As usual I’m behind the times. I’ve only just read Kevin DeYoung’s good and helpful book Taking God at His Word (published by Crossway, April 2014). It’s a book about the Bible by a pastor who wants people to fall in love with it Psalm-119-style. Written on a level that average Christians can understand, the book has been valuable to many—take a look at the 177 reader reviews on Amazon and the fact that 96% of them gave 4 or 5 stars!
I appreciate DeYoung’s tenacity in pushing people to the Word. He doesn’t offer Bible study methods; rather, his primary focus is to explain how we can know the Bible is trustworthy and his primary application is that people need to be in the Word constantly. He says or implies these things in a thousand ways, and he is right on. The older I get (almost 40), the more quickly I see God’s Word as life, joy, connection with God, guidance for life, and source of hope. To be separated from God’s Word is to be dead.
Instead of offering anything like a full review, I’d rather use this post to consider what I think are some of the best quotes from the book. Let’s begin with this short, straightforward jewel found early on:
“There is no calamity like the silence of God.”
Of course most people don’t think this is true. Far too many people believe God actually is silent because he has never audibly spoken to them. DeYoung shows his readers that God has, indeed, spoken in his Word, loudly and clearly, and to ignore what he has said is detrimental.
In comparing misinterpretations of the biblical text with actual errors in the text, DeYoung crafted this thought-provoking statement:
“You can use the word of God to come to wrong conclusions, but you cannot find any wrong conclusions in the word of God.”
Faulty interpretations abound, but it doesn’t change the fundamental inerrancy of Scripture itself. When someone misreads the Bible, we should never assume the problem is with the Bible!
Taking God at His Word is primarily focused on the four major descriptive terms used by Christians and theologians for centuries to explain the fundamental nature of Scripture: (1) sufficient, (2) clear, (3) authoritative, and (4) necessary. In speaking of sufficiency, DeYoung offers this insight:
“Of the four attributes of Scripture, [sufficiency] may be the one that evangelicals forget first. If authority is the liberal problem, clarity the postmodern problem, and necessity the problem for atheists and agnostics, then sufficiency is the attribute most quickly doubted by rank-and-file churchgoing Christians. We can say all the right things about the Bible, and even read it regularly, but when life gets difficult, or just a bit boring, we look for new words, new revelation, and new experiences to bring us closer to God.”
How helpful is that!? Liberals, postmoderns, and atheists / agnostics all struggle with various aspects of Scripture, but so do Evangelicals. And who would have thought biblical Christians would struggle with sufficiency? But we do, at least on the practical level. This is a key, self-revealing insight.
What about the more dry and boring parts of the Bible? DeYoung says this:
“If we learn to read the Bible down (into our hearts), across (the plot line of Scripture), out (to the end of the story), and up (to the glory of God in the face of Christ), we will find that every bit of the Bible is profitable for us.”
Even genealogies, when read this way, become incredibly profitable for our souls.
DeYoung also dabbles into the realm of apologetics here and there throughout the book. In an interaction with religious pluralists and relativists, he brings up the infamous elephant illustration, and critiques it masterfully:
“But of course there are two enormous problems with the [elephant] analogy. For starters, the whole story is told from the vantage point of someone who clearly knows that the elephant is an elephant. For the story to make its point, the narrator has to have clear and accurate knowledge of the elephant. The second flaw is even more serious. The story is a perfectly good description of human inability in matters of the divine. We are blind and unable to know God by our own devices. But the story never considers this paradigm-shattering question: What if the elephant talks? What if he tells the blind men, ‘That wall-like structure is my side. That fan is really my ear. And that’s not a rope; it’s a tail.’ If the elephant were to say all this, would the six blind men be considered humble for ignoring his word? We must not separate epistemology (that is, our theory of what we know and how we can know it) from the rest of theology. These high-sounding debates about perspicuity and hermeneutics really have to do with the character of God. Is God wise enough to make himself known? Is he good enough to make himself accessible? Is he gracious enough to communicate in ways that are understandable to the meek and lowly? Or does God give us commands we can’t understand and a self-revelation that reveals more questions than answers?”
I love it! “What if the elephant talks?” This is a great question to ask anyone who would use the elephant analogy to discredit the Christian worldview. In another foray into the world of apologetics, DeYoung has a bit of fun with the inconsistencies of unbelief:
“The Thessalonians were also blind to their own inconsistencies. Have you ever known someone to make the propositional statement, ‘I can’t believe in a religion built on propositional truth,’ or to utter the intolerant sentiment, ‘I can’t stand intolerant jerks’?”
Similarly, he writes:
“They can’t see the inconsistency of their charge against Paul and Silas. They are blind to their own sins and double standard. Just like the student who refuses to ‘go along with the crowd,’ so instead she dresses, talks, shops, thinks, and styles her hair like a thousand other ‘rebels.’ Or like the judgmental person who lambasts judgmentalism, or the leader who says, ‘Question authority’ based on his own authority, or the person who pushes his libertine morality on everyone else because he’s tired of everyone pushing their own morality.”
