Review: Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me

by Apr 10, 2014Books, ChurchLife, Theology2 comments

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and MeTaking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great stuff, no complaints. I always profit from DeYoung. He succeeded in showing, from the Bible, that the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough.

He gets three stars only because I’m grading him against his own high standards. He’s an expert popularizer, gifted to humbly and memorably teach the church from the Bible using good current scholarship. He makes me think of a children’s author I heard recently talking to the New York Times, who said that his great challenge was to be like Rocky and Bullwinkle: entertaining a fun for the kids but offering enough tidbits of interest for the parents that they are kept engaged and entertained as well. DeYoung is great at that. The Hole in Our Holiness was, in one sense, a fairly simple book expositing fairly basic passages on sanctification. The “kids” could get great profit. But he managed to zero in on a topic that a lot of advanced, mature Christians really needed to process theologically—the necessity of personal effort toward holiness despite the specter of legalism.

I just felt like this new book was a little too demanding for the “kids” and was on a topic that the “adults,” as it were, don’t really need to hear about. Mature Christians already know these things about their Bibles. Right? I sure hope so. And if I’m right, then I’m not sure who the audience for this book is, and I’m not sure DeYoung knows, either. His popularizing gifts didn’t “sing” for me with the topic of bibliology, perhaps because he wasn’t targeting a distinct need among Crossway’s normal readership, the kind of need that brings out shining insights.

Instead I got a fairly standard conservative evangelical (I won’t say “Reformed,” except the annotated bibliography leans that way) treatment of bibliology which is not quite down to the popular level. Who in this book’s likely audience, for example, is really tempted to a Barthian neo-orthodox bibliology? This book just seems like a slightly popularized and homileticized set of bibliology notes from a systematic theology class somewhere (maybe not Gordon-Conwell).

I did get some good points from the book. I liked this line: “All truth may be God’s truth, but all saving truth is revealed truth” (no page; audio version). And I’d never heard anyone else ask of the blind men and the elephant story, “What if the elephant talks?” Brilliant. And I immediately put to good use in a Sunday School lesson on the Bible’s clarity DeYoung’s insight that God expected his word to be clear enough [ed.: even to unregenerated people in the old covenant] that he held them responsible (see the prophets) for breaking it.

So do not read this review as a complaint. I’m glad I read (listened to, actually) this book. It was edifying. I’m not sure who needs it, but maybe you know someone. Give it to them with confidence in its doctrinal soundness and clarity.

Thanks to Christian Audio and Crossway for audio and Kindle review copies of this book, respectively.

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  1. Ian Columba

    Thanks for the review. I would quibble with your third paragraph, especially this line: “He wasn’t targeting a distinct need in the evangelical marketplace.”

    The problem with this statement is that there really is a huge drift within evangelicalism on the authority of the Bible. Maybe the conservative evangelicals like himself are coalescing and gaining momentum, but they are far from the majority.

    Just pick up Four Views on Biblical Inerrancy to see the divergence within evangelicalism.

    • Mark Ward

      Actually, I agree with you completely. After I hit “publish,” I re-read that and I thought, “I should have said, ‘within Crossway’s readership.'” I’ll edit this on GoodReads and here.