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Book Review: Taking God at His Word

Kevin DeYoung. Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2014.

Kevin DeYoung is the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, right across the street from Michigan State University. He is also the author of Why We Are Not Emergent (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will (Moody Publishers, 2009). This book was published in 2014 by Crossway, who have been producing quality Christian literature since the late 70’s. 

The book tackles the issue of Scripture from the vantage point of value rather than a strict defense or apologetics angle. It brings a better appreciation for the much-maligned book on our tables, making us see that it is a book that should be valued in our minds and in our practice. DeYoung sets this tone very well from the first pages of the book as he walks the reader through Psalm 119. Read the first chapter in a small group then say the meeting is over and watch the reactions. 

DeYoung deliberately begins the book with value and ends with certainty. To put it another way, he begins with application then proceeds to explain the building blocks while continuously making references to the application. It makes a very cohesive read because you know where you are at all times and can make the connection with the overall theme of the book. In his own words the goal of the book is for “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” (p. 16). You have to appreciate it when an author makes all paraphrasing unnecessary.

The book is divided into six sections with, in my opinion, the first and last chapter being the bread in this intricate sandwich. In the first section he shows that the Word of God is sure in that it is something that we can rely on. If we were in a court room and needed evidence for the accuracy and relevance of the Bible, it would pass all the tests put before it. The Word of God was brought forward by eyewitnesses. As the witnesses began to die, we had a written record of what they saw and the record was verified by other witnesses. Pastor DeYoung shows that the Bible well and truly passes the test of a credible narrative, but he goes further to explain what that means to us as individual believers. The value to us is that we can know for a fact that we are standing on the truth, something that cannot be undersold in a day and age where lies are so prevalent.

In the next section, Pastor DeYoung shows how God’s word is enough. He does this by taking us by the hand and walking us through the first three chapters of the book of Hebrews. At times, the Bible can be so simple that it is staggering; it is like walking on the sand and finding precious minerals on the surface. Within this chapter we see that all we need for life and godliness is the Lord Jesus Christ and he is the Word of God incarnate. We see that there is sufficiency in Christ and there is sufficiency in Christ in the Word. To quote the Author “… we must not separate redemption from revelation. Both were finished and fulfilled in the Son” (p. 50). The person of Jesus is at the heart, not just of not the Redemption Story, but of the Revelation Narrative as well. How can so much hang on one person, you ask? That brings us to the value of the connection between our Redeemer and his Word. Once we know that the Word is sufficient, we will go back to it at all times and for all things.

In the next section, the issue of the clarity of the Word of God is addressed. After all, it is one thing to be sure and sufficient but if it isn’t clear then its value is diminished. In contrast with the university professor who is brilliant and yet unable to break down information to the students at levels they can understand, the Word of God is clear. The value shown to us is that we do not need to have massive levels of education or even to know the languages the original text was written in to gain understanding of who God is and what he has done. Each believer is able to look at the Word of God and confirm if the knowledge in his head or being spoken to him by any authority figure lines up with the Word of God. Hardly anything runs this way. It would be very difficult to come up against a university professor in such a manner because you would be quoting text that may have errors, but we stand on the infallible Word of God. And God is speaking to us clearly through his Word.

In the next section, Pastor DeYoung moves to the authority of God’s Word. If you had not noticed the logical development of the book before then, it becomes even more clear now. If you know the Word of God is sure, then you know that it is sufficient to deal with all matters; you know it is clear to understand. But why should you listen to anything it says? Because it has authority, that’s why. It is the Word of the Almighty God and all authority is given by him. I cannot say it better than the author when he says “… we have the testimony of God himself. The Bible is God’s book. Consequently, to trust completely in the Bible is to trust in the character and assurances of God more than we trust in our ability to reason and explain” (p. 82). So, the big question is not “can you trust God?” but “do you and will you trust the authority of God and his Word in your life?”

And if God’s Word has the authority, then it must also be necessary for every issue we are dealing with. Pastor DeYoung gets to that in the next section of the book. We can stand on the necessity of the Word of God and this means that whatever issue we are going through, we know that God’s Word has the answers for us. If we are going through grief or we need to make a serious decision like marriage, then we know for a fact that the Word of God has all that we need to guide us in this. Another thing that comes from this section is the practical nature of the Scriptures. It is not just head knowledge; rather, it affects our daily lives in each and every way.

In the final section Pastor DeYoung addresses a crucial question “What did Jesus believe about the Bible?” And what a question it is! We can have all these things sorted out in our minds in a logical fashion but the relevance of this question cannot be understated. In this day and age when people are looking for prophets to tell them what they should do it is very interesting to see that Jesus was a man of the Word. He stood by it, he stood on it, and he lived it. The most impactful lines for me are found on page 101, “Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, especially in Matthew 5, Jesus tries to impress upon his audience the real meaning of Scripture. He does not want to correct Scripture. He wants to bring its full weight to bear on the human heart. He does not want the word of God circumvented by human tradition or specious reasoning. Instead, every speck of Scripture must be applied to every speck of Christian discipleship.” You can close the book there and go shed a tear or two in prayer.

The book ends with an exhortation to “Stick to the Scriptures” and my review has to end there as well. This book is a fantastic read for those who are new in the faith and need an appreciation for the Scriptures. But it also has incredible relevance for the veteran in the faith who will find his love for the Scriptures awakened to the level it once was. When a new believer asks me for a small book they can read, my hand reaches for the bookshelf to pull out this book. It is small enough to not threaten people who are not avid readers but deep enough for discussions in and around the Scriptures.

Mwansa Mbewe is a member of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka.


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