Donald Arthur Carson is the professor of the New Testament and Reformed Evangelical theologian. All his life was connected with God, be it working as a pastor in a church or speaker at the Bible Conferences. Till now he stays a favorite public speaker for many Americans and Canadians listeners for his “unique style of taking large sections of Scripture”, ability to skillfully connect a flow of thought to the biblical context (Miller). Don Carson has written more than 40 books, many of them dealing with some of the most important issues of nowadays, and his book The God Who Is There is neither a traditional theology, nor a bible survey, but another unique way to “expound on the Word of God”(Starke). The biblical story in the book is shown through the eyes of God. Carson is attentive to details, uses articulate phrasing of words, which makes his way of writing and speaking quite attractive. Francis Chan called him “one of the biblical writers who are gifted to write simply and in a way it captivates” (cited in Carson). What is also special about Carson’s book is that it assumes no knowledge of the Bible and is a basic introduction to story of Scripture and to the biblical faith in general, consequently, it is appropriate and intelligible for any reader.
The God Who Is There consists of a preface and 14 chapters, which are taken from his fourteen hour long lectures, which Dr.Carson gave in Minneapolis in 2009. Each of 14 chapters highlights a different aspect of how God is revealed to us through Scripture, shows different of his characteristics.
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From the very beginning in a preface of a book the author in a warmly manner tries to make a reader feel that the book is written “for you” but “not for everyone” (9). The language really is quite simple, it is easy to follow the author’s idea, it also makes a reader feel the author is talking to him privately.
Carson’s first chapter The God Who Made Everything begins by saying that some time ago all humans knew the contents of the Bible, even if they were atheists, “they were Christian atheists” (11). Nowadays people no longer feel they need to know what the Bible is about, that’s why Carson wrote this book as a help to such people. However, the author does not tell the basic knowledge of the Bible, but explains in what way the information in chapters can be found. Speaking to the readers who have never read the Bible and at the same time to those who know it quite well, Carson’ comments and comparisons are up-to-date, he also considers it important to pay attention to contemporary theories (13).
In every chapter of The God Who Is There the author first chooses a key Bible passage then explains it to the readers, comments on its main ideas. Consequently, Christianity’s basic teachings become clear and simple, intelligible for any reader.
Moreover, on the book’s back cover Carson promises to “take readers through the big story of Scripture” and, finally, he keeps his promise (Carson). He pays the readers’ attention to the main events pointed out in the Bible: the creation of the Earth and first human, the fall in Eden, the stories of Abraham. Yet, Carson does not use too much details, but tries to concentrate on the storyline itself. For instance, after describing the sacrifice of Isaac and the narrative of Abraham (Genesis 22), Carson explains that the Bible stories mentioned in his book, and especially in the Old Testament multiply “in anticipation of the time when God would provide a sacrifice that far exceeds the value of some ram caught in a thicket” (55). Afterwards he also explains a very important notions of a sin and of evil, their origin and suggest people reflect on God’s grace and the moral Law, the tabernacle destination, and the whole system of sacrifices. The reader gets acquainted with a kingdom of God and wisdom of rulers through the description of the times of the kings (88-93).
It would be impossible to put the whole Bible story with all the details into one 240-page book, therefore, Carson’s treatment of the Old Testament is quite brief. The seventh chapter The God Who Becomes a Human Being is the transition from Old to New Testament, where Carson combines his look at the promises found in the prophets and the opening chapters of the gospels. This is the chapter where Christ appears and Carson emphasizes his Incarnation as “the fulfillment of Old Testament promise” at the same time demonstrating the concept of the Trinity to a reader (110).
The next chapters tell about life, death, and resurrection of the Lord, pointing out God’s aspiration to save people, to sacrifice everything for their sake. In the chapter The God Who Becomes a Human Being Carson gives the example of the New Testament misunderstanding when he tells about a Muslim friend. The ideas of the person about the gospel were quite trenchant. Carson writes, that the Muslim perceived the God as sitting in judgment over people and having the laws, as the one who “is sovereign and holy and powerful” (119). However, it was obvious that the views of a person were already formed, and he comprehended well the gospel, there was no need to tell him the additional information to the God doctrine. Despite this example, most western people do not have this pre-understanding and, therefore, the gospel does not make sense to them, that is why additional, more simple explanation of the Bible is necessary. The other themes which are also reviewed by the author further are justification, the church, judgment, and the return of Christ in glory. Clearly the main key points were chosen by Carson to give the most precise review of the Bible stories and bring the readers to some thoughts about morality, church, God, humanity.
That is really quite difficult to cover so much information in only one chapter or one book, but Carson has managed to make it quite clear. The idea of the book is that the Bible story is the self-revelation of God, where all his qualities are described. Every chapter’s title begins with the words “The God Who…”, that confirms again the superiority of the God’s figure within the book and the Bible. The author focuses on highlighting the glory of God’s character in each doctrinal teaching. Starke in his review of The God Who Is There called Carson’s book “the fruit from decades of campus evangelism” (Starke). He also mentioned that the author must have had “countless objections and questions in mind within these pages”, and this is what had made the book “an ideal give-away book for skeptics and new believers” (Starke).
Finally, it is obvious that The God Who Is There is a great book not only for the Christians who visit the church and believe in God, but also for those, who do not perceive the Bible’s meaning or find the Bible difficult to read as well as for people who are going to get acquainted with the Bible for the first time. This book can become a first step to theology for anyone, who is interested, be it a child or adult. It is also very important to mention that Carson manages to connect the Bible doctrine to the reality using the examples from life and commenting on the paragraphs of the Bible. As it is explained in the book, the Bible message is not a fiction story, but is connected with human’s nature, with their need for help, sacrifice, death. Carson skillfully and clearly reveals God in a profound way and examines different of his characteristics. Moreover, the book God Who Is There is also another proof of Carson’s gift not only of a wonderful speaker, but also of a tutor who wants to share the knowledge with other people and knows how to do it.
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