April, 2014

Taking God at His Word – Kevin DeYoung

The doctrine of Scripture is the most pressing issue in the evangelical church today. The debates over love, sex, and marriage, the church’s acceptance of (or at least general silence toward) the drivel that passes as Christian publishing, the endless search for something more than God’s Word, and the constant struggle with a growing pluralistic society are results of the out-working of our doctrine of scripture. What we believe about the Word of God is crucial because it determines what we ultimately believe about God and His will for us.

Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God at his Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me offers a clear word about the Word. It is not a book for academics. It is not a book full of apologetic reasons your should trust your Bible. It is not a book of polemics. It is a book about what the Bible says about the Bible.
DeYoung uses clear and accessible language to layout a motive for studying the doctrine of scripture (chapters 1-2), the attributes of scripture (chapters 3-6), and finally a reminder of why this is a critical issue today (chapters 7-8). But the heart of the book is his discussion of the attributes of scripture. In it he breaks it down with the helpful acronym SCAN (sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of scripture). Each attribute is given a chapter and is evaluated through the lens of a passage of scripture.
The beauty of the book’s structure is that DeYoung has rooted all of the discussion about the attributes of scripture, which can be seen as heavy and academic in nature, in a deep love for Christ. Psalm 119 gives stanza after stanza of poetry in praise of the love of God’s Word. This develops a foundation of loving God’s Word upon which one is able to build the theological structure of knowing about God’s Word. What are we to believe about God’s Word? How should we feel about it? What should we do about it? The answers to these questions becomes the launch pad for understanding what God’s Word is. With the stated goal being to get the reader to “fully, sincerely, and consistently embrace” a love for God’s Word.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the book was DeYoung’s treatment of 2 Peter 1:16-21. If this passage was better understood, perhaps many of our doctrinal deficiencies in the church would be rectified. Peter lays out the basis for why his word is to be trusted. He gives an eyewitness account. If anyone should know that Jesus is true, it is Peter. He saw him with his own eyes. He heard God’s voice. If anyone had the authority to make official pronouncements about what the church is to believe, it is Peter. But Peter, the apostle and eyewitness, said “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (v. 19). Peter looked more to the Word than his authority as apostle or his experience as eyewitness. Why should we trust God’s Word? Because it is the surest word we have.
There is nothing earth shattering in DeYoung’s discussion of the attributes of God’s Word. Perhaps that is for the best. DeYoung is not seeking novelty, but a clear explanation of what the church has historically taught about scripture. His explanations are rooted in scripture and the work of the Reformers. Novelty would have killed the value of this book. And what he does well is take big theological topics and make them accessible to the regular church folk.
As way of critique, I wish he had spent a little more time explaining the topic of inspiration. He touches on it and references BB Warfield’s work on The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, but I would have hoped for more on the mechanism of inspiration and the trinitarian nature of it. Scott Swain’s work, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading (T&T Clark, 2011), would have been helpful here. I also would have appreciated the inclusion of William Whitaker’s Disputations on Holy Scripture in the appendix on recommended resources. This is an unknown but very influential work on the doctrine of scripture. The appendix on the “Best books on the Good Book” is on the whole outstanding…and any pastor or serious student of scripture would be well served to be familiar with those resources.
Overall, this is a hugely important book that needs to be widely read. Churches should purchase boxes of this and give them out to their congregations. The evangelical church needs to have a better understanding of the doctrine of scripture or we will be conformed to the world. Buy this book. Read it. Love the Word. And love the God who revealed it to us.

**Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Crossway Publishers free of charge for the purpose of reviewing it. I received no other compensation from Crossway Publishers.**