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Telling God’s Story: the biblical narrative from beginning to end, by Preben Vang & Terry G. Carter, second edition, Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2013, 430 pages, hdbk.
I remember when I was a new Christian, many years ago now, how much I wanted to be pointed to an accurate but manageable overview of the main thread of the Bible. I read William Hendriksen’s Bible Survey early on, which I found helpful. But I could not get on with the author’s rather stiff doctrinaire approach, nor did I enjoy his treatment of prophecy. A couple of years later I bought and read the six volumes by J. Sidlow Baxter called Explore The Book. I loved the strong current of godly devotion in Baxter’s writing, and I learned much about structure in the Bible, but this work is hardly an overview. I wanted something different, but could nor find it.
Since those days there have been some sterling efforts put forth to produce a readable, informative, yet concise book on the story-line of Scripture. One such attempt was made in 2006 by the present authors in the first edition of Telling God’s Story. The results were good but not great. Now this second revised edition is available and it scores high marks for a reliable and entertaining introduction to the sweep of the biblical narrative. If you know someone who wants to learn the flow of the main events and themes of Scripture, this is the book I would put in their hands.
The book is beautifully produced, with higher caliber paper than is usual today (think the Holman Bible Dictionary), and clear typeface. Virtually every page is enlivened by a brightly colored chart, map or photograph, making it an attractive book to open and read. Vang and Carter have turned their first attempt into just the kind of resource I was hunting for years ago.
The book is arranged in fourteen “episodes” and and afterword which applies the contents briefly to the subject of worldview. The subject and Scripture indexes are ample. The book does use endnotes, but in this case that is not much of an irritant since there are relatively few to turn to.
For example, the first Episode, with two ‘Acts’, is “Creation”. The salient points are covered, including the important doctrinal ones such as the image of God and the consequences of the fall. In discussing “The Method of Creation” one might wish for a more committed stance on the six days and such, but one must recall that while being decidedly evangelical, the authors have chosen to inform about different approaches in fairly broad terms. The following Episodes are all treated in a concise but helpful manner, always with maps, photos and diagrams to illustrate and inform. I also like the way the authors have included insets which deal with apologetic and theological topics where necessary. This all adds to the value of the work, especially for new or growing believers.
Telling God’s Story is not an Introduction to the Books of the Bible. Rather it is, as its subtitle says, a survey of “the biblical narrative from beginning to end.” In our day of chronic Bible illiteracy, we sorely need to encourage people to study their Bibles. It is to Scripture that we should be pointing our flocks. With that in mind I would give this book to believers as a discipleship tool.
I have one more thing to add, and I wish it was a good point. If the old adage that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” needed a concrete example it would be this book. Perhaps it’s just me, but the black and red two-tone cover is off-putting. The contents of the book are in bright and interesting in contrast to the uninspiring packaging.