Books

REVIEW: Taking God At His Word, Kevin De Young

Review of Taking God At His Word DeYoung, Kevin. “Taking God at His Word” Crossway, 2014. 316 pp. The oldest argument humans struggle with is wondering if God really wants us to be happy. That struggle then leads to the question of whether God is really dependable. This is the argument and fear that took root in the Garden of Eden and has stealthily encroached our minds for centuries. We wonder, “Who are we? Why are we here? What is our origin, our purpose, our future? Where do we find satisfaction, peace, people to trust?” These epistemological and philosophical questions that relate to our existence and the very existence of God are all addressed within the text of the Bible, explains Kevin DeYoung in his latest book, Taking God At His Word. DeYoung guides the reader through the issues of sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of the Bible. As these four issues break down, the character of Christ, the debates surrounding inerrancy, and the human response to, understanding of, and affection for the Scripture are all discussed. DeYoung uses clear language, customary wit, and plenty of Scripture references as he guides this conversation. The book explains that the belief is widely held, even by people who do not claim to be Christians, that Christ’s teaching were of value and contain a certain level of truth. If, however, the Bible is not completely true, then the teachings of Christ are negated. If Christ is not God and the Bible is not inerrant, then God is undependable and truth is debatable or non-existent. Beginning with an analysis of Psalm 119, the book urges the readers to begin thinking about their own feelings about and interactions with the Bible. Moving through the chapters, DeYoung discusses practical ways to demonstrate responsiveness to the Bible. He moves into deeper examples of sufficiency, discussing redemption’s complete work. He proposes that the use of extra-biblical material, such as accounts of Heaven from people who have nearly died and share accounts of their time in Heaven do nothing to enhance the already completed accounts in the Bible. He outlines the problems posed when humans want reconciliation between confusing texts. De Young states, “ We must not separate epistemology (that is, our theory of what we know and how we can know it) from the rest of theology.” (p.143). He provides a interesting discussion about how texts that seem confusing, in actuality, complement each other. DeYoung’s conversation on the finality of Scripture relates to God’s existence. If God is true, then there is finality, or authority, in His Word. While discussing the necessity of Scripture in our lives, he states, “What makes the Bible utterly unlike any other book – religious or otherwise – is the unsurpassed grace we encounter in its pages. We need Scripture because without it we cannot know the love of God.” (p. 193) These issues of inerrancy are the spokes in the larger wheel of redemption. He builds his arguments clearly into a strong conclusion, discussing II Timothy 3:16, inspiring Christians to maintain their faith in Scriptural inerrancy. “It’s not necessarily a sign of growth to move past the faith of your childhood, and not necessarily a weakness to believe the same thing throughout your whole life. What an inestimable privilege to be acquainted from childhood with the sacred writings. The ultimate reason for Timothy to stick with the Scripture goes far beyond Lois and Eunice. But at their feet is where he first learned to trust the word of God. Which is no small thing, and not to be tossed aside for anything in the world.” (pp.245-6). This statement is a foundational philosophy for people raised in the Christian tradition, holding to inerrancy, and responding to the Bible with honor and respect. On a practical level, he considers the idea that the strength found within the Bible gives grace to our lives. He elaborates that the truths of the Bible help us through hard times, inspire us to care for others, to pray, to know ways to kindly share truths. The oldest question, “does God want me to be happy?” is answered completely within the Bible, as are the wheres and whats and whys of life. But in order for these answers to make sense, we must actually read, respond to, and believe the words of the Bible. We must take God at His word, believing that redemption is complete, that truth is from God, and that He is the giver of good things. Taking God At His Word travels through the questions that often arise when considering the truth of Scripture. It is an encouraging discussion that would benefit anyone, at any level, to inspire and to remind that God is faithful, His word is true, and His goodness never ends. NOTE: This review is written as part of Crossway’s Beyond the Page program, which graciously provides complementary copies of books to the reviewer.

 

 

REVIEW OF: “Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books”

Reinke, Tony. “Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books” (Crossway, 2011) $15.99

As the child reader who always had a book with her, who now loves to scribble down written words, the title Lit! and accompanying cover illustration of books placed in an eternal circle were irresistible to me.  A book about the reading of books sent me diving excitedly into Tony Reinke’s Lit!

The book contains two distinct sections.  The first section is philosophical, the second, practical application. Initially, Reinke discusses the plethora of reading options accessible to modern society.  With innumerable options available, readers are hard pressed to make decisions about what they want to read.  A reader, or a non-reader who wishes to read more is rarely faced with a shortage of titles, but rather with a lack of decision-making helps when choosing a book.  Readers but have limited time and do not wish to waste time on something uninteresting, uninspiring, or unpalatable.

In his first five chapters, Reinke establishes baseline theories, worldviews, and doctrinal positions for Christian readers as he traces the theological and historical implications of the written tradition. He constructs a clear and logical breakdown of concepts such as infallible versus fallible writing, images versus print, worldview development, discernment issues, and Christian versus non-Christian authors. Active readers will find this section theologically refreshing, but inactive readers will find the section quite informative as a starting point for choosing literary selections.

Halfway through the book, Reinke breaks into sheer brilliance as he discusses imagination and how reading enhances the imaginative experience. I found his section on the imagery used in Revelation to be inspiring.  The reader will find that Reinke connects the relevance between images and Christian response in a concise manner.  His analogy that,        “neglect of imaginative literature of Scripture… leads to some degree of spiritual atrophy,” was incredibly precise and is a concept that Christians should be carefully consider (p. 263).

The last half of the book gives very helpful and practical ideas for incorporating strong reading skills into everyday life.  A helpful suggestion is to plan out genres and styles of reading material that one hopes to read. This technique allows a reader to read several books at a time, in different settings, with different attention levels, incorporating literary skills more frequently into everyday life.  Reinke shares personal tips he uses regularly to avoid wasting time, to make use of down time, to avoid overusing electronic distractions, to mark notes into a book, and to integrate reading into family life with his children.  He gives excellent suggestions for making reading a part of Christian communities, listing ideas for reading groups that bring people of common minds together.  He suggests that pastors enhance the literacy of their congregations by acting as,  “biblio-shepherds,” peppering their sermons with allusions to the best literary selections and having excellent books on hand for referencing and lending.

I admit I encountered some violated expectations with the content of the book.  I was hoping for some weighty literary criticism, theory and discussion.  Once I ascertained that I would not find these discussions within the book because its purpose was more practical, I was able to put my inner struggles aside and enjoy the book for its informative, Christian reference and reminders.  If a reader is looking for a book on themes and literary techniques and implications to Christian artistry, he or she will be slightly disappointed.  If one is a seasoned reader, this book will serve as a reminder rather than a challenge.

However, this is an excellent book to recommend to every college student in a Christian institution on the responsibility of reading well.  It is a perfect book for pastors to use to refresh and remind themselves of the importance of literary discipleship.  And it is an inspiring and motivating book for lay Christians who need to discipline their minds to read more frequently, more deeply, and more intentionally.

“Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books'” value is especially found in its theological aptitude and clear wording.  Reinke commandeers concise discussions over a variety of topics with grace, understanding, and precision.  His clarity in integrating Biblical world views into reading priorities and selections is a superb gift to the Church and Christian readers of any level.

NOTE: This review is written as part of Crossway’s Beyond the Page program, which graciously provides complementary copies of books to the reviewer

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