Kevin Deyoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing Michigan (home of Michigan St.). He blogs at The Gospel Coalition and has written several books in addition to Taking God At His Word (e.g. Crazy Busy and The Hole in Our Holiness). Here, he presents readers a brief primer on the doctrine of Scripture, which is more than adequately outlined in the subtitle of the book.
DeYoung explains his purpose in writing in the opening chapter of the book:
I want all that is in 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. I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself ) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. Only when we are convinced of all this can we give a full-throated “Yes! Yes! Yes!” every time we read the Bible’s longest chapter. (Kindle Locations 145-149).
Having set out his goal, DeYoung explains using Psalm 119 what he thinks we should believe, how we should feel, and what we should do when it comes to Scripture. Toward this end he says,
While I hope this volume will motivate you to read the Bible, this is not a book on personal Bible study or principles for interpretation. Nor do I attempt an apologetic defense of Scripture, though I hope you will trust the Bible more for having read these eight chapters. This is not an exhaustive book, covering all the philosophical , theological, and methodological territory you might see in a fat, multivolume textbook . This is not an academic book with lots of footnotes. This is not a “take down” book where I name names and cite “chapter and verse” for current errors. This is not a groundbreaking work in exegetical, biblical, historical, or systematic theology. (Kindle Locations 239-244)
He realizes this might make it seem like it’s not worth reading, so he clarifies that all he is doing is offering a doctrine of Scripture from Scripture, and I would add, doing so in a highly readable way for the average person.
DeYoung takes different facets of the traditional doctrine of Scripture and devotes a chapter to each. The core of this is chapters 2-6 which cover the Bible’s trustworthiness, sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity respectively (the last four of which can be remember with the acronym SCAN). Chapter 7 looks at how Jesus viewed the Bible, while the final chapter offers encouragement to “stick with Scripture.” Ultimately,
Scripture doesn’t tell us everything we may want to know about everything. But it tells us everything we need to know about the most important things. It gives us something the Internet, with all its terabytes of information, never could: wisdom. The purpose of Holy Scripture is not ultimately to make you smart, or make you relevant, or make you rich, or get you a job, or get you married, or take all your problems away, or tell you where to live. The aim is that you might be wise enough to put your faith in Christ and be saved. (Kindle Locations 1453-1457)
The book closes with an appendix with 30 books DeYoung recommends on the doctrine of Scripture. Given the brief nature of this volume, readers who want to dig deeper into different aspects of the doctrine of Scripture have their work cut out for them. This may also help more skeptical readers find more of their questions answered. This isn’t to say DeYoung breezes over genuine difficulties (thought some might feel that way). Rather, he avoids some of the more technical issues when it comes to things like inerrancy and readers aware of those issues and wanting a more in-depth response will do well to look elsewhere. Though classifying this book as “preaching to the choir” is probably an unfair characterization, there is a certain sense in which DeYoung is writing to readers more or less on the same page as he is.
On the whole, DeYoung is right. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about his book. But, that’s ok. Not every book needs to reinvent the wheel or offer new and groundbreaking insights that will shatter the minds of theologians young and old alike. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a book that reminds readers of a long held doctrine, but does so in a fresh way. Or, it’s nice to have a book that you can give to someone who doesn’t particularly like to read but is interested in learning more about why the Bible is important.
For the most part, that’s the category I would file this volume into. I didn’t particularly geek out about it back at T4G when it first came out since I thought I could probably guess the way most of the arguments within would flow. After finally getting the eBook for review from Crossway, my initial assessment was more or less right, but that doesn’t diminish the general value of a volume like this. If you’re look for a book you could give a new Christian or a questioning Christian when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture, this is a great place to start. You may even have some questions yourself when it comes to words like “inerrancy,” and wonder if the Bible really is authoritative. DeYoung’s volume is a great weekend read on the subject and will deftly guide you through what Scripture really says about itself. And, unlike some more recent volumes on the doctrine of Scripture, this one won’t leave you on the wrong side of history.
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why The Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means For You and Me. Wheaton: Crossway, April 2014. 144 pp. Hardcover, $17.99.
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Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!