Few Christians would pick up a book entitled Doctrines of the Holy Scripture. And that is precisely why Kevin DeYoung’s latest book is entitled Taking God at His Word. With ease and clarity, DeYoung spends 144 brief pages explaining why the Scriptures are sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary for the Christian life. Ultimately, DeYoung demonstrates his own submission to Scripture in the way he structures his arguments: “This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible…I make no pretenses about offering you anything other than a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.”
DeYoung starts at the end. He introduces us to Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible and the most gushy love poem ever written–written about God’s Word! Rather than turning us off, Psalm 119 should inspire our hearts to cry out, “Yes! Yes!” That is his purpose. His goal is to help us arrive at greater and greater love for the Bible.
“Yes, the Bible is important, but oh, what a treasure it would be if I could experience God really speaking to me!” Chapter 2 establishes the surety of Scripture. In 2 Peter 1, he argues that both eyewitness testimony and original documents establish the claims of the Bible as certain and true, “not cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16). Peter did not believe the Scriptures contained the words of God or recounted a prophetic event, but they were the written words of God given through human instrumentality. According to 2 Peter 1:20, these words originated in the mind of God and are therefore without error. If these things are true, we do have a Word from God speaking directly to us: The Bible.
The meat of this book deals with what DeYoung calls the SPAN–a helpful acronym representing the Sufficiency, Perspecuity, Authority, and Necessity of God’s Word. From Hebrews 1:1-4, he argues that “Scripture is Enough.” As the superior Son of God and the pinnacle of the revelation of God’s glory, Jesus is the fullest communication of who God is. He argues that God’s every act of redemption is an act of revelation. If Jesus has accomplished the final act of our redemption, then with him was completed the final act of revelation. Church tradition must always takes a backseat to Scripture’s authority, and nothing can be added to Scripture nor detracted from it. If the Bible is sufficient for our Christian lives, then it invites us to open it’s pages and hear the voice of God.
In Chapter 4 “God’s Word is Clear”, DeYoung argues that the “well, that’s just your interpretation” mentality won’t fly. According to Deuteronomy 30, God’s word is plain enough for us to be held accountable. If we deny clarity of Scripture, we must also abandon faith in the ability of human language to communicate truth, in the priesthood of believers, and in God’s nature as a clear communicator. If the Bible is unclear, then as D.A. Carson says, “God has been gagged.”
The Thessalonians and the Bereans demonstrate contrasting postures toward God’s Word. The former refused to submit to the authority of Scripture, while the latter submitted everything, even Paul’s teaching, to Scriptural scrutiny. Our posture of full submission to God’s Word means we choose to believe it before we seek to understand it.
DeYoung argues that it is impossible to know God or the plan of salvation without the Scriptures. He poignantly states, “All truth may be God’s truth, but all saving truth is revealed truth.” Without Scripture, we do not know the love of God; we do not know how God has loved–i.e., through his Son Jesus.
Chapter 7 is the most intriguing chapter: “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible”. He asks the question: “What did Jesus believe about the Bible?” Using John 10:35-36, he demonstrates that Jesus believed even a technicality from an obscure passage in the Psalms carried the fullest weight of divine authority. In Matthew 5, Jesus clearly affirms that not even the smallest jot of Scripture will pass away. In Matthew 12, Jesus even trusted the historicity of the Jonah narrative. If this is how Jesus believed, then his followers must imitate him. He coyly comments, “Isn’t it more plausible to think Jesus knew Jewish history better than German critics almost two thousand years later?”
DeYoung completes the circuit by landing on 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Perhaps the most famous declaration of Scripture’s “God-breathed” nature, he explains that this passage only restates what the rest of Scripture already proclaims. He encourages us to take Paul’s words to heart, to consider our legacy of belief and to consider Scripture’s ability, originality, and practicality for Christian life.
I loved this book. DeYoung has a no-nonsense approach that is refreshing, but when he does insert anecdotes they are always clever, funny, and on topic. He is unapologetic in his approach to these doctrines. I appreciated his desire to demonstrate what Scripture had to say about itself. I believe this is an approach that is missing in much of our contemporary discussion, and it also shows how to put into practice the very principles he is teaching.
DeYoung has tackled a topic that could consume several volumes, and yet he cuts through centuries of theological debate with razor sharp accuracy. This book is ideal for any Christian who wants to know exactly what Scriptures exhort him to believe about the Bible. It is also a good summary for the theologian or scholar who needs to be reminded that what Scripture says about itself trumps what any other author may claim.
At times, DeYoung’s heritage showed through in his propensity toward appealing to catechisms, the Westminster in particular. It did help establish how church tradition and Scripture operate in the history of interpretation. Also, Chapter 3’s argument about the connection between Christ’s redemptive act and the finality of Scripture was interesting. It was helpful to understand that God’s every act of redemption was an act of revelation. However, the fact that Christ’s work was the fullest expression of God’s revelation does not give us a practical guideline for knowing how the 66 book canon was closed. [This is just a minor technicality, but hey, what’s a book review without at least one small bone to pick!]
Go out and buy this book. Use it in your small group or sunday school class. It will build your confidence in Scripture, and more importantly, it will fuel your love for God and His Word.
If you would like to hear DeYoung teach on Chapter 7 “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible”, check out his message from the T4G conference from April 2014.
Disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book by Crossway Publishers. I was in no way coerced into providing a favorable review.