“The hole in our holiness is that we don’t seem to care much about holiness. Or, at the very least we don’t understand it”.
That “hole” is what has motivated Kevin DeYoung to set his pen to writing. The result is a little book entitled The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Many have been waiting this “ruthlessly biblical” treatment of holiness. And those that attended T4G and heard DeYoung’s message there (which seems to have found its home in chapter six of this book) knew that this book was going to send shock waves throughout the gospel-centered movement.
The book begins with DeYoung’s defense of his book and explaining his desire to fill the gap that seems to be in the gospel-centered movement. For the first six chapters DeYoung, with his typical wit and faithful treatment, lobs a few correctives to the gospel-centered movement and slowly begins establishing a case for having a passion for holiness alongside our passion for gospel centrality. In the last four chapters he begins to make his case practical and explain the biblical categories of union and communion.
Union with Christ, says DeYoung is the “irrevocable work of the Spirit”. He notes that, “nothing can make us a little more or a little less united.” Compartively, “Communion with Christ…can be affected by sin and unresponsiveness to God’s grace”. For all of our emphasis on union with Christ, DeYoung wants to see the church also have a passion for pursuing deeper communion with Christ. And that is the central theme and purpose the book.
I’m a little lost at how to review this. If these chapters were separate blog posts from Kevin’s blog, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, then I would have probably linked to almost everyone of them in my Today in Blogworld feature. By themselves each one is tremendous. Kevin is a tremendous writer and it shows throughout this book. He has a way of making you laugh, punching you in the gut, applying the gospel, and then making you laugh again as you close the book up and go about living your life all the while having been profoundly changed throughout.
There is nothing in this book that leaves me shaking my head and saying, “whoa, this dude has gone off the deep end”. The correctives that he mentions are needed and helpful. Personally, I appreciate him saying, “It’s not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do.” (54) And I further agree with him that those of us within the gospel-centered movement can without an equal emphasis on holiness end up “confused, wondering why sanctification isn’t automatically flowing from a heartfelt commitment to gospel-drenched justification”. (91)
So why am I confused in how to review this? Mainly because this is a book review and not a review of several separate blog posts put together. In my opinion the book is confused as to its audience and overall purpose.
I think had DeYoung decided he wanted to only write a book about the hole in the gospel-centered movement and our lack of emphasis and promotion of holiness then it'd have been better. Or even if he wanted to write a book simply on holiness and how it comes about. But I think he tried both and it didn't seem to fit together. Honestly, it reads kind of like an associate pastor that finally gets to preach and decides to try preaching 4 sermons in the time frame of 1.
That is why I am conflicted. If you were to ask me, “What is the main thesis of the book” I think I would say that DeYoung believes that there is a hole in our gospel and that we need to start emphasizing personal holiness as well as gospel passion. And as he points out that hole in the gospel he wants to fill it with a robust theology of holiness. The book is an attempt to point out the hole and then fill it.
But does he do it?
Time will tell. Part of me wants to say that the book is awesome and one of the better books written in the last couple of years. But the other part of me wonders if it is just a bunch of really awesome truths and statements that wind up simply jarbled around in my skull but not as life transforming as they could have been had I been given a few pegs to hang them on.
Part of me does not even want to mention that criticism. The book is superb for the most part and I would feel comfortable putting it in the hands of anyone in our congregation. It is, as Piper says on the back cover, “ruthlessly biblical”. And I would never discourage anyone from buying a book that is ruthlessly biblical. There are whole paragraphs in the book that inspired me, encouraged me, convicted me, and drove me to re-examine ways that I say things. The book has proven helpful for me. I’m simply left wondering if the lack of cohesiveness and confused audience will get in the way of leaving a lasting impact.
At the end of the day, though, I would highly recommend this book. It’s possible that the lack of cohesiveness is a problem with my brain and not Kevin’s typewriter. He’s a tremendous author, speaker, and seems to be a humble man of God. So, I’d be happy to chalk the fault up entirely to myself. And I would greatly encourage you to shuck out 10 bucks and get a copy for yourself.
You can buy it here.