frequent arguments cited against Christianity is the apparent difficulty in reconciling God’s love with his judgement. The nice bits – the benefits, that is – are easy to accept, but do they really fit with the God of the Old Testament, or a God who insists that belief in him is the only way to heaven ?

In this book (Crossway Books – ISBN 10 1581341263 – 1999) Don Carson answers those questions with an emphatic yes. He argues that in an attempt to get rid of anything society considers unacceptable, we have ended up with a concept of God’s love that has been sanitised and above all sentimentalised. We have come to view God as a kind old man who’ll help us out of a sticky situation; He loves the world, and it’s his job to forgive us. Carson argues that this flies in the face of the Biblical view: we cannot hope to have a proper understanding of God’s love if we separate it from His sovereignty, His holiness, and His wrath.

Carson touches briefly on all of these topics in several of his other books.  However, here he explores them in much greater depth and sets about re-directing our understanding. As a starting point, he begins by looking at the way we have distorted the truth about God’s character, before examining what the Bible actually tells us. He shows how this is perhaps illustrated best by the intra-Trinitarian love – the Father loves the Son, and the Son demonstrates His love for the Father by His obedience. This love extends yet further to us through Jesus’ death (John Ch.1 vs.9-10). However, because He is love, His love is not dependent on the loveliness of the loved. The most helpful chapter tackles the tricky problem of reconciling God’s love and wrath. In contrast to our experience where wrath and love are often mutually exclusive, God’s wrath is an entirely reasonable response towards offences against His holiness, which is as much a part of His character as His love.

One thing to be aware of before you start out with this book is that Carson’s writing is often dense and the concepts he deals with aren’t always easy to follow, but this is a book – and a topic – worth getting to grips with. A proper view of God is crucial not just for ourselves, but also if we are to be effective in evangelism. This book tackles many potential confusions arising about God’s character but, as it concludes, the themes of His love and wrath reach a resounding climax: “… do you wish to see God’s love ? Look at the cross … do you wish to see God’s wrath ? Look at the cross …”