Book Review: Taking God at His Word, by Kevin DeYoung
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me. Crossway, 2014. 144 pages. $17.99.
I try to consume a fairly steady diet of good books on the doctrine of Scripture, at least one or two a year. The evangelical doctrine of Scripture is constantly under attack from what can seem a bewildering array of angles. And confidence in Scripture is crucial for our confidence in the gospel Scripture preaches and the God Scripture reveals. So I’m grateful for a growing list of books on Scripture that have stirred and strengthened my faith.
For instance, Warfield’s The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture laid a bedrock foundation I return to constantly. Packer’s “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God crystallizes and condenses some of the same essential arguments. Bavinck’s Prolegomena is lucid, rock-solid, and pastorally perceptive. Timothy Ward’s Words of Life helpfully unpacks Scripture’s role in God’s plan of salvation, as does Scott Swain’s outstanding Trinity, Revelation, and Reading.
Kevin DeYoung’s new book Taking God at His Word now occupies a special place on this list. It’s the best book I’m aware of on the doctrine of Scripture that virtually any church member can read.
In eight short chapters, DeYoung traces the basic contours of what the Bible teaches about the Bible. He begins in chapter 1 with a brief exposition of Psalm 119, because “The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should believe about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible” (22). Chapter 2 unpacks 2 Peter 1:16–21’s teaching that Scripture is sure, steady, and unerring, laying theological groundwork for the rest of the book.
The next four chapters each expound one of the classically affirmed attributes of Scripture: sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity. These might seem like heady, abstract terms, but DeYoung brings the cookies all the way to the bottom shelf by using simple, concrete language and showing how each of these features of Scripture is crucial for the Christian life.
Chapter 7 unpacks Jesus’ own beliefs about Scripture, focusing especially on his statement that “Scripture cannot be broken” in John 10:35. And chapter 8 concludes with an exposition of 2 Timothy 3:14–17 which cements the book’s doctrinal foundation and issues a call to continue in the Scriptures.
No one who’s read anything by Kevin DeYoung will be surprised to learn that the book is clear, concise, accessible, evenhanded, precise, and practical. This is what DeYoung has taught us to expect, and Taking God at His Word does not disappoint. Here’s a sampling to whet your appetite:
“We go the Bible to learn about the Bible because to judge the Bible by any other standard would be to make the Bible less than what it claims to be.” (24)
“You can exaggerate your authority in handling the Scriptures, but you cannot exaggerate the Scriptures’ authority to handle you.” (42)
“If authority is the liberal problem, clarity the postmodern problem, and necessity the problem for atheists and agnostics, then sufficiency is the attribute most quickly doubted by rank-and-file churchgoing Christians.” (45)
“Jesus can illustrate with the lilies of the field (Matt. 6:28), but ‘it is written’ can conquer the Devil (4:1–11).” (80)
“The Bible is God’s book, a fact we are reminded of frequently in the book. Consequently, to trust completely in the Bible is to trust in the character and assurances of God more than we trust in our own ability to reason and explain.” (82)
I may have one minor disagreement with one aspect of how DeYoung handles issues of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments (99–100). But it’s so slight as to be not worth detailing here, and it’s wrapped up with broader debates between our ecclesiological camps. I mention it here only to satisfy readers who might be tempted to doubt the objectivity of my glowing endorsement. Yes, I read the book critically. Yes, it really is that good.
If you’re a pastor, you should read this book to deepen and refresh your own confidence in Scripture. You should also give it away liberally to your church members to equip them to think, feel, and act rightly in relation to God’s Word. From guidance to Christian growth to assessing the claims of science, DeYoung repeatedly demonstrates that Scripture’s own doctrine of Scripture is essential equipment for living as competent Christians. You could even use the book as an outline for a Sunday school class, building on the foundation of DeYoung’s pithy primers.
What DeYoung presents in this book is not just a string of arguments, though he does marshal many. What’s more, though, he portrays the posture we should bring to Scripture and gain from Scripture: humble submission, reverent trust, and eager expectation that the God who spoke these words will use these words to remake us in his image. DeYoung aims not just at the head, but through the head to the heart and hands.
My faith was nourished and deepened by reading this book. Yours will be too.