Ive heard it many times and from the most unexpected sources:
I try to read the Bible, but . . . it doesnt seem to say anything to me. I dont understand what Im reading. It doesnt help me, so I end up quitting . .
Set this response beside Davids from Psalm 119:
129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
131 I opened my mouth and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
The question Kevin DeYoung poses (and rigorously answers) in Taking God at His Word is this: How does one go from Ho Hum (response #1) to Whole Hearted (response #2)? If the goal of life is Psalm 119-zeal, what are the pre-requisites for getting there?
The truth is that, without exception, every woman I have heard confessing her lackluster response to the Word of God would pass any test for orthodoxy. She would affirm that the Word of God is true, that what it demands of us is good, and that what it provides is also good.
Its the feeling and the doing components that are missing in their lives.
Theres no delight: My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly, (Psalm 110:167).
Theres no desire: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law, (Psalm 119:18).
Theres no dependency: I cling to Your testimonies! (Psalm 119:31).
It is Kevin DeYoungs goal to bring belief, feeling, and action together not with a checklist (heaven, help us!), but with Truth. What does the Bible say about itself that will convince the reluctant and indifferent reader to dig in and spend time in the Word?
For starters, we need a foundation of trust. You will not find anything more sure than the written Word of God. Then, using the memorable acronym, S-C-A-N, Taking God at His Word sets forth the attributes of Scripture that demonstrate why its worth your minds attention and your hearts affection:
I struggled off and on for years with the high-handed notion that I would rather hear from God through more personal and direct communication than I find in His written Word. Hebrews 1 reveals that God has spoken to us through the Old Testament and, then, gloriously, through His Son, who is His final Word and Revelation. J.I. Packer elaborates:
While this kind of immediate revelation has ceased, we should allow for mediate revelation whereby God gives us new insights and applications sometimes in surprising ways but always through Scripture.
This is HUGE in relation to relevance, because the times when I question the relevance of a book which claims to provide all that I need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) are the times when my life is . . . not exactly focused on godliness. The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture invites us to open our Bibles to hear the voice of God.
God has spoken truth in story, in poetry, in apocalyptic style, and even in didactic correspondence. Before Scripture was available as it is today, Moses was reminding Israel that God bends over backwards to communicate with His people. While some portions of the Bible are clearer than others (anyone read Ezekiel lately?), the main teaching points for knowledge, belief, and action are spelled out transparently. Furthermore, if a topic is hazy in one context, it is made plain elsewhere. So, a PhD in theology is a nice thing to have, but certainly not necessary in order to be a student of the Word. Ordinary people using ordinary means can accurately understand enough of what must be known, believed, and observed for them to be faithful Christians.
The Bible gets the last word ahead of science, human experience, church councils and my cranky observations about life. This dismissal of all conflicting truth claims is politically incorrect and out of step with the culture in sufficient measure to play havoc with your next office party, but its not a matter of aggravating people. (Remember Anne Lamotts great quote: Its not always necessary to chop with the sword of truth. It can also be used to point.) The example of the Bereans in Acts 17 is illustrative. They compared the Apostle Pauls words with the inspired Word to see if it was so. Likewise, it is to be our compass.
The heavens declare the glory of God, but they dont spell out the plan of salvation. Those who would believingly follow God through Christ must know who He is and how to enter into the life He offers. He has made this known through His Word in which He speaks so that we can begin to know the unknowable and fathom the unfathomable.
If this is all true, our right response to the Word of God is to harvest its wisdom and share its truth with confidence and boldness. Jesus earthly ministry gives a pattern for living in light of a high view of Scripture. He quoted it, referred to Old Testament characters as historical figures, and considered that whatever Scripture said, God had said.
Five words lifted from John 10:35, 36 speak volumes: The Scripture cannot be broken. Not because He was out to prove the point, but because He believed it to be true, He simply stated the fact that Scripture could not be dismissed or dissolved. He addressed the matter with more intention in His Sermon on the Mount: Teach it as it stands and obey what it says if you want to be great in my Kingdom!
On the way to assimilating a Psalm 119-level regard for the written Word of God, consider Pauls words to Timothy. With characteristic practicality, he lays out its uses: teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Underlying this is its amazing origin God-breathed, the very words of the Almighty and every day, when we open its pages, the Bible offers the privilege of taking God at His Word.
I have long enjoyed the books that Kevin DeYoung has written. He has such a passion for the Lord and His Word and doesn't sugarcoat anything to make it easier to hear. I appreciate that about His writing. It's easy to do in today's culture where many want to hear things that make them feel better about themselves.
I appreciate the topic of this book because I know many who feel that the Bible is irrelevant to today. This whole book centers around what the Bible is, why it can be trusted, and it is relevant to us and our lives.
The other thing I greatly appreciated about this book was that Kevin DeYoung didn't spend time telling you why, in his opinion, we should take God at His Word. He uses God's Word to show you the importance of reading, knowing, loving, understanding, and applying His Word in our life.
I also liked how I didn't feel as if I was reading a theological book. It flowed easily and I found myself anxious to get back into reading the book. It also had me thinking about His Word constantly within the pages and I love anything that can take me back to the Bible.
Can't wait to see what topic is written about next!
I received this book free from Crossway Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.
