D. A. Carson
Reviewed by: Andrew H. Selle
Date posted: 02/12/2012
The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story, by D. A. Carson. Published by Baker Books, 2010. Paperback, 232 pages, list price $16.99. Reviewed by OP minister Andrew H. Selle.
In this engaging Bible survey, a top-flight scholar attempts to reach an educated but biblically illiterate audience with the gospel. "If you know nothing at all about what the Bible says, the book you are now holding in your hands is for you"—a bold claim tempered by: "This book is not for everyone." Indeed, the tiny print with no illustrations requires an earnest seeker.
As to content, there is much to commend. Each of the fourteen chapters focuses upon God's self-revelation in the unfolding history of redemption from Genesis ("The God Who Made Everything") to Revelation ("The God Who Triumphs"). The entire Bible is God's own evangelistic tract. In a manner that is both comprehensible and persuasive, Carson begins by summarizing the vital doctrines of creation and sin rooted in real history, confronting postmodern skeptics with an alternative, God-centered worldview. The chapters on the Incarnation (in the Prophets and the Gospels), the new birth (in John 3), and the wrath of God (in the Revelation) are outstanding.
The book has its flaws, however. Although it ably explains Christ's passive obedience at the cross, it is oddly vague about his active obedience—that perfect righteousness which is the ground of our justification, imputed to believers and received solely by the instrument of faith. And in an otherwise excellent section about the love of God, the author muddies the water by suggesting a type of divine love toward believers that is conditional upon their own obedience. Having drunk from the wells of classic Reformed theology, the author would do better to use its classic formulations about Christ's completed work and the gracious benefits for those who are united with him.
In summary, I highly recommend this book for its intended audience, but it will be most effective when supplemented by such material as David Powlison's brilliant booklet, "God's Love: Better Than Unconditional" (P&R Publishing, 2001), G. I. Williamson's doctrinal study guides, and Tim Keller's works. Also, Carson's book follows closely a lecture series that can be downloaded free here, providing a springboard for believers and their "seeker" friends to hear the Word and discuss it together. That's the most effective means of evangelism!