Read books that push you into the Bible - books that increase your love for God's Word, your insight into God's Word, and your awareness of what God's Word is.
I've heard this recommendation more than once. I've made this recommendation more than once. I've experienced the benefits of following this advice more than once. And now I'm eager to draw your attention to another book that lines up perfectly with this recommendation to read books that push you into the Bible.
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me. Crossway, 2014. 138pp.
WHAT? (WHAT'S THE BOOK ABOUT?)
From the opening chapter of Taking God At His Word, DeYoung tips his hand and clearly states what he wants this book to do: "The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible" (22). And we don't read long before it becomes abundantly clear that DeYoung wants us to believe that the Bible is a book like no other, the unique and authoritative written Word of God. DeYoung wants us to feel drawn to this book - delighting in it and captured by it (and, I'm confident he would agree, convicted, surprised, loved, comforted, corrected, taught, and a host of other emotions). In other words, the Bible should do something to our affections; we should value this divinely-given book in an identifiable way, and in a way different than we value any other book. His opening chapter on Psalm 119 ("Believing, Feeling, Doing") draws attention to this in an excellent way. And DeYoung wants us to do something because of what this book is; Scripture reading shouldn't culminate in abstract thinking but identifiable response. One response DeYoung helpfully encourages is simply to "stick with the Scriptures" (chapter 8) - to keep turning to them and relying on them and delighting in them for a lifetime.
In pursuing this goal, DeYoung's approach is to let God's Word itself have a say in how it wants to be understood and approached. As he explains on p. 24:
"This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible. My aim is to be simple, uncluttered, straightforward, and manifestly biblical. I make no pretenses about offering you anything other than a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself. I know this raises questions about canon (how do you know you have the right Scriptures in the first place?) and questions about circular reasoning (how can you reference the Bible to determine the authority of the Bible?). These are reasonable questions, but they need not hold us up here. [As an aside, DeYoung does include a helpful appendix at the end of this book, directing interested readers to further resources about the Bible.] Both questions [i.e., on canon and circularity] have to do with first principles, and a certain form or circularity is unavoidable whenever we try to defend our first principles. You can't establish the supreme authority of your supreme authority by going to some other lesser authority. Yes, the logic is circular, but no more so than the secularist defending reason by reason or the scientist touting the authority of science based on science. This doesn't mean Christians can be irrational and unreasonable in their views, but it does mean our first principle is neither rationality or reason. We go to the Bible to learn about the Bible because to judge the Bible by any other standard would be to make the Bible less than what it claims to be. As J.I. Packer wrote more than fifty years go when facing similar challenges, 'Scripture alone is competent to judge our doctrine of Scripture'" (bold emphasis added).
After the opening chapter highlights the affective response of Psalm 119 and outlines goals and approach, Taking God At His Word spends most of its time explaining and supporting the classic categories that go into a high view of Scripture: Scripture's sufficiency (ch. 3 - "God's Word is Enough"), Scripture's perspicuity (ch. 4 - "God's Word is Clear"), Scripture's authority (ch. 5 - "God's Word is Final") and Scripture's necessity (ch. 6 - "God's Word is Necessary"). The full Table of Contents is provided below:
WHY? (WHY DO - OR DON'T - YOU RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?)
I wholeheartedly recommend Taking God At His Word because - as I mentioned in the introduction - I'm eager to "plug" any book that will push readers into the Book, the Bible. And this book does an admirable job of that. By providing a simple, well-reasoned, and clear explanation of the classical Christian view of a high view of Scripture, DeYoung leads us down a well-worth path we all need to discover and revisit often.
WHO? (WHO SHOULD CONSIDER CHECKING THIS BOOK OUT?)
In my opinion, this book can't be distributed widely enough. For those who haven't been following Jesus for long, this book will be a great primer on a Christian view of Scripture. For those who have been following Jesus for a long time, this book should stir their affections for God's Word, remind them of some important truths, and state these truths in simple, clear, and compelling way. For those on the outside of Christianity looking in (whether actively seeking or admittedly skeptical), I'd still recommend this book - if for no other reason than to absorb a winsome, well-thought, and gracious explanation of how Christians approach God's Word. If you fall into this third category, you perhaps have already read a number of books throwing stones at the Bible; why not take some time to hear how Christians approach and support a high view of Scripture?
HOW? (HOW SHOULD THE BOOK BE APPROACHED?)
My only regret after finishing the final page of Taking God At His Word is that I didn't read it slowly enough. With that in mind, I first encourage others to read this book slowly and thoughtfully, pausing often to move between reading and reflection. (When I turn to this book again, I'm hopeful this is more of the approach I'll take then!) I encourage people to read or discuss the book in groups, digesting as much of it as they can. I encourage others to read and absorb this book for what it is - an explanation of the doctrine of Scripture. It is not an apologetics book defending Scripture, nor is it a hermeneutics book explaining how Scripture is to be responsibly read. Keeping this in mind is important. (Both of those other types of books are important, by the way.) And finally, let me encourage you to read this book with an attitude of anticipation - expecting to want to turn quickly to God's Word with renewed attention and delight.
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.