If you know nothing at all about what the Bible says, the book you are now holding in your hands is for you.
If you have recently become interested in God or the Bible or Jesus but quite frankly you find the mass of material rather daunting and do not know where to begin, this book is for you.
If you have been attending a Christian church for many years in an indifferent fashion—it’s a nice extracurricular activity now and then—but have recently come to the conclusion you really ought to understand more than you do, this book is for you.
If you have quite a few of the pieces of the Bible stored in your mind but have no idea how the exodus relates to the exile or why the New Testament is called the New Testament, this book is for you.
If in your experience the Bible has lots of data but you do not see how it conveys God to you or introduces Jesus in a fashion that is utterly humbling and transforming, this book is for you.
This book is not for everyone. The person who does not want more than a bumper sticker introduction to Christianity may find this book a bit much. What I have tried to do here is 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. By and large I have assumed very little prior acquaintance with the Bible. What I do assume, however, is that a reader will get hold of a Bible and have it near at hand. In the first chapter I will tell you how to find your way around in a Bible.
I have presented the material in these chapters as talks in various places. Most recently, however, I gave them as a series spread over two weekends in the Twin Cities. The series was videorecorded and is available on DVD. Each individual talk can also be downloaded as a free video file from thegospelcoalition.org. The video series fairly closely parallels the chapters of this book. In addition, The God Who Is There Leader’s Guide (also published by Baker) corresponds to this book and to the video series for those who want to organize a small group discussion of the material and find additional resources.
My warm thanks to those who have helped bring this series together. The list of names could be surprisingly long, but I’ll especially mention Lucas Naugle and his video crew for their competence and professionalism, the various staff members at Desiring God Ministries for organizing the talks in the Twin Cities, Andy Naselli for the initial transcription, and Ben Peays, the executive director of The Gospel Coalition, for tirelessly working out details. I am especially thankful for those who have listened to parts of this material on earlier occasions and asked probing and intelligent questions that forced me to be a little clearer than I would otherwise have been.
I must tell you right away that I do not pretend to be a neutral bystander, coolly weighing what some will think of as the pros and cons of the Christian faith. I will try to be as careful as I can in handling the Bible, but I must tell you I am a Christian. What I have found of God in Jesus Christ is so wonderful, I am eager for others to know it too—and to know him.
Since in this book I try to explain things instead of taking them for granted, I’ll begin with a small explanation right now. For years I have usually placed after my name, in the prefaces of the books I have written, the Latin phrase Soli Deo gloria, and I am about to use it again. The phrase means “Glory to God alone” or “To God alone be glory.” It was one of five phrases developed about five hundred years ago to summarize a great deal of Christian truth—in this case the truth that everything that is done should be done for God’s praise, to the exclusion of human self-glorification and pomposity. The great composer Johann Sebastian Bach appended the initials of the phrase, “SDG,” to the musical manuscripts of each of his cantatas; it was similarly used by his contemporary George Frideric Handel (best known for what we commonly call “Handel’s Messiah”). It is a small acknowledgment of something found in the very Bible that we are about to read, in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” And if you do not know what “1 Corinthians” means, read on!
Soli Deo gloria
Carson, D. A. 2010. The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.