Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson

Love in Hard Places is the companion book to Carson’s The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. In the former book, as the title suggests, God’s essential nature of love and His love for humanity is analyzed. In this book it is the love of believers for God and one another that is at issue. Carson does not attempt a full discourse on Christian love; rather he focuses on those times when it is most difficult to love.

As usual, Carson is thorough, exact, thought provoking and interesting. He attempts to interact with difficult subjects in the light of contextually understood Scripture, without reducing the answers to simple slogans. Often, he concludes, the biblical answers are multifaceted. For example, Carson rejects the idea of various kinds of love and substitutes various “flavors” of love. More frustrating was the beginning of several lines of reasoning on complicated issues, only to abandon the discussion claiming that more thought needs to be given but that he neither had the time nor desire to provide that thought, at least not at this time.

Nevertheless, this is a fine book that helps clarify and crystallize many love-related matters. Carson distinguishes between popular sentimental love and biblical love. He gives excellent and detailed study to passages of Scripture such as Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 12:20, Galatians 2:11-21 and Revelation 2:1-7.

About one-fourth of the book takes up two rather unexpected topics: racism and terrorism. While not what I was expecting, and in some ways a bit disjointed from the rest of the discussion, I found this section both well reasoned and worth the effort to consider.

Carson remains near the top of my list of ‘must read’ authors.

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