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Book review: Behold Your God by Donald Macleod

David Campbell
06 February 2021 09:00

There is a quotation on the front cover of this book from the Puritan, Stephen Charnock: ‘It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know Him as He is.’ An accurate knowledge of God is utterly indispensable to thinking and living that truly honours Him. That in turn makes Behold Your God an intensely practical book for its aim is to help us to grow in our understanding of the being and character of God. It succeeds so well.

If you have read (or tried to read) Donald Macleod’s The Person of Christ you will know that it is pitched at a fairly high academic level. Behold Your God, for the most part, is written more popularly. Many of the chapters began life as editorials in the Monthly Record, the denominational magazine of the Free Church of Scotland which Professor Macleod edited for a number of years.

The opening chapter is a question: Is there such a thing as an Atheist? It considers some of the things people know about God – even though they may deny that they know them. There are some helpful quotations from Calvin, reminding us that ‘God has endued all men with some sense of his godhead’, with the result that ‘a sense of deity is inscribed on every heart.’ Furthermore, ‘like a plant which can never be completely eradicated’, the inscription remains.

Other chapter headings include, God and Concentration Camps: the Problem of Evil; His Great Name; God, Righteousness and Retribution; The Holy Other; Will Christians Rejoice in the Wrath? and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. A number of chapters address the subject of Common Grace, whilst the great theme of the Power of God is dealt with at considerable length in a single chapter (Ch.7). Later sections take up the doctrine of the Trinity, the decree of God, and divine election. The book ends with a fascinating glance at the doctrine of God in Christian discussion.

This is in part an expansion of an earlier chapter, Can God Suffer? Professor Macleod helpfully sets the problem in the broader context of emotions in God in general. He argues that the Scripture’s frequent references to God feeling things are to be taken at face value, including those which describe him as being pained: ‘The Bible reveals Him as a God…who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and therefore, by implication, as one who is grieved when human beings destroy themselves. The New Testament even describes the Holy Spirit specifically as capable of grief. Similarly, God is revealed as One who is passionate in His love, loving the church as a husband loves his wife, extravagant in His devotion and tormented by her infidelities. These are all fundamentally important parts of the biblical portrait of God and quite irreconcilable with the view that He is emotionally inert’ (p.236).

Behold Your God will stimulate your thinking, warm your heart, open your eyes to many wonderful truths about God, and by the Lord’s blessing will move you to worship.