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Review: Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

What a wonderful providence of God that Kevin DeYoung's newest book, "Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough and What That Means for You and Me" would be published right now. With the attempt to redefine what marriage is, what sex is and for whom, God's Word and our understanding of it (and Him) seems to be up for grabs, culturally speaking.

Not too long ago my alma mater was in the midst of controversy over the nature of God's Word. This too provided the opportunity for the publication of a wonderful resource. (Find my very brief thoughts on the controversy and links to the resource here.)

Rev. DeYoung is a gifted writer. I've enjoyed reading most of what he has written. (I've never liked referring to author's by their last name only. It sounds almost disrespectful to my Texas-born ears. I will refer to Rev. DeYoung as Rev. DeYoung a day this is especially appropriate given the subject matter. He is a minister of God's Word and I "hear" that in this book.) My enjoyment has been due to the style of his writing as well as the content. This book is no different.

The book is relatively brief and breaks down into 8 chapters. The first of which is a kind of tease.  He has as his goal in this book that the reader might embrace Scripture in the same way the psalmist does in Psalm 119 (pg 14). With this Psalm as his starting point, he sets out in chapter 1 to answer the questions, "What should I believe about God's Word?" (pgs 15-16), "What should I feel about God's Word" (pgs 16-19), "What should I do with the God's Word?" (pg 20). Under each of these headings are helpful alliterations and clever turns of phrases, which is the appealing style I have enjoyed in each of his books. Finally, in chapter 1 he stresses that this is a book that unpacks "...what the Bible says about the Bible" (pg. 21). 

Chapter 2, entitled Something More Sure, Rev. DeYoung begins with an example of an anonymous article in Christianity Today entitled My Conversation with God. I immediately thought about the book Jesus Calling because the point he makes early in this chapter is the misplaced desire to hear from God in a fresh, new way today. This chapter demonstrates that the Word we have inscripturated is indeed something more sure than supposed new conversations people claim to have with God. Through the prism of 2 Peter 1:16-21 and Peter's testimony found there Rev. DeYoung shows us that Scripture is God's Word, this Word is unerring and is no less divine because God used human agency to write His Word. A particularly helpful section of this chapter was in the discussion of myth versus truth (pgs 28-30). "Myth" was a word tossed about a good bit in my own theological education and Rev. DeYoung offers a helpful and compelling response as he shows how Christianity is rooted in history; the deeds and Word of God (pg 30).

In chapter 3, God's Word is Enough we have the privilege of camping out in Hebrews 1:1-4 to think about the sufficiency of God's Word. Helpfully he introduces the four essential characteristics of Scripture; Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority and Necessity (each one deserving of its own chapter). Where clarity is dismissed by post-moderns and authority has been dispatched by theological liberals and atheists and agnostics have no use for the necessity of Scripture, it is the sufficiency of God's Word that the evangelical world seems to forget (pgs 42-43). Against this backdrop he makes the case from Hebrews 1 that this final Word through God's Son is absolutely sufficient. In one of those nice turns of phrase I mentioned, sufficiency is underlined when he writes; "Revelation redeems. Redemption reveals." (pg 48) On pages 50 and following we are shown the practical benefits of being blessed with a completely sufficient Savior and His Word.

In chapter 4, God's Word is Clear, we are taken through Deuteronomy 30:11-14 with attention given to the Westminster Confession of faith I.7. From the Confession he helps us understand that Scripture is abundantly clear on things we need to know, believe and do (pg. 57). He juxtaposes the mystical, Roman Catholic and the pluralism objections to clarity (pgs 57-58). Looking at other passages and how Jesus Himself viewed Scripture as clear, Rev. DeYoung makes the case that the Bible and Jesus testify to the clarity of God's Word. What I was so very grateful for in this chapter is how Rev. DeYoung argues that if we lose the essential character of the clarity of Scripture we lose much; the gift of human language, what God is like, among two other crucially important benefits that result from the characteristic of clarity (pgs 63-68).

