Every generation of Christians will face a battle over the value of God’s word. The challenges come in different forms and different ways, but they are every present. I see three in particular when I look across the evangelical landscape. Evangelical revisionists call into question the inspiration of all of God’s word and ask us only to focus on the “red letters,” yet when they finish talking about the “red letters” it doesn’t really sound like the Jesus of the Bible as much as it sounds like the musings of a disenchanted evangelical. Another segment gives lip service to the Bible while dealing with it and preaching it in piecemeal fashion that turn it into a life-coaching manual. Popularly, many Christians have given up on reading the Bible seriously and instead have turned to receiving “words from God,” whether they be in the form of spiritual impressions or books claiming to write down what a person has been told by Jesus. Kevin DeYoung wades into this malaise and helps Christians gain a greater understanding for why they need God’s word in his new book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me.
It is best to think about the structure Taking God at His Word like a sandwich. There are two introductory chapters and two concluding chapters of application. The middle chapters comprise the heart of what DeYoung wants Christians to understand about what the Bible is. Each chapter begins with reflections on a passage of Scripture about the nature and character of Scripture with theological and practical reflections along the way. Some may wonder how you can argue for the authenticity of the Bible from the Bible. DeYoung answers, “You can’t establish the supreme authority of your supreme authority by going to some other lesser authority. Yes, the logic is circular, but no more so than the secularist defending reason by reason or the scientist touting the authority of science based on science.”
The first chapter begins with a look at Psalm 119. The Bible’s longest chapter is about the beauty and perfection of God’s word. After working through what the Psalmist says about the Bible and how he feels about the Bible, DeYoung explains why he wrote this book. “The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible.”
The middle chapters contain the heart of DeYoung’s argument. He shows the Bible’s argument for it’s sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity. He defines these terms the following way:
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.
Necessity: 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.
He closes with a plea to stick with the Bible. Working from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, he urges Christians to remember what the Bible is and what the Bible does to remain faithful to it in every area of life. His closing words are appropriate. “So let us not weaken in our commitment to our unbreakable Bible. Let us not wander from this divinely exhaled truth. Let us not waver in our delight and desire. God has spoken, and through that revelation he still speaks. Ultimately we can believe the Bible because we believe in the power and wisdom and goodness and truthfulness of the God whose authority and veracity cannot be separated from the Bible. We trust the Bible because it is God’s Bible. And God being God, we have every reason to take him at his word.”
Taking God at His Word appeared at an important time in the history of the Christian church in America. The endless slogans and debating about the Bible that come at us one blog post and 140 characters at a time do not help us to think through all of the issues related to our view of the Bible. We need to hear the Bible speak about itself and thoughtfully reflect on it. Christians need to be reminded that it is a privilege to hear from God and know Him through His word. DeYoung does this so well in Taking God at His Word that I cannot think of one quibble I have with it. It is brief enough to be read in a couple of sittings and long enough to provide much food for thought.
The importance of Taking God at His Word cannot be overstated. This book is not an apologetic to those who are skeptical about the Bible as much as it is a call to those who should believe and treasure the Bible. Christians need a renewed commitment to the Bible because we have lost confidence in it. This lost confidence has not come from problems within the Bible itself, but from our neglect of it and intoxication with the spirit of the age. If we return to the Bible, hearing it as it was meant to be heard, believed, rejoiced in, and acted upon, we will not find it lacking.
(I received a copy of this book from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page program in exchange for an honest review.)
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