The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung (159 pages, 2012)
I recently finished reading Kevin DeYoung’s little book on the all important topic of sanctification. The title itself gives us a clue as to why DeYoung wrote the book; he’s convinced that there’s something missing from our idea, and practice, of holiness. As he puts it, “The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it” (p. 10). DeYoung is seeking to correct an over-correction. Anyone who has an ear to the ground of evangelicalism will have heard the frequent discussions of how we need to live under grace and not the law. Or of how Christianity is about a relationship and not a religion. Or about how God only cares about the intentions of our hearts rather than the actions in our lives. DeYoung describes this tendency this way, “Among conservative Christians there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered we won’t talk about rules or imperatives or moral exertion. We are so eager not to confuse indicatives (what God has done) and imperatives (what we should do) that we get leery of letting biblical commands lead uncomfortably to conviction of sin. We’re scared of words like diligence, effort, and duty” (p. 19). In our fear of legalism many Christians have rushed to license. DeYoung’s goal is to balance the scales. His thesis is simple: “There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God” (p. 21).
How then, does DeYoung set out to accomplish his goal? The book is divided into ten chapters (most of which are around 15 pages long) with a study guide at the back of the book, whether for personal or group use, and a Scripture index. The book is not long and each chapter focuses on one central topic or idea. Some chapters address common language or ideas like, “Be Who You Are” or “The Impetus for the Imperatives” or “Saints and Sexual Immorality”. Throughout DeYoung keeps a personal and pastoral tone without watering down the force of Scripture or the testimony of the Reformed faith in any regards.
DeYoung’s main goal is to balance the scales, and I believe he accomplishes it admirably. I can think of nothing that I would change about this book. It’s accessible and winsome enough to place in the hands of the young Christian while simultaneously being meaty enough to do good to the most mature believer. DeYoung has a truly remarkable gift of presenting biblical and Reformed truths in a way that anyone can grasp. I found myself underlining and marking up my copy and I’m sure it’s a book I’ll be revisiting over the years. I found the book helpful in correcting some of my own over-corrections and helping me to better reflect the Bible’s teaching on holiness in my language and life. This would be great for personal reading, one-on-one discipleship, or even a group context (again, the study questions would come in handy there). All in all, this is the best contemporary book I have ever read on sanctification. Highly recommended!