One of the major problems we face today is the wholesale dismissal of Scripture without even listening to what it has to say. For so many people, the Bible is not even on their radar screen. In response, DeYoung writes:
“Some opponents of the word of God come by their objections honestly, but others have never stopped to search the Scriptures for themselves. They’ve already decided the Bible is antiscience, antiwoman, and antigay, without bothering to define those terms or investigate the Bible with calm reason and an open mind.”
In dealing with the book of creation and how it relates to the book of God’s Word, DeYoung offers a truly classic statement:
“The heavens declare the glory of God, but the law of the Lord is perfect and the testimony of the Lord is sure (Ps. 19: 1, 7). Jesus can illustrate with the lilies of the field (Matt. 6: 28), but ‘it is written’ can conquer the Devil (4: 1– 11).”
That one should be all over Twitter and Facebook! Preachers should quote this in their sermons and authors in their books!
Of course we know the Bible is centered on Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection. The suffering of Christ to redeem guilty sinners is what the Bible is all about. In contrast to a focus on the cross, which inevitably comes from any honest reading of Scripture, many people want a generic spiritualism without the blood and gore of crucifixion. DeYoung writes a scathing rebuke of any type of spiritual activity that leaves out the mission of Christ to die for sinners:
“No matter how much you like angels or how much you pray or how eager you are to meditate or how much you are into yoga or how much you believe in miracles, if you do not understand, cherish, and embrace the cross, you are not a spiritual person.”
I think my favorite part of the book, which comes towards the end, has to do with believing the Bible because your parents taught you that it’s true. This is a bit of a lengthy quote, but most certainly worth thinking through:
“Remember who first taught you the Bible. For Timothy, this meant Paul to some extent (2:2), and more significantly, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (1:5; 3:14–15). Paul is urging this young pastor to stick with the Bible and stick with the one true gospel because he learned about them from his grammy and from his momma. We don’t often reason this way, but we should.
Before chucking the faith you were taught as a child, think about those from whom you learned it. I went to a middle-of-the-road Christian college where the religion professors were often liberal. I saw many of my classmates have their faith deconstructed and never built up again in a healthy way. When people ask me why I didn’t go down the same path, the best answer I have—besides noting the grace of God—is that I trusted my parents and my upbringing more than my professors. I had doubts as a college student. There were new questions I didn’t know how to answer. But what kept me anchored was confidence in what I had learned as a child and in those from whom I had learned it. Obviously, not everyone is blessed to grow up with good parents and good churches. But this doesn’t make Paul’s command to Timothy any less appropriate for those of us who did.
Think of your Sunday school teachers. Think of your youth group leaders. Think of your pastors. Think of your dad. Think of your grandparents. Think of your mom. Did they not have your best interests at heart? Did they not love you? Were they imposters? Were they wrong in everything they stood for? Is it reasonable for you to conclude that those who came before you, those who taught you to trust the Bible, those who have more experience and probably more wisdom than you—that suddenly they are benighted morons? Are they deserving of your cynicism, rejection, or scorn? Parents and pastors aren’t perfect, not even the really good ones. Paul is not saying our mentors must be followed at all costs. But here’s the point, and it’s very appropriate for teens and twentysomethings who like to question every authority except their own: before you leave behind what you used to believe about the Bible, consider who taught you to believe what you used to believe about the Bible.”
This way of thinking sounds so backwards in our culture! But actually the culture is backwards when it questions “every authority” except its own. DeYoung almost sounds like a boring stick-in-the-mud because he trusted his parents more than his professors. But actually his position is incredibly wise, and we should not think it impossible that children trust their parents, parents, and Sunday School teachers when it comes to the trustworthiness of the Bible.
The classic sermon from
Updated for today’s readers
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In speaking of how God uses his Word to save by awakening dead souls, DeYoung says:
“The word of the president is important. The word of your parents is to be honored. The word of your spouse is to be treasured. But only the word of God can save.”
That’s another one we should see floating around Twitter.
But doesn’t the Bible get old? I mean, after you’ve read it several times, can you truly learn anything else from it? Don’t we need something new, fresh, and novel? Kevin responds:
“We can never outgrow the Bible, because it always means to make us grow. The Bible is only impractical for the immature, and only irrelevant for the fools who believe that most everything is new under the sun.”
I’ll end this great list with a quote found near the very end of the book. It summarizes much of what DeYoung says throughout and captures what his goals are as an author and pastor. He wants his readers to be sold-out for and in love with God’s Word rather than establishing their lives on the foundation of trivialities:
“Scriptures may seem like a light thing now, but we will feel the weight of it someday. There will come a time when it will be shown whether our lives were founded upon trivialities or realities. So let us not weaken in our commitment to our unbreakable Bible.”
Obviously, I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. I hope it helps you and that you enjoy it as much as I did.
How Christ Defeats
Darkness, Demons, and Death
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