Many thanks to Crossway Books for a review copy of Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God At His Word:Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me.
Taking God At His Word is a short read, 124 pages plus Appendix and Scripture Index. DeYoung begins with something of a brief analysis and overview of Psalm 119, with the hope to get the reader to “believe,” “feel,” and “do” the Word of God. Or to put it another way, to “desire,” “delight,” and “depend” on the words of Scripture. With Psalm 119 DeYoung begins this book with the end in mind. “I want all that is in Psalm 119 to be an expression of all that is in our heads and in our hearts. In effect, I’m starting this book with the conclusion. Psalm 119 is the goal.” With this in mind, DeYoung wants the reader to think of the first chapter as application and the remaining chapters of the book “as the necessary building blocks so that the conclusions of Psalm 119 are warranted.” For DeYoung “Psalm 119 show us what to believe about the word of God, what to feel about the word of God, and what to do with the word of God.”
“This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible.” In other words, it is “a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.” Chapter 2. Something More Sure. In this chapter DeYoung uses 2 Peter 1:16-21 to make his case for the confirmation and surety of Scripture. Along the way, DeYoung engages Karl Barth’s neorthodox view of Scripture and even touching briefly on the matter of inerrancy. Chapters 3-6. In these four chapters, DeYoung explores the four essential characteristics of Scripture that Protestant theologians have traditionally used–sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity, which can be recalled by the helpful acronym SCAN. Chapter 7. Christ’s Unbreakable Bible. DeYoung begins this chapter: “At the heart of this chapter stands one question. It is a simple question and a crucial question, one that must undeniably shape and set the agenda for our doctrine of Scripture. The question is this: What did Jesus believe about the Bible?” Here DeYoung engages to a degree those who may have a high view of Scripture but who considers the book of Jonah a fable. DeYoung disagrees and gives his reasons. Chapter 8. Stick With the Scriptures. DeYoung ends with a discussion of 2 Timothy 3:14-17, making the statement about verse 16, “There is no more important verse for developing a proper understanding of Scripture.” Going back to Psalm 119 and what he said about it in the first chapter of the book, DeYoung draws the following conclusion, “If the view of inspiration taught in 2 Timothy 3:16 were not already assumed, Psalm 119 would be tantamount to idolatry.”
A Critique and Conclusion
The first chapter, a delightful overview of Psalm 119, really builds up the reader’s expectation but then what follows became familiar territory. Perhaps this is no fault of DeYoung’s since he had already said, “My aim is to be simple, uncluttered, straightforward, and manifestly biblical.” And if these were his aim’s, I believe he succeed (but I must admit that I was looking for a bit more Christian hedonism woven throughout, after what I read in the first chapter). As someone who holds to a high view of Scripture, I do appreciate DeYoung’s piece on “myth” and how it is often applied to Scripture, in a most subtle way. “Jesus may or may not have walked on water, but no matter: the important point is that he will do anything to help us if we trust in him.”
However, in his chapter on the sufficiency of Scripture, where he engages Roman Catholics and their view of tradition, I wish DeYoung were more straightforward. I conclude that DeYoung do not believe Catholics are Christians, or at least in the way he is. I get this impression from this passage: “Although we may respect our Catholic friends and be thankful for many aspects of their faith and social witness, we must not waver in our allegiance to sola Scriptura.” But DeYoung’s engagement with an article from Christianity Today about a anonymous noted professor who asks the question Does God still speak? after hearing the voice of God, is one of the gems of this little book. “The article leaves us feeling as though God speaking to us through the Scriptures is an inferior, less exciting, less edifying means of communication.” And I will be remiss if I didn’t mention DeYoung’s interaction with those who say that the final authority for us as Christians should be Christ, and not the Scriptures, and that we are to worship Christ and not the Scriptures, and we must let Christ stand apart from Scripture and above it.
In conclusion, though written at the bottom shelf level, I have to commend Kevin DeYoung Taking God At His Word, if for no other reason than that it keeps to the forefront the sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of the word of God, when in our times so many are constantly attempting to undermine the inspiration, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.