Book Review: The Living God

The Living God Book Review

This book follows as the second in a new series from SPCK, building on the ‘For Everyone’ brand made famous by Tom Wright’s contribution on the New Testament front, and John Goldingay on the Old Testament. Alister McGrath is well-placed to offer discussion of the Christian Faith in the ‘For Everyone’ series, and this volume, ‘The Living God’ follows his excellent first book, ‘Faith and the Creeds‘.

In this slim, supremely readable volume, McGrath offers us an exploration and exposition of who the Christian God is. He opens in fine style, with the chapter ‘Which God are we talking about?’, a key consideration for those of us operating in the pluralised and secularised West. McGrath points us to Jesus as the person who reveals God, having examined who God was to the Old Testament faithful, and what the word meant to those who have gone before us.

The proceeding two chapters deal helpfully with two qualities of God that are often held up as opposites: his personal nature, and his almighty nature. These are powerful chapters, with the powerful appeal to the individual in chapter 2, focusing on God’s love and faithfulness; meshing beautifully with McGrath’s explanation of how this God is also almighty, in the context of power, compassion and suffering. The author’s work on C.S.Lewis comes across clearly here, which is encouraging, and demonstrates the timeless nature of a personal and powerful apologetic. Additionally, there is a helpful section looking at gendered language and the person of God. McGrath’s conclusions are biblical faithful in this area, and he is helpfully aware of and sensitive to the controversy here.

The final two chapters – this is a helpfully short book, coming in at just over 100 pages – deal with two complex ideas. We tackle in chapter 4 the notion of God as ‘Creator of heaven and earth’, where McGraths prior training in science gets an airing, and this is a superb example of the alleged conflict between science and faith being resolved successfully and accurately. This is followed, and the book closes, with a brilliant chapter on God’s very nature and being, ‘Mystery or muddle? The Trinity’. This is a helpful chapter on a tricky topic, and McGrath’s training in Doctrine and Historical Theology is evident here, but remains readable and coherent. For more, I’d recommend Mike Reeves’ excellent ‘The Good God‘.

Overall, then, this is a worthy addition to the ‘Christian Faith for Everyone’ series, and a brilliant introduction, particularly for its size, to who Christians believe God is. I would thoroughly recommend this (And the previous volume) to those looking into Christian things, to those who are new Christians, and for those looking for an introduction with a little more substance than Alpha or other such courses. McGrath has written a readable, engaging and winsome little book that accurately and carefully explains who God is, within the constraints of a small paperback!

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