Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Taking God At His Word

Taking God At His Word. Kevin DeYoung. 2014. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The full title of Kevin DeYoung's newest book is Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. It's an incredibly lengthy title, but an incredible book almost deserves such a title!

Yes, Taking God At His Word is an incredible book. It is easily one of the best books I've read so far this year.

In the first chapter, he asks readers a simple question. How do you feel about Psalm 119?
I can think of three different reactions to the long, repetitive passion for the word of God in Psalm 119.
The first reaction is, "Yeah, right." This is the attitude of the skeptic, the scoffer, and the cynic. 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 nay 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."
If the first reaction is "Yeah, right" and the second reaction is "Ho, hum," 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."
He goes on to add:
The purpose of this book is to get us to fully, sincerely, and consistently embrace this third response. I want all that is in Psalm 119 to be an expression of all that is in our heads and in our hearts. In effect, I'm starting this book with the conclusion. Psalm 119 is the goal. I want to convince you (and make sure I'm convinced myself) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. Only when we are convinced of all this can we give a full-throated "Yes! Yes! Yes!" every time we read the Bible's longest chapter.
Psalm 119 shows us what to believe about the word of God, what to feel about the word of God, and what to do with the word of God…Psalm 119 is the explosion of praise made possible by an orthodox and evangelical doctrine of Scripture. When we embrace everything the Bible says about itself, then--and only then--will we believe what we should believe about the word of God, feel what we should feel, and do with the word of God what we ought to do.
His method:
This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible. 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. We go to 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. As J.I. Packer wrote more than fifty years ago when facing similar challenges, "Scripture itself is alone competent to judge our doctrine of Scripture."
The book opens with a discussion of Psalm 119 and concludes with a discussion of 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Chapter titles include:

  • Believing, Feeling, Doing (Psalm 119)
  • Something More Sure (2 Peter 1:16-21)
  • God's Word is Enough (Hebrews 1:1-4)
  • God's Word is Clear (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
  • God's Word is Final (Acts 17:1-15)
  • God's Word is Necessary (2 Corinthians 2:6-13)
  • Christ's Unbreakable Bible (John 10:35-36, Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 12:38-42, and Matthew 19)
  • Stick with the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Four chapters focus on four attributes of Scripture: sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity. I loved these chapters. I thought they were very well-written.

But my absolute favorite chapter is a wonderful little chapter solely devoted to answering the question: What did Jesus believe about the Bible?
Jesus held Scripture in the highest possible esteem. He knew his Bible intimately and loved it deeply. He often spoke with the language of Scripture. He easily alluded to Scripture. And in his moments of greatest trial and weakness— like being tempted by the Devil or being killed on a cross— he quoted Scripture. His mission was to fulfill Scripture, and his teaching always upheld Scripture. He never disrespected, never disregarded, never disagreed with a single text of Scripture. He affirmed every bit of law, prophecy, narrative, and poetry. He never for a moment accepted the legitimacy of anyone anywhere violating, ignoring, refining, or rejecting Scripture. Jesus believed in the inspiration of Scripture— all of it. He accepted the chronology, the miracles, and the authorial ascriptions as giving the straightforward facts of history. He believed in keeping the spirit of the law without ever minimizing the letter of the law. He affirmed the human authorship of Scripture while at the same time bearing witness to the ultimate divine authorship of the Scriptures. He treated the Bible as a necessary word, a sufficient word, a clear word, and the final word. It was never acceptable in his mind to contradict Scripture or stand above Scripture. He believed the Bible was all true, all edifying, all important, and all about him. He believed absolutely that the Bible was from God and was absolutely free from error.
I loved this one cover to cover. I love his goal. I love his method. I love the richness in this one. It has depth and substance. It is a passionate appeal to believers of all ages!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

twiga92 said...

I just finished reading this last night and loved it also! I made myself wait to read your review until after I finished. :-)