Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors. One of his strengths as an author is taking difficult concepts out of the academy and bringing it to those of us who do better reading at a more popular level. He did this in Why We're Not Emergent, the book that introduced us to him, and has done it in most of the books he has written since. His newest book, Taking God at His Word, is all about the Bible and about loving the Bible and, once again, it is targeted at the general reader.
He begins in Psalm 119, David’s long love song dedicated to the Bible. He begins here because David’s love for God’s Word, and David’s awe of that Word, is exactly where DeYoung wants the reader to be by the time he has finished this book. This means he starts with the application, so to speak, and then works to the information and the defense—an interesting and rather helpful way of going about things. He wants us, like David, to believe the Bible, to feel love for the Bible, and to do what the Bible says.
In the second chapter DeYoung turns to 2 Peter 1 to look at the nature of the Bible as God’s inerrant revelation of himself, given through the agency of human beings who received and transmitted those words. There is nothing more steady and sure than this Word. “You do not need another special revelation from God outside the Bible. You can listen to the voice of God every day. Christ still speaks, because the Spirit has already spoken. If you want to hear from God, go to the book that records only what he has said. Immerse yourself in the word of God. You will not find anything more sure.”
Over the next four chapters he uses the acronym SCAN to highlight four essential characteristics of the Bible: Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority, and Necessity.
Sufficiency. The Scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.
Clarity. The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.
Authority. The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.
Necessary. General revelation is not enough to save us. We cannot know God savingly by means of personal experience and human reason. We need God’s word to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved.
This is to say that God’s Word is enough, clear, final, and necessary.
Having put each of these pieces in place, he looks at how Jesus understood the Bible. As Christians we necessarily wish to imitate Christ and this ought to include imitating him in his understanding of the Bible. DeYoung turns to several passages to show that Christ who was the Word, loved and honored the Word. “It is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm them more completely than Jesus did.”
Finally, he concludes with a call to stick with the Scriptures—not to move on and not to pursue something else. And really, if we agree with anything he has taught in the previous seven chapters, we would be crazy to do anything else but to stand with and stand upon God’s Word.
Taking God at His Word isn’t a book that teaches a method for studying the Bible; it doesn’t teach how to interpret or apply Scripture during personal devotions. It does something more foundational: It teaches why and how we ought to honor and respect God’s Word. DeYoung does not rely on flashy defenses or apologetics. Instead, “my conviction, born out of experience and derived from the teaching of Scripture itself, is that the most effective means for bolstering our confidence in the Bible is to spend time in the Bible.” This is just what he does. “My aim is to be simple, uncluttered, straightforward, and manifestly biblical. I make no pretenses about offering you anything other than a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.”
There are many books that do roughly the same thing Taking God at His Word does, but they tend to do it on a technical or academic level. DeYoung’s book is written for a very different audience and is meant to be entry-level and reader-friendly. It succeeds well.
At Grace Fellowship Church we like to stock up on books when we can get them at great prices and give them away at strategic times. This is just the kind of book we love to buy and distribute. Every Christian needs to be anchored in the Scriptures and needs to grow in his love for Scripture. Taking God at His Word will help in both respects.