How Does the Gospel of John Speak to Our Secular Age? – D.A. Carson

LRI’s video team recently had the opportunity to record a few videos for The Gospel Coalition video series in which gifted expositors preach an overview sermon of a book of the Bible, drawing out the main Idea and intended response of that book. We recorded Dr. D. A. Carson on John, Dr. Constantine Campbell on Ephesians, and our very own Tim Sattler on Titus. While the videos we shot await release, you can watch two others in the series: Douglas O’Donnell on Matthew and Gary Millar on Deuteronomy.

After each sermon, we asked each expositor three questions about the book they preached. What follows is the last question for D. A. Carson on how the Gospel of John speaks to our secular age. D. A. Carson is the president of The Gospel Coalition, the Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the writer of the John commentary in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series.

Transcript of the clip:

Kevin Halloran: We know that all of Scripture speaks to us today. What particular elements from the book of John do you think speak powerfully to our secular and postmodern world?

D.A. Carson: There are many. The first—and this almost by way of flat-out contradiction—is that the book is openly, unashamedly, in your face supernatural. There are many people in the secular arena who treat history as that which takes place in space and time, and is caused, and effects things in space and time, and it leaves no place for God intervening—which means that you have no place for the Resurrection or, in the Old Testament, you have no place for the burning bush or the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea. John’s Gospel is unabashedly, unashamedly, supernaturalistic. Unless you come to grips with that, you’re not going to be able to understand John’s Gospel. It’s not a psychological manual. It’s not a feel-good book.

At the same time, it presents, in its own categories, the fundamental flaw, the fundamental wrongness: namely, unbelief. That lies at the heart of a great deal of secular commitments: unbelief toward anything outside ourselves. We are our own judge. We view sin as a social construct. We view unbelief as a personal choice, maybe even as a sign of freedom and maturity. And over against all of that, Jesus Himself unambiguously teaches that the worst slavery is the slavery to sin, and the worst shackles are the unbelief that fail to see what God has done and is doing. To see how all of that has been addressed by the work of Christ—if you actually come to see it—it changes everything. It changes how you understand yourself and God, how you understand reality, how you understand your life, its purposes, its goals, the nature of faith. It’s not a blind casting yourself on something mystical or mythical so you can have pie in the sky when you die, by and by—it’s none of those things. It’s grounded heavily in truth, and faith is a God-given gift to enable you to perceive and grasp and cast your life on that truth. And the truth is bound with historic events: Jesus dying in space-time history and rising from the dead in space-time history, on which you must cast your life in self abandonment, in genuine repentance, in genuine faith in order to receive eternal life.

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Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Father. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.