Book Review: Taking God At His Word

Taking God At His Word:  Why The Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, And Enough, And What That Means For You And Me, by Kevin DeYoung

As someone who has ready plenty of books defending the plenary inspiration of the Bible [1], this book came as somewhat of a disappointment.  As it happened, I discussed this book briefly with a coworker and we commented on the different sorts of apologetic works that we preferred and what approaches we found most convincing.  This author’s approach, unfortunately, fell a bit short.  It is possible that the author was intending on speaking to the choir here, but given that he shows a pattern of working in the area that has already been (more ably) written about by others in search of popularity and an audience, the author’s efforts here are particularly disappointing.  It would have been a far better book to enjoy, even as I agree with many of the points (although not many of the author’s specific arguments) that he is trying to defend, if the author had been more ambitious in defending the Bible from history as well and not so set upon using presuppositional apologetics, or so intent on writing about the sufficiency of scripture and not the goal of relationship between God and man that scripture helps in.

Be that as it may, this book is at least short in containing 8 chapters and an appendix of great books about the Bible in about 125 pages or so.  In this book the author begins with the difference between believing, feeling, and doing (1).  As might be imagined, given the author’s Calvinist position, that the author disparages believing and feeling that lacks the doing.  After that the author discusses the Bible as something more sure (2) than our subjective interpretations and understandings.  The next few chapters demonstrate the author’s conviction that God’s word is enough (3) for salvation, clear enough (4) to be well understood by readers, final (5) and not in need of any sort of later tradition, and necessary for salvation (6).  Again, none of this is something I would disagree with, except to point out that the Calvinist position is presented here in a false trilemma with Catholicism and liberal Christianity while the author’s own Calvinist doctrines are not as sola scriptura as he would like to believe.  The book then ends with a discussion on how Christ’s Bible is unbreakable (7) and how readers should stick with the scriptures (8) and presumably those books like this one that seek to aid in the understanding of the scriptures.

Ultimately, it was the author’s rhetorical dishonesty and lack of self-awareness that made this book less than enjoyable.  Even agreeing with many of the larger points the author was trying to make, it was less than enjoyable to see him engage repeatedly in poor rhetoric to make those points.  Admitting that his view was tautological towards the beginning of the book in limiting his discussion to internal proofs of the Bible was rather poor form, for example.  Likewise, not understanding that the Hellenistic hostility to the Sabbath and the false view of the plan of God and nature of God that his worldview includes makes his attack on the traditions of the Catholics somewhat self-defeating as well.  A better writer would have sought to defend tradition more ably and realized that the Calvinist view too depends on extrabiblical traditions and particular views about interpretation that are not obvious from the scripture alone.  But it appears that for the most part the author is not really someone who wants to push for deeper ground, although his appendix on great books of the Bible demonstrates at least that he is aware of deeply difficult and challenging and potentially worthwhile books that others have written, and that is something.  Perhaps the best part of the book is the appendix, which at least suggests great (and generally Calvinist) books written by others more talented than this author.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/12/17/book-review-who-wrote-the-bible/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/02/24/book-review-the-case-for-jesus/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/28/book-review-the-dawn-of-christianity/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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