Anytime someone writes a biblically and theologically accurate and heartwarming book on Scripture, it is a good thing. Sadly, in a day when the doctrine of Scripture is once again up for grabs within evangelicalism, books that help the church think carefully about what Scripture says about itself are always welcome and absolutely necessary. Thankfully, Kevin DeYoung has written such a book, and I recommend it highly for Christians of all ages and levels of knowledge. Within a short space, DeYoung has packed a powerful punch that will not only inform Christians regarding Scripture’s self-attestation; it will also challenge the church to appreciate anew God’s Word as demanding our attention, allegiance, and obedience.
A Council member and regular blogger at The Gospel Coalition, DeYoung is the senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, where he has served since 2004. He has written many helpful books on various issues ranging from church leadership to gospel practice to the Christian life. However, in Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, he challenges his readers to take seriously what Scripture teaches regarding itself and why it matters for our daily lives. The book is divided into eight chapters with a helpful appendix listing what DeYoung considers 30 of the best books on the doctrine of Scripture, covering apologetic issues, classic and general works, and volumes on biblical interpretation and inerrancy.
Delight, Desire, Dependence
In the opening chapter, he challenges the reader from Psalm 119 not only to believe the right things about Scripture but also to feel about Scripture what we ought in terms of a wholehearted delight, desire, and dependence, which then leads to a proper putting into practice of Scripture in our daily lives. In the second chapter, DeYoung expounds 2 Peter 1:16–21 and briefly unpacks the doctrine of inspiration, and in so doing nicely reminds us from Scripture that there is nothing more sure than God’s written Word. Scripture is a human book, but it is not merely a human book. Scripture first and foremost is God’s Word written and thus demands all of our attention, study, and practice.
In chapters 3 to 6, DeYoung develops a classical way of treating Scripture in terms of its four attributes: sufficiency, clarity or perspicuity, authority, and necessity. He avoids most of the technical vocabulary and develops each chapter and attribute of Scripture by expounding a biblical text, thus achieving his aim to let Scripture speak for itself. Even though each chapter is written at a popular level, DeYoung discusses important and sometimes complicated material in understandable and practical terms. For example, in discussing the sufficiency of Scripture in chapter 3, he addresses such matters as Scripture and its relationship to tradition, its relevance to everyday life, and how what Scripture says about itself should show itself in our daily lives. Or in the chapter 4, when discussing the clarity of Scripture, he covers vital matters such as the Roman Catholic and pluralist objections, current discussions of the adequacy of language, and various epistemological challenges to an affirmation of biblical perspicuity—yet he does so in a simple yet helpful way.
From his discussions one can tell at least two things about DeYoung. First, he is informed about current discussion regarding the doctrine of Scripture, yet his treatment of these issues is written for the common person. Second, DeYoung is no mere armchair theologian; his work is written in the context of the local church and everyday ministry where he has preached, taught, and counseled real people on these crucial issues.
Lord of the Word
Chapter 5 on what the Bible says about its own authority and chapter 6 on the Bible’s view of its own necessity follow the same pattern as the previous chapters. Even though the discussion of these important and complicated topics is short, DeYoung treats complex doctrinal matters in a straightforward manner. In these chapters he wrestles with the relationship between general and special revelation as well as challenges various people have raised in regard to the Bible’s authority, and he does so in ways that are true to what Scripture says about itself.
After discussing the four attributes of Scripture, chapter 7 turns to a helpful discussion of what our Lord Jesus Christ believed about Scripture. Even though this subject has been discussed in book-length treatments, DeYoung nicely captures what our Lord thought and taught regarding Scripture and rightly concludes that Jesus held the Bible in the highest possible esteem. Not only was it Jesus’ mission to fulfill Scripture, he also believed every aspect of it from doctrinal teaching to historical accuracy. DeYoung argues that if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, then our view and attitude toward Scripture can be no less than what Christ himself acknowledged to be the case. DeYoung concludes in chapter 8 with an exposition of what is perhaps the most classic text on Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:14–17—indeed, a fitting way to end such a book.
Overall, DeYoung admirably achieves his goal in writing Taking God at His Word. He set out to remind us what Scripture says about itself and in so doing to challenge us to believe what the Bible teaches, to feel in our lives its importance and beauty, and to put all that it teaches into practice in our daily lives. Given what Scripture says, DeYoung rightly challenges us with the fact that it is a serious thing what we do with the Bible. Ultimately life and death hang on it, and our lives as individual believers and as a church depend not only on what we say about Scripture but also on what we do with it. I heartily recommend this book for those who want to do justice to Scripture and, more than that, want to be those who love the Lord of the Word and the Word of the Lord.