Kevin DeYoung is one of a rising corp of young reformed pastors who God is using to call the church back to its theological moorings. He is a clear communicator of God's truth both from the pulpit and by means of the printed page. The author of several books, none of which are lengthy or of great depth, DeYoung's latest product is a testimony to the sufficiency, clarity, and necessity of the Bible. Millennials will like his light and conversational approach. In fact, this volume would serve as a helpful "get started" text to hand to those who are just beginning to consider the Scriptures. I personally found the last two chapters, "Christ's Unbreakable Bible" and "Stick With the Scriptures" to be the most practical. Although the content of this book is solid, it is at the same time sketchy and incomplete (as I have found all of DeYoung's books to be). That criticism is not meant to be negative as much as to serve as a caution to those who may feel that they will be getting more from the book than is actually there. I was left with the sense that the author had much more to say and that this book was rushed to press before it was ready. DeYoung provides a helpful annotated bibliography at the end of the book, but it too is incomplete. If the target audience happens to be those who like "fast-food doctrine," then this book will likely achieve its aim. But for those who prefer more substantial "theological fare," they will find themselves still hungry by the time they are finished.
Kevin DeYoung, in his latest book Taking God At His Word, encourages us to use the acronym SCAN so we might better remember that the Bible is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary for all of life. I've taken him up on that encouragement, and now have a greater appreciation for the Scriptures. Don't be fooled, however; you nonetheless won't find Kevin claiming that God's Word will answer our every question, be wholly understandable, or that we won't still give in to the temptation to tackle life by our own devices after spending time in it. Sometimes believers just need to be reminded of the fundamental principles and concepts of Scripture. Taking God At His Word brings those reminders and provocative questions to boot.
Very interestingly, Kevin uses Chapter 1 to describe how King David in Psalm 119 did not spare the least of his emotive vocabulary to express how one ought to feel about Scripture, why Scripture must be believed, and what to do as a result of it. Kevin explains that he especially chose Psalm 119 due to the Christian's general attitude about it_ that it's long, repetitious, and difficult to understand. All that may be true, but it doesn't change how the particular psalm informs the follower of Christ that he/she should delight in, desire, and depend upon Scripture. Or as Kevin states, Psalm 119 is a Hebrew love poem about God's Word, and rightfully so. Why should the Christian revere the Bible in this way? It goes back to SCAN.
Take the Bible's sufficiency, for starters. It seems that many genuine Christians crave extra-biblical revelation from the Lord, whether in the form of prophetic dreams and visions, or straight one-on-one conversation, etc. It's as though they think that hearing a mystical, low-bass sounding voice from somewhere that appears to be in the direction of heaven would make one closer to God than ever. Such ideas seem wonderful and desirable, but they're truly anti-biblical, and create a sense of false hope and awe. The worst is that the source of this could very well be the army of the devil himself. After all, Satan masquerades as an angel of light. The point, as Kevin makes in Chapters 2 and 3, is that God has already spoken, and is still speaking to each of us on an individual basis in His written Word, and ultimately through His Son Jesus Christ. Sure, it would have been incredible to be nearby when Moses encountered the burning bush, or among Christ's inner circle while He was being gloriously transfigured, etc, but we have God's sufficient and complete revelation. It just happens to be written down, but that makes it no less exactly what we need. And also don't forget that no one in the Bible actually had the Bible. We are privileged to have it, to say the least. And if we are convinced that God is actually speaking as we read the Bible, then we won't itch to hear a disembodied voice that claims to be Him.
The Bible, as Chapter 5 of Taking God At His Word states, is also clear. That doesn't mean Christians will know everything. Only God is omniscient. It also doesn't mean that every passage is wholly comprehensible, otherwise child-like faith in God's altogether unsearchable wisdom wouldn't be required on our part. What it does mean is that God has made sure every human being can grasp the things that matter most. Whether it's the most important concept of salvation or the doctrines that ought to impact every-day living, Scripture is clear, regardless of what naysayers claim.
Chapter 6 is a straight arrow. In it, Kevin discusses why on any subject you might consider, Scripture is the sole authority. God is King. He created all things and everyone. He governs all affairs, does as He pleases, and has rightful claim on our lives. And because He is also Scripture's Author, the buck stops at His throne. He is above all, and answers to no one. Case closed.
Chapter 7 then, if you've been following, takes us to the Bible's necessity. Without Scripture, it is impossible to know God factually or personally. That is, again, because He has chosen to reveal Himself to the extent we need in the inspired Word. If Scripture was not available to us, we also wouldn't know history as only God can know it to be true. Without God's written revelation, we wouldn't understand that Israel is His chosen people. If the Bible did not exist, it would be impossible to know, let alone understand, why and how [fallen] man needs to be saved.
The final chapter brings it all together. In it, Kevin points out Paul's instruction to Timothy to stay the course, to stick with the Scriptures as taught by his mother Lois and grandmother Eunice. Believers today would be wise to obey that same instruction. We ought to cherish the Bible teaching we received growing up. And if you weren't raised in a Christian home, or didn't grow up a Christian, then cherish what you received from the shepherd(s) that led you to faith in Christ. Yet of course along with that, there's nothing more important than refusing to waver from what God has given us in the Bible. It contains all we need for this life, and the next. What the words of Scripture actually do, where they ultimately came from, and the all-wise training they provide, makes the Bible the only perfect written work. It is the only truth, and is to be obeyed. Paul understood that, as did Timothy; we must imitate their faith and faithfulness.
Thank you Kevin DeYoung, for refreshing our souls by revisiting the Bible's fundamental, unchanging, everlasting truths. Your passion for the Word is contagious, and I hope everyone that reads Taking God At His Word will now start to view Scripture through the same lens King David did in Psalm 119!