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The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,019 ratings  ·  144 reviews
At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

That is precisely what makes this doctrine so difficult. The only aspect of God's character the world still bel
Paperback, 93 pages
Published December 10th 1999 by Crossway Books
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Ligia Rus
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"In today's world, [the love of God] is a theme that has been taken from granted as easily understood" - this is what drives Carson to explain "the difficult doctrine of the love of God".
Firstly, he comments the contemporary distortions of the love of God. Secondly, he tries to present the complexity of the love of God by ponting to the 'five loves' mentioned in Scripture, insisting that focusing on only one aspect of his love and ignoring all others is dangerous. Then, the apparent contradictio
Samuel Kassing
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of four lectures that Carson has put in book form. They focus on some of the superficial paradoxes of God's love.

Carson lays out a helpful heuristic on the various types of love found in scripture.

I think this volume would be aided if Carson added one more essay on "The Love of God and Simplicity". At times Carson distorts the classical understanding of impossibility. But, what he means is in line with that doctrine.

Overall this is a wonderful little book.
Kara Perrault
Jul 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Never have I read a book, apart from Scripture, that has so drastically changed my view on the love of God. In a successful attempt to define this aspect of the Almighty’s character, Carson outlines the watered down, modern view of God’s love and replaces it with Biblical truth. Teaching on God’s character, his intra-Trinitarian love, his providence, his election, his wrath, and his discipline, Carson’s work left me in awe of God’s love and further challenged me to stay in his love through obedi ...more
Jared Wilson
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was my 2nd reading of this little book, and it was even better this time around.
David Sarkies
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Christians who can handle Don Carson
Recommended to David by: My freind Lochy
Shelves: christian
Don Carson and his difficult doctrines
24 October 2011

I am going to sound very heretical by saying this but I have yet to be impressed by a Don Carson book. Granted, Carson is probably a great theologian, and many people say that they have been greatly encouraged by his books, and when he speaks he probably does have a substantial drawing power (when he came to Melbourne, each of his talks were sold out). Okay, I did found his daily devotionals quite helpful but the other books that I have read
Demetrius Rogers
Carson shows that the word 'love' has semantic range, but I found his way of categorizing texts to be fairly subjective and strongly guided by Reformed presuppositions. To me this was a frustrating read because I take Carson to be a brilliant expositor, but his generalizations and inconsistencies seemed fairly patent. For example, the guiding principle of his book was to nuance the word 'love' (agapao), yet when juxtaposing John 3:16 with 1 John 2:15-17 he failed to do that for the word 'world' ...more
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent, level-headed reflection upon the God of love as He is revealed in Scripture. We need more theologians like D.A. Carson who can handle the Bible with care, intelligently yet with real feeling, and who are brave enough to hold to the difficult doctrines of word of God. This book will yield many insights for all those who are willing to consider thoughtfully what he has to say.

Carson discusses five different aspects of the love of God:

1) the intra-Trinitarian love of God (that
Jeremiah Whiteman
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book. Dr. Carson did a good job of making sure the reader was sober in their understanding of God’s love in multiple facets, and defended essential truths of God’s love such as His immutability, wrath, holiness, etc. I’d recommend the book as a good primer to obtaining a foundation for this doctrine.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
DA Carson is one of the clearest and deepest thinkers in the Reformed evangelical world. In The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God Carson tackles what is perhaps the most difficult issue for Reformed thinkers to grapple with: if the God of the Bible is sovereign, can he really be loving?
Before making his case for what the love of God looks like, Carson grapples with the distortion of the love of God. In Carson’s words, “The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimen
Ryan Bare
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good reminder of God's love for us, though undeserving. Because it is based off of a lecture series, it is easy to read, while still including deep theological content. ...more
Callum Iles
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Donald Arthur Carson is a Canadian theologian currently serving as the Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. He is a remarkable man with the understanding and confidence to tackle the most complex theological issues of our time such as evangelizing to post-moderns and the Emergent Church. The content of The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God is no exception.
The manuscript came from a series of lectures made to the Dallas Theological Seminary in 1998 an
Aaron Ventura
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
What I liked: D.A. Carson articulates well the problems we have when we talk about the love of God. He does a good job of explaining cultural definitions of love over against the Bible's definition of love. There is a real need for preachers to make the necessary qualifications here so that the gospel can be understood.

What I didn't like: I was not satisfied with Carson's attempt to harmonize impassibility with the language of God's emotions in Scripture. I still have many questions about this a
Ben House
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A short book that is long on challenging doctrinal thoughts and clarifications on the love of God. It is easy to read right past the title, for it seems like God's love would be one of the easiest of doctrines to grasp. But that truth, which is never separated from other attributes of God, is rich and more powerful than a simple gushy feeling God is often projected as having.
Four chapters growing out of four lectures make up this short book of some 93 pages. Worthy for a quick read, a re-reading
Patrick Mulcahy
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
There were some things I really liked about this book, in particular how he talked about five aspects of God's love, and the danger of absolutizing any one of them. In some ways I felt like he had things just a bit too well figured out though - as though he had God and God's love and wrath figured out so that it fit his theological viewpoint. I do think what Carson does well in this book is to show that God's love and wrath aren't necessarily incompatible. What I took away from reading this was ...more
Ryan Jankowski
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology-proper
Though brief, this was a very helpful book. Highly recommended.
Too heady

I found the book hard to follow and thus get into. I was looking for a book to help me understand God's love better, n i think i am more confused.
This book is classic Carson. This is a brief book and is not meant to be a detailed exposition of this doctrine but rather offer doctrinal sketchings.

