Don Carson admits up front that this book is not for everyone. It is not bumper sticker theology, yet it is aimed at those who have little acquaintance with the Bible (p. 9). The author’s approach is to “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 the lines together to show how they converge in Jesus” (p. 9). The combination of these features makes for a unique volume, tracing the story-line of the Bible and revealing its major themes for the novice while providing challenging concepts and exegesis for even the most competent of Bible students. But it is at this point that the objective of the book seems to break down. I personally gained a great deal from much of what Carson wrote and I would recommend The God Who Is There to serious students of the Bible. But I kept wondering as I read, if the target audience is unbelievers or even believers with virtually no knowledge of Scripture, how many would wade through this heavy volume? Perhaps Carson is familiar with a scholarly subset of unbelievers who will do that but I would be hard pressed to find anyone in my sphere who fits these criteria. Hopefully Carson’s sphere is wider than mine because this work has much to offer.
In a systematic way, Carson travels through the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1 at creation and ending in Revelation 22 with the new creation. His subject in each chapter is God and His great plan of comprehensive redemption. This is not an attempt at a complete biblical theology, but rather a tracing of the thread of God’s plan for His creation from beginning to end. Some of the major themes, in addition to creation, include the giving of the Law and its purpose, the sovereign and wise reign of God, the incarnation of the Son leading to the offer of new birth on the basis of love, the cross and resurrection, justification and transformation of believers, the righteous anger of God, and His plan for the future.
Along the way many insights await the reader. There is excellent analysis of many biblical texts such as Genesis 3 and John 1 and 3. Theological issues such as creation, the Trinity, God’s judgment, regeneration and sanctification are also addressed. I could not agree with some of his symbolic spin on creation and the new Heaven and earth (Revelation 21-22) but overall, even if one does not draw the same conclusions, Carson offers much to consider.
As Carson promises this is not light reading, but for those who persevere, much insight will be gained.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel