The God Who Is There:
Finding Your Place In God's Story
D. A. Carson (Baker, 2010)Blurb Review by Rev. Matt Capps
Review by Rev. Matt Capps
D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010), 240 pages.
The state of biblical illiteracy has reached epidemic proportions in our world. How then does one explain the Christian message to a culture who's biblical literacy is decreasing exponentially? Even in our churches, there is a fragmented understanding of the Bible. This fragmented understanding of the Bible is probably the biggest hindrance to its proper understanding and application by Christians and non-Christians alike. Many argue that the rise of historical criticism in the 19th century was largely responsible for downplaying the Bible's overarching metanarrative. However, the promise that Biblical Theology offers is a comprehensive metanarrative that links the different themes and trajectories of the Bible together as a coherent unit focused on the unique God-man, Jesus Christ. Books that explore the discipline of Biblical Theology on a popular level contribute to regaining a proper understanding of the Bible. These books then aid the reader in their understanding of God, the gospel, the world, and their place in God's story. D.A. Carson's book, The God Who Is There, does this well.
Carson writes for those "who really do not know how the Bible works at all" (pg. 11). Carson assumes no prior understanding of the Bible or of the presuppositions to Christianity and makes a generous effort to explain these things clearly instead of taking them for granted. He explains, "What I have tried to do here is run through the Bible in fourteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on one or more passages from the Bible, unpacks it a little, and tries to build connections with the context, drawing lines together to show how they converge in Jesus" (pg. 9) Carson's ability to take Theology proper and explore it in the context of the metanarrative of Scripture makes The God Who Is There an invaluable resource for pastors and laypeople alike. Exemplifying how Biblical Theology can serve as a ‘bridge discipline,' The God Who Is There provides a splendid example of how Systematic Theology and exegesis can work together. The primary focus of this work is the doctrine of God, namely, how God has chosen to reveal himself in history as recorded in Scripture.
The first four chapters focus on important themes arising from the Pentateuch, and Carson shows how these themes are necessary for reading the rest of the biblical narrative properly. Chapter's five and six cover the essential Davidic narrative and survey the Bible's poetic material. After a brief examination of the prophetic literature, the remaining eight chapters address important New Testament doctrines like the incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ, soteriology, and eschatology.
Different approaches to Biblical Theology have been presented on a popular level in recent years. Some authors simply follow the chronological progress of biblical history, some trace major themes through that history, while other's argue for (or uncover) the development of a central theme that runs through the entire narrative of Scripture (eg. promise or Kingdom). Carson has previously argued that pursuing one central theme in the Bible is "chimerical" and less promising than pursuing clusters of common themes. Yet in The God Who Is There Carson specifically shows that the most important and central theme of the Bible is God himself. Now, while Carson's overarching focus in this book is the doctrine of God, he sufficiently explores several major and minor biblical themes and doctrines that flow out of, and expand our perspective of God. Carson thus strikes a proper balance between analysis and synthesis as he moves through the canon of Scripture while never losing the story line in the details.
Because of its wide appeal, The God Who Is There possesses the potential of becoming one of Carson's most influential works. While the more learned readers may quibble over some of Carson's more technical arguments or the omission of various texts, the size and scope of The God Who Is There should serve as a reminder to not overburden the intent of the work. The God Who Is There is an important contribution to the growing field of Biblical Theology books written at the popular level for several reasons.
First, this is an introduction to the Bible from one of the most distinguished and ecclesially concerned scholars of this generation. In this book, the reader is able to feast on the fruit of decades of biblical scholarship, Christian ministry, and campus evangelism. Second, while this book is written for someone with no prior acquaintance to the Bible, it is also beneficial for the layperson. Even seasoned pastors, desiring an aid for articulating the metanarrative of Scripture, will find The God Who Is There to bean invaluable resource for their ministry. Carson beautifully, and pastorally, presents tough doctrinal truth in a warm devotional manner. This is a wonderful example of presenting propositional truth in story form. As a pastor, the apologetic and evangelistic value of this book has risen above many other popular level Biblical Theology texts I have consulted in the past. Lastly, this book was published with additional resources made available to accompany the study of this book such as video, audio, and a Leader's Guide that provides great discussion questions and suggestions for small group facilitation. Whether one reads this book alone or with others, The God Who Is There stands tall as a wonderful resource for any who desire a greater understanding of what they believe, and why they believe it, through an in-depth study of the meta-narrative of Scripture.
Matt Capps, M.Div.
Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC
- 1 Corinthians
- 1 John
- 1 Samuel
- 1 Timothy
- 2 John
- 2 Kings
- 2 Samuel
- 3 John
- Biblical Theology
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Old Testament Theology
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom Literature