Friday, May 23, 2014

"The Good News We Almost Forgot" by Kevin DeYoung: A Review

The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century CatechismKevin DeYoung is one of my favorite authors.  I read his book Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be when I was doing research on the Emerging Church and have since read a number of his other books. One book, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism was one I was interested in reading, but was almost certain I would not enjoy.  But I was pleasantly surprised.

The book covers the Heidelberg Catechism first written in the 16th Century. Admittedly, this sounds like a boring subject and certainly not one to sell books.  There are 52 chapters to be read over the course of a year (1 chapter each week).  Each chapter deals with a number of the Question and Answers sections of the catechism and the author walks the reader through it diving into the biblical and theological truth and its relevance.

The catechism itself has three main parts:  The Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer.  Most Christians are familiar with these three (especially the latter two) and so are familiar with the issues that are raised in the catechism.

Deyoung offers sound (Presbyterian) theology.  DeYoung is not apologetic regarding his Presbyterianism and does not back down from some of the more controversial aspects of it (like infant baptism).  But outside of the clear distinctive between Baptist and Presbyterian theology, I find little to disagree with in this book.  DeYoung has a gift of offering difficult (and many) theological subjects into quick 4-5 page summaries that cover the issue that almost any reader can understand.  An excellent example of this is his chapter on the Trinity.  Though thousands of books have been written on the subject, DeYoung manages to summarize the Biblical data and theological orthodoxy in a matter of a few pages.

One of the best parts of this book regards DeYoungs concern for the application of various doctrines.  The catechism tries to do this, but Deyoung is better at it.  One of my biggest frustrations as a former seminary student and current pastor is that most Christians consider doctrine pointless and it is our fault for this.  Instead, what we need to convey is the necessity and benefit of knowing and studying theology.  Everybody is a theologian whether they want to admit it or not.  DeYoung shows us how practical sound theology really is.

DeYoung offers one of my favorite quotes I've read in a long time.  In his introduction, he writes:  "The chief theological task now facing the Western church is not to reinvent or to be relevant but to remember" (13).  He's right in so many ways.  This is what is so brilliant about writing a book on a 400 year-old document.  If God is immutable and the gospel is transcendent, then the doctrines of then remain with us today and do not need an update.  Too many in evangelicalism today miss this point.

I would encourage any and all Christians to dive into this text.  For those new to theology will find it difficult at times, but it is necessary nonetheless.  Each chapter is short and the book is designed to be read over time and not necessarily at once (though one can do that).  I also encourage everyone to read Deyoung's other books and listen to what he has to say.  He is setting himself up to be a major leader in the future of Christianity.
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