Witherington, III, Ben. Who God Is: Meditations on the Character of Our God. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. 102 pp.; Hb. $16.99 Link to Lexham Press
In the prologue to the book, Witherington observes that many studies on the character of God focus on adjectives such as “God is holy” or “God is merciful.” Rather than focus on adjectives, he’s proposes to study God’s character by focusing on nouns, God is love, God is light, God is life, God is Spirit, and God is one (the titles of the first five chapters of the book). This focus on nouns also serves to focus discussion on John since many of these statements are found in John’s Gospel or his letters. In the concluding chapter to the book, Witherington points out these nouns about God’s character or all interrelated. The God of the Bible is not only living, he is the God who is loving. It is impossible to discuss the living God without discussing God as Spirit.
The first chapter is devoted to the statement “God is love.” Witherington uses 1 John 4:7-21 as his starting point for defining God’s love as well as godly Christian love. This kind of self-sacrificial love is radically different from the kind of love gods had in the pagan world. One of Witherington’s main points on the chapter is real love must be free, but this becomes leads to a long discussion of predestination. Considering this short book is focused on the character of God, I find 10% of the book devoted to a discussion of predestination somewhat distracting. This is a theological important issue, but it is a distraction from the topic of God’s love. Witherington’s Arminian roots are clear in this section.
The final chapter of the book briefly discusses an important theological issue, the problem of evil. If God is loving and all powerful, what about natural disasters or other evils in the world? This is an issue worthy of a monograph by itself, but here Witherington observes that evil results from sin and humans are often the culprits in the perpetration of evil. Yet he recognizes the influence of dark spiritual forces in the world.
Each chapter concludes with some personal reflections and a few study questions. This book is designed for personal devotional reading or as the center of a small group Bible study. He dedicated the book to C. S. Lewis and there is some similarity to the first part of Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
The book is hardback with a dust jacket, a rare thing in publishing today! Since Lexham Press is part of Faithlife, the book is available in Logos Bible Software. The Kindle version is currently only $5.99
NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.