Rev. DeYoung benefits his readers greatly as he compares and contrasts the Thessalonians and Bereans in Acts 17:1-15 as he addresses the characteristic of the authority of God's Word in chapter 5, God's Final Word. Discussing why people reject God's Word, intellectual concerns, pride and personal prejudice he writes, "[Some] don't like the people teaching the Bible and [some] don't like what the Bible teaches" (pg 71). Two treasurers in this chapter include his brief discussion of WCF I.10 and a rich J.I. Packer quote that concludes this chapter.

The last of the four characteristics of Scripture, necessity, is taken up in chapter 6, God's Word is Necessary. I was grateful again for Rev. DeYoung's care with which he took us through 1 Corinthians 2:6-13, allowing the Bible to speak to the necessity of the Bible. He writes on page 88, "We need the revelation of God to know God, and the only sure, saving, final, perfect revelation of God is found in Scripture." This was the shortest chapter of the book, but it brought to bear in profound ways the centrality of Jesus and His cross as related to God's revealed Word.

Having done a wonderful job of teasing out the importance and practicality of the characteristics of God's Word; sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity, he continues in chapter 7 with what we can see to be Jesus' view of Scripture in Christ's Unbreakable Bible. Two of the four helpful headings in this chapter include the Historical History and The Creator Said. This chapter may be the most compelling for new believers and young Christians who haven't thought much about the place and importance of God's Word for God's people. Seeing our Savior's use of God's Word allows us to see His view of God's Word. As Rev. DeYoung writes, The way of the Master is the way of the Word, and then summarizes Jesus' view of Scripture on pages 107-108. Not to draw a hard and fast distinction from the other chapters, I thought this one was excellent. When I give this book to people I serve in our church, I may encourage them to begin with chapter 1 and then skip to chapter 7. Then we will circle around and read together the characteristics of God's Word in chapter 2-6.

As one might expect, we will not be able to read a book about God's Word without thinking through the implications of 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Thankfully, this is where we go in the final chapter of the book, chapter 8, Stick with the Scriptures. He breaks our passage down into 3 helpful sections; Consider your History. Consider Scripture's Originality and Consider Scripture's Practicality. In Consider you History I was encouraged to think again about who God used to bring me to faith and to encourage me in my faith. I wasn't raised in a Christian home, so God used my brother Scott and men like David Brack, John Hilbelink (my pastor, at the time) and Steve Cairns. I am naming names because Paul didn't hesitate to mention Lois and Eunice to Timothy. As Rev. DeYoung suggests, remembering your history enables you to remember who encouraged you to trust and stick with Scripture (pg 113). In the section on originality he stresses the "breathed out" nature of God's Word. In the section on practicality he shows us how Scripture will equip a person for every good work (pgs 115-120). The chapter closes with a reminder of the seriousness with which we should take God's Word. The quote from the Letters of John Newton drives this point home very effectively.

The appendix of the book is a phenomenal resource. Rev. DeYoung lists the Thirty of the Best Books on the Good Book. He has done a great service for us in that he has categorized these resources for the beginner, intermediate and the advanced. I am so very grateful that Rev. DeYoung has taken the time and trouble to do this for his readers. I will return to this appendix many times.

It is no wonder that this book is being offered by the case. I trust that after you read it, you will want many to give away. Rev. DeYoung has served the church well in writing this book and in the way he has written this book. He has written it in such a way that it will be accessible to the unbeliever who wants to know what we believe about God and His Word, the new believer who is opening their Bible for the first time, to pastors and professors who want to be encouraged (again) about the inherit sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity of God's Word. It is a book about the Bible that is saturated with Scripture. Every chapter has as its heading a passage of Scripture and other references and texts spread throughout. I would encourage you when reading this book to have an open Bible next to you. Let me encourage you to buy this book. I think Rev. DeYoung has done a wonderful job in commending our love of Scripture and our Triune God of Scripture. It is an excellent book and I am very grateful he has written it.

If you are in the Glen Mills, PA area on April 25, 2014, consider attending this book launch.

*The review was based on an Advanced Reader Copy. The page numbers listed in this review may not correspond with the page numbers of the published copy.

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