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Book thoughts: The God Who Is There, D.A. Carson

My first exposure to D.A. Carson was his little book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, and following that, I read his first volume of For the Love of God.  I found his exegesis of Scripture rich and thought-provoking.  Since then, my appreciation of his speaking and writing has only grown.  I've been fortunate enough to hear him speak on a few occasions. I continue to appreciate his work, and I was extremely blessed by his book The God Who is There.  Finding Your Place in God's Story.

This book, by his own description aims to take the reader through the entire Bible:

What I have tried to do here is run through the Bible in fourteen chapters.  Each chapter focuses on one or more passages of the Bible, unpacks it a little, and tries to build connections within the context, drawing lines together to show how they converge in Jesus.

Dr. Carson achieves exactly what he sets out to do, and he does it very well.

The book's chapter titles highlight aspects of God's identity and character.  Carson presents the God who: 

  1. Made everything
  2. Does not wipe out rebels
  3. Writes his own agreements
  4. Legislates
  5. Reigns
  6. Is unfathomably wise
  7. Becomes a human being
  8. Grants new birth
  9. Loves
  10. Dies - and lives again
  11. Declares the guilty just
  12. Gathers and transforms His people
  13. Is very angry
  14. Triumphs

Dr. Carson begins with creation in the first chapter, not shying away from discussions of creation and evolution, and presents the foundation upon which he continually builds throughout the book.  He ends with the new heaven and the new earth, and in between covers topics such as the covenant with Abraham, the Exodus, the Kingdom of God, the wisdom of God, the incarnation of God, justification, sanctification, sin, judgment, the importance of the cross, and glorification.  He does not feel the need to use jargon or heavy technical terms, but neither does he avoid them.  In fact, in the 11th chapter, he does an excellent job of discussing the word "propitiation."  In that same chapter, he does a masterful exposition of Romans 3, and in the 8th chapter, he takes the reader through a detailed account of the third chapter of John.  As he moves into discussing the New Testament books, he makes connections back to the ground he has covered in the Old Testament.  As someone who has taught the Bible to children, teenagers, and women, one area I know I have not been good at is showing these connections.  I think they're very important.

This book assumes that the reader knows very little about the Bible, and would be an excellent tool for sharing with someone interested in Christianity, or even someone who has a lot of pre-conceived notions about it.  Dr. Carson writes like a wise father figure, patiently, carefully explaining very difficult concepts in a way that leaves you thinking with delight at the end, "Hey, I understand that!"  I love the way he puts things.  He chooses his words carefully, and he always seems to choose the right ones.  This was one of my favourite passages, when he discusses the resurrection in the tenth chapter:

You can trust a God who is not only sovereign but bleeds for you.  Sometimes when there are no other answers for your guilt or your fears or your uncertainty or your anguish, there is one immovable place on which to stand.  It is the ground right in front of the cross.

In addition to being a bible exegete, above all, Dr. Carson is someone who loves the Lord.  This is evident throughout his writing.   At the end of this book, a reader can be in no doubt that the faith we have in Christ is revealed in the Word of God alone; that salvation is in Christ alone, and that our response should be one of complete awe.

When you have teens who may have questions about how the Bible all fits together, this would be an exellent place to direct them.  I wish we'd had it years ago.

For other quoted passages, click here, here, and here.

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Reader Comments (1)

Wonderful and thorough review, Kim. I hadn't picked this one up because I was so focused on the fact that I thought this book was focused on those who aren't sure they even believe in God or the Bible, etc. But, I see from your review that this would be a great foundational and review book. Thank you for the time and love you put into sharing this great resource with us.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrisha

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