Taking God At His Word (Book Review)

taking-god-at-his-wordDo you want to know the main reasons why Christians believe the Bible is God’s word to us? If you’re a Christian who needs to teach yourself again why you ought to trust the Bible, or if you’re not a Christian who is curious about how the Bible views itself, then Kevin DeYoung has written a fun little handbook to answer such questions. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means For You and Me is a quick read for shoring up confidence in the Bible. After reading it, I was reminded why Christian confidence in the Bible as the very word of God is well-grounded. Best of all, it led me to the Scriptures in a hunger to hear from God. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading books about the Book (DeYoung is one of these), but those kinds of books ought to whet our appetite for reading God’s source book.

I really appreciate the clarity and candor with which DeYoung writes. He is a guy who understands the questions, doubts, objections, and secret musings of the average Christian. For example, he identifies three types of reactions to the love poem about the Bible which is Psalm 119. (1) The skeptical; (2) the apathetic; and (3) the lover. DeYoung explains:

The first reaction is “Yeah, right.”…You think to yourself, “It’s nice that ancient people had such respect for God’s laws and God’s words, but we can’t take these things too seriously. We know that humans often put words in God’s mouth for their own purposes. We know that every ‘divine’ word is mixed with human thinking, redaction, and interpretation. The Bible, as we have it, is inspiring in parts, but it’s also antiquated, indecipherable at times, and frankly, incorrect in many places.” The second reaction is “Ho, hum.” You don’t have any particular problems with honoring God’s word or believing the Bible. On paper, you have a high view of the Scriptures. But in practice, you find them tedious and usually irrelevant. You think to yourself, though never voicing this out loud, “Psalm 119 is too long. It’s boring. It’s the worst day in my Bible reading plan. The thing goes on forever and ever saying the same thing. I like Psalm 23 much better.”…the third possible reaction is “Yes! Yes! Yes!” This is what you cry out when everything in Psalm 119 rings true in your head and resonates in your heart, when the psalmist perfectly captures your passions, your affections, and your actions (or at least what you want them to be). This is when you think to yourself, “I love this psalm because it gives voice to the song in my soul.” The purpose of this book is to get us to fully, sincerely, and consistently embrace this third response. (pp. 13-14)

Do you see a little bit of yourself in all three, or are you more or less one of the three?  I hope most Christians would be honest with themselves, and yearn to be the Bible lover.  In terms of the book’s stated purpose, I think the author achieves his goal. At least he did in my mind! The heart of his argument is laid out in chapters 3-6 where he explains why the Bible as God’s word is enough, clear, final, and necessary. Chapter 1 is akin to a sermon introduction. It is the hook that draws the reader into the rest of the book, convincing us that the book is worth the read. Chapter 2 shows us how we Christians (and even non-Christians) pine for a private, supernatural, immediate word from God straight to us. Somehow we feel that would be better than the Bible and it would solve all our problems. This chapter exposes such thought for what it is: unbelief. Specifically, not believing that the Bible is enough, clear, final, and necessary for training in faith. Chapter 7 reminds Christians that we ought not to makes ourselves out to be more clever than Jesus, who believed the Bible to be inspired and inerrant in everything it says. Chapter 8 is the conclusion, where DeYoung encourages us to stick with the Bible and resist the urge to doubt it, ignore it, or supplant it for anything else. He concludes:

Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness. No one succeeds at the highest level in sports without working out. No one makes it in music without lots of practice. No one excels in scholarship without years of study. And no one makes it far in the school of holiness without hours and days and years in the word. You and I simply will not mature as quickly, minister as effectively, or live as gloriously without immersing ourselves in the Scriptures. We need the Bible if we are to be competent Christians. (p. 119)

But that’s not the end of the book. There is a very useful appendix that lists (with comments) what the author believes are 30 of the best books on the Bible. These books are divided by topic (apologetic concerns, classics, general works on the doctrine of Scripture, how to study and interpret the Bible, and inerrancy) and rated according to intended audience (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Thus Taking God At His Word is not the last word on God’s Word, but rather a springboard to deeper study and reading.

Disclosure: I received an “Advance Reader Copy” from the publisher.

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