The Bible stands at the heart of the Christian faith, but people disagree about its nature and authority. Can we trust the Bible completely? Can a book written so long ago be relevant to the demanding challenges of the 21st century?
Rev. Kevin DeYoung (@RevKevDeYoung) is senior pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan.
Bible Gateway interviewed Rev. DeYoung about his book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway, 2014).
Your book seeks to answer such questions as, “Can we trust the Bible completely,” yet you begin by talking about the longest book in the Bible, Psalm 119, which you call a love poem. Why?
Rev. DeYoung: The longest chapter in the Bible is a love poem about the Bible. In one sense, I wanted to start the book with the application. Psalm 119 tells us what to feel about the Bible, how to think about the Bible, what to do with the Bible. The rest of the book is meant to lead you to the conclusion that the affections and attitude of Psalm 119 are not an overstatement.
What do you mean when you say God is not silent?
Rev. DeYoung: We don’t have to wonder where we can hear God’s voice. He has spoken in the Scriptures and promises to communicate with us through that living and active word. We don’t have to make the Bible come alive. We need living ears to hear.
Explain biblical inerrancy in simple terms and why you believe it’s at the heart of the Christian faith.
Rev. DeYoung: Years ago I was talking to a deacon at the church I was serving and I was explaining to him that the professors at our denominational seminaries would not affirm inerrancy. He asked what that meant. I told him, “Inerrancy means everything in the Bible is true. When interpreted correctly, the Bible never errs.” He looked puzzled and said, “Isn’t that what all Christians believe?” It should be, but sadly it’s not. The danger in denying inerrancy is that we must then set ourselves above Scripture, at least above parts of it. We become the final authority. Our feelings, our experience, our reasons, our journals, our parents—something or someone else must stand above Scripture and correct Scripture when we deny inerrancy.
What are the attributes of the Bible?
Rev. DeYoung: A friend of mine introduced me to the handy acronym SCAN. The Bible is sufficient: it tells us all we need for life and godliness. The Bible is clear: the essential truths about God and salvation can be understood, applied, and obeyed. The Bible is authoritative: it always gets the last word. The Bible is necessary: we cannot savingly know God without it.
What difference does believing that ‘God’s Word is enough’ make in a Christian’s life?
Rev. DeYoung: We don’t have to look for writing in the sky or consult our inner impressions like some sanctified horoscope. We won’t expect Jesus to write new love letter just for us, and we won’t look to the experiences of little children to validate our beliefs about heaven.
Portions of the Bible can be confusing and murky to some readers, yet you say ‘God’s Word is clear.’ How so?
Rev. DeYoung: The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does not teach that everything in the Bible is patently obvious. The Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, teaches that the main elements of biblical truth can be known, but this does not mean everything can be known with equal certainty. We still need study and prayer. We still have to test Scripture against Scripture. The clarity of Scripture does not obviate the need for hard work. What it reaffirms is that God is a communicative God who knows how to get across what he wants us to know.
How do you react to people who say the Bible is not in keeping with current scientific arguments?
Rev. DeYoung: Which scientific arguments? From which journal? From which century? Today’s scientific certainties could be tomorrow’s embarrassments. I don’t dismiss science. We should not take a cavalier attitude toward any serious field of research and human inquiry. If we’ve misread the Bible, let’s be humble enough to say so. But changing what the Bible says to fit popular opinion is hubris, not humility.
Why is it important for people to “take God at his Word”?
Rev. DeYoung: We all have some final authority, someone or something to whom we give the last word. If we don’t take God at his word we will look to some other word for ultimate meaning and will give to some other word our ultimate allegiance. If we can’t trust God, whom can we trust?
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Bio: Rev. DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) blogs at the Gospel Coalition and has authored or coauthored numerous well-known books such as Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (Moody Publishers, 2014), The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Crossway, 2014), and Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem (Crossway, 2013), as well as the award-winning books Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Moody Publishers, 2009) (both with Ted Kluck). He roots for “da Bears, da Bulls, da Blackhawks, the White Sox, and the Spartans.”