“Don’t pit systematic theology against biblical theology. We need them both.”
“Don’t divorce Story and propositional truth. The Bible contains both.”
“Don’t separate academic and devotional study of Scripture. They go hand in hand.”
I hear these kinds of statements often, and I offer a hearty “Amen”. But what is needed today is not another slogan about how to hold these components together. Instead, we need better examples about how this kind of fusion is done. Enter D.A. Carson.
Carson’s newest book The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Baker, 2010) successfully accomplishes what some may think is impossible. He brings together narrative and propositional truth, systematic and biblical theology, academic exegesis and personal devotion. Then he tops it off by providing us with a great introduction to Scripture that also serves as a discipleship manual for long-time Christians.
Let’s begin with the last accomplishment. Carson is forthcoming in his desire to welcome sincere seekers to open the Bible and examine its contents. At one level, his book is serves as an evangelistic introduction to the plot line of the Scriptures. And yet, it doesn’t feel introductory. Christians who have walked with Christ for years will, perhaps for the first time, be able to connect the dots of the Christian Storyline, seeing how all the stories and genres fit the grand narrative.
Secondly, Carson implicitly dismisses the idea that there would be a chasm between biblical and systematic theology. It has become commonplace in some circles to critique systematic theology for imposing foreign paradigms upon the Bible. In other circles, leaders laud systematic theology as a fortress against new insights, as if careful exegesis has nothing left to offer when it comes to biblical interpretation. In The God Who Is There, Carson exegetes biblical texts and then summarizes their truth. His book happily marries systematic and biblical theology in a way that drowns out to the protests of people rooting for their divorce.
Third, though Carson’s book is academic in its tone, it pulsates with personal devotion. Several chapters end with prayers of worship and practical application. Carson also sprinkles the text with his poetry – the fruit of his meditation on these truths. He finishes the early chapters by pointing ahead to Jesus, never once letting the centrality of the gospel disappear from his writing.
I rarely gush over a book, but I will make an exception for this one. The God Who Is There is an excellent introduction to Christianity for those (believer and unbeliever alike) who want to know more about the Bible. Get a copy for yourself and then give a few away.
(If you want to listen to the lectures this book was based upon, click here.)