The book is short, 97 pages. Made up of four chapters: (1) On Distorting the Love of God; (2) God is Love; (3) God's Love and God's Sovereignty; and (4) God's Love and God's Wrath.


Chapter 1

Carson uses three sections to explain why the doctrine of God's love, of all doctrines (!), is a difficult doctrine.

A. Why the Doctrine of the Love of G
Jeffrey Niles
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caleb Watson
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
D.A. Carson is an outstanding exegete, in my opinion, and this study of God’s Love displays this for all to see. In this short, yet remarkably dense volume, Carson does not put forward a unifying theory of God’s love, but rather he embraces the multifaceted nature of this doctrine, as presented to us in scripture.

I found Carson’s analysis of Divine impassibility to be particularly helpful. Carson displays terrific balance in holding to a God who displays appropriate affections, and yet is not
Musings of a Middle-aged Mum
My Growth Group at church has, for this year, been going through Cedarville University's Old Testament Literature course by Dr. Chris Miller. I've really enjoyed going through these lectures each week, and despite having read the Bible many times, there is plenty that I have missed. I recommend this for everybody interested in learning more about the Old Testament. I wish I had seen it when I was a knew Christian, but I equally recommend it for those long in the faith, as there is always more to ...more
Tyler Brown
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
The good: I love the way Carson writes. This book was originally lectures given at a variety of seminaries, so his vocabulary is not basic, and many parts will over the head of laymen, but Carson has a beautiful way of communicating deep truths with comedy and levity, and then in the next sentence, solemn seriousness and pastoral care. In the first chapter, his reflection on the five ways the love of God can be defined in the Bible is the most helpful contribution. This will make us all better e ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'God is love.' I learnt this in Sunday School! I sang about it in meeting! I studied it in Bible Study! It's simple and easily understood; or is it?

DA Carson's small but expansive book 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God' highlights how un-simple and un-easy this truth really is!

The content of the book was adapted from a series of 4 lectures and the style still reflects their original form. I found that as I read I could easily have sat and listened to DA Carson give these lectures and I
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Part of this short book was first delivered in the form of several lectures. I found the structure of the book, which is split up into four chapters, extremely helpful. I love the way in which D. A. Carson writes. He lays out his points, how he will defend them (spoiler alert, he’s going to make a lot of Bible references), and then he addresses other views and criticisms. What I love about Carson is this; he does not merely deal with weakly construed “straw man” arguments. He takes the best argu ...more
Laurent Dv
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent book on the love of God. Perfectly short and selective.
It treats the four types of love of God :
1) God's intratrinitarian love (especially between the Father and the Son)
2) God's providential love for Creation
3) God's redemptive love for mankind
4) God's particular love for the elect
5) God's conditional love for those who obey him

It deals him with classic cliché like difference between eros and agape, modern views on God's nature, God's love in relation with his other attributes (so
Jordan Brown
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
God's love is broken down into 5 distinguishable characteristics in this book. The author reminds us that focusing on any one to the exclusion of the others misrepresents who God declares to be in His Word.

Some of the ways the Bible speaks of the love of God:

1. The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father
2. God's providential love over all that he has made
3. God's salvific stance toward his fallen world
4. God's particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect
Vincent Lemieux
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The best thing Carson did is exactly what the title of the book says : the love of God isn’t a easy doctrine to understand and articulate. He’s doing a good job describing at least 5 different ways the Bible speak about God’s love.

A great little book. Maybe the reason I only gave 4 stars instead of 5 is because he’s addressing the not easy but so important subject of the impassability of God in words not always in line with Reformed Orthodoxy. But overall, I think he avoid denying it (in fact h
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very thought provoking short, 84 page book that covers a variety of issues related to the love of God. The author, D.A. Carson does what Carson does best by taking on some of the common, unbiblical, but wildly popular views of God's love and clears away all of the false notions to help the reader come to a more accurate understanding of this critical doctrinal issue. It's not an easy read but one that would be certain to stimulate deep thought for any person who dares to tread into the pages. ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A helpful and thought-provoking analysis of the part love plays in God's character, Carson's careful exegesis and insight provide food for thought in a context where the love of God is taken for granted, set in opposition to any idea of wrath, and caricatured easily. His ideas here could be extended with some synthesis of the doctrine of union with Christ. Most useful is the way he delineates between the love God has for his Church and the love he has for all mankind, such that the gospel is som ...more
Brient Kittrell
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dr. Carson came and spoke at my Church recently, and I was very impressed with his preaching, so I decided to give this little book a try. It was excellent! His discussion of how the wrath of God relates to the love of God is legitimately thrilling. The only reason it is 4 stars instead of 5 stars is due to the length. I read this book basically a page at a time, and it still felt short. There is much more that he could say on the subject, and I wish he had. I will definitely be looking for othe ...more
Allie Trice
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We have been incalculably privileged not only to be saved by God's love, but to be shown it, to be informed about it, to be let in on the mind if God. God is love; and we are the friends of God."

This was a deep and powerful read, and its 84 pages pack a lunch. Carson explores difficult and divisive issues succinctly, fairly, and perceptively. He writes this knowing that our culture focuses a lot on the love of God without always understanding it. This made me more in awe of God's love and more
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Donald A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in ...more

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17 likes · 1 comments
“If this were all the Bible discloses about God, we would read in its pages of a holy God of impeccable justice. But what of love? The love of Allah is providential, which, as we saw in the first chapter, is one of the ways the Bible speaks of God. But here there is more: in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of this deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.” 1 likes
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