Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
I’ve been assigning one theology book to World Journalism Institute students: Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Next time I’ll add a second, Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word (Crossway, 2014). It has fewer pages (127) than Psalm 119 has verses (176), but if you read it you may not view that psalm, and maybe the whole Bible, as you did before.
DeYoung rightly calls Psalm 119, the Bible’s longest chapter, a love poem “not about marriage or children or food or drink or mountains or sunsets or rivers or oceans, but about the Bible itself.” That’s important, because some who profess faith in God find the Bible boring—yet when we’re in love the object of our love does not bore us.
As DeYoung writes, “When we deny the complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures … we are forced to accept one of two conclusions: either Scripture is not all from God, or God is not always dependable. To make either statement is to affirm a sub-Christian point of view.” DeYoung wants us to love in the Bible “not just the obviously theological parts. Not just the memorable stuff. Not just the parts that resonate with us. All of it—history, chronology, philosophy—every truth the Bible affirms ought to be taken as God’s truth. Every word in the Bible is there because God wanted it there.”
That’s important to remember. I’ve sometimes been guilty of thinking I don’t like a particular biblical injunction but still have to obey it because it’s in the Bible. DeYoung writes, “On one level, this is an admirable example of submitting oneself to the word of God. And yet, we should go one step further and learn to see the goodness and rightness in all that God commands. … His demands are always noble, always just, and always righteous.”
DeYoung’s faith that God “does not give orders so that we might be restricted and miserable” has many practical applications in an era when Christians come under fire for holding a countercultural position on women preaching or homosexuals marrying.
An ingenious exegesis
When I finished reading Taking God at His Word on my treadmill, with my spirit encouraged and my legs not yet dead (because it’s a short book), I picked up N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Scripture (HarperOne, 2014) and examined in chapter 2 his speculative attempt to read theistic evolution into Genesis.
Wright offers a “proposal: that just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation. This pair (call them Adam and Eve if you like) were to be the representatives of the whole human race, the ones in whom God’s purpose to make the whole world a place of delight and joy and order, eventually colonizing the whole creation, was to be taken forward.”
I like Wright and am glad that God called him to speak to his British countrymen about the truth of the resurrection. I appreciate his ingenuity in paralleling Adam’s exile from the Garden with Israel and Judah’s exile from their garden land in 722 and 586 B.C. But here’s the problem: The Bible speaks in prose, not poetry, about God making Adam from the dust, and Eve from Adam. I don’t disbelieve the testimonies of theistic evolutionists who claim belief in God (although most should be called deistic evolutionists). I do wonder how strong their faith in the Bible is, since most propound a view of the creation of Adam and Eve very different from what the Bible teaches.
If we take God at His word, hominid theism—convenient though it is in making Christians evolutionarily correct—bites the dust. My column (see “Married to Darwin” in this issue) has more on theistic evolution, as does DeYoung’s internet article, “10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam.” —M.O.