Monday, February 29, 2016

"The Hole in Our Holiness" by Kevin DeYoung: A Review

My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to. (11)

Holiness is anything but cool; even in the church. That, in essence, is the hole in our holiness that Kevin DeYoung speaks of in his book The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. There has been a blessed emphasis in recent years on gospel-centeredness, but DeYoung is concerned that we have failed to apply gospel-centeredness to godliness.

What DeYoung offers is a standard book on holiness for a new generation. That's a compliment. Each generation needs such books (I immediately think of MacArthur's lordship books as examples of this in previous decades). DeYoung walks the reader through a theology of holiness and why we should pursue it.

For those familiar with the theology of holiness, you will be familiar with the content of the book. For the most part, DeYoung does not say anything new (again, another compliment) or profound. He simply sticks to the biblical text and writes as a pastor-theologian. There are, however, two sections worth highlighting.

First, the law ain't all that bad. Certainly we must run from legalistic religion and all forms of moralism. That is not subject to debate. However, in pursuit of not being legalistic, many fail to appreciate the law. DeYoung states that "There is nothing sub-Christian in talking about obedience to God's commands" (52). This then leads him to make what, I believe, a profound point:
Some Christians make the mistake of pitting love against law, as if the two were mutually exclusive. You either have a religion of love or a religion of law. But such an equation is profoundly unbiblical. For starters, “love” is a command of the law (Deut. 6:5Lev. 19:18Matt. 22:36-40). If you enjoin people to love, you are giving them law. Conversely, if you tell them law doesn’t matter, then neither does love, which is the summary of the law. . . .

Let’s not be afraid to land on law—never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it. It’s not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do. It’s not inappropriate that our counseling exhort one another to obedience. Legalism is a problem in the church, but so is antinomianism. Granted, I don’t hear anyone saying “let’s continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). That’s the worst form of antinomianism.  . . .
The world may think we're homophobic, but nomophobia (fear of law) may be our bigger problem.  (53-55)
I believe he is right. Scripture calls us to obedience and so we must obey.

Second, DeYoung's chapter on sexual sin is a necessary but tragic reality. He penetratingly writes:
Sexual immorality is one of our high places. I'm afraid we - and there is an "I" in that "we" - don't have the yes to see how much the world has squeezed us into its mold.

If we could transport Christians from almost any other century to any of today's "Christian" countries int he West, I believe what would surprise them most (besides our phenomenal affluence) is how at home Christians are with sexual impurity. It doesn't shock us. It doesn't upset us. it doesn't offend our consciences. In fact, unless it's really bad, sexual impurity seems normal, just a way of life, and often downright entertaining. (108)
Again, I think he is right.

Overall, this is a helpful book that would be good for every Christian and pastor to consider. There is a hole in our holiness and it is something we must take more seriously. Given the Tchividjian sanctification debate in previous years, I assumed some of that would be introduced here (I realize this book was written before the Gospel Coalition controversy) would address those issues. Nevertheless, this is a helpful primer on the subject of holiness.

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