Sunday, June 14, 2009

D.A. Carson's Dad

"Dad had a view of work that sprang in part from the Great Depression: anything less than working all the time was letting down the people and the Lord. There is no hint in his journals or letters of the proper place of rest, of pacing himself, of Jesus’ words, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31, niv). In Dad this was married to a bit of a perfectionist streak. That, I suspect, played a big part in his failure to finish his thesis: the work was never good enough, so it was never complete. And the sense of failure from not completing it added to the pattern of failure, which in turn engendered more defeat.

I do not wish to make excuses for Dad. Certainly I am not in a position to judge him. But there are gospel ways of tackling this problem more hopefully. So many aspects of ministry demand excellence, and there are not enough hours in the day to be excellent in all of them. When I was a young man, I heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comment that he would not go across the street to hear himself preach. Now that I am close to the age he was when I heard him, I am beginning to understand. It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts us because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God’s Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospel of grace. Dad’s diaries show he understood this truth in theory, and sometimes he exulted in it (as when he was reading Machen’s What Is Faith?), but quite frankly, his sense of failure sometimes blinded him to the glory of gospel freedom.
" (emphasis mine)

The foregoing is a snippet from D.A. Carson's "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson)", a book about Don's father. I have never come across a piece by Don from which I was not blessed in soul. This book is no exception. The humility of Don and his father come leaping forth forcefully from the pages and one cannot help but be encouraged by the grace that permeated the Carson family.

This book will aid you in the furtherance of your sanctification. Get it here: Download


  1. Looks like very good stuff - thanks for the PDF link.

  2. It's an easy read, and yet holiness drips from every page.

    You will love it, brother.


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