This is the second of a four-part series of reviews looking at Kevin DeYoung'sThe Hole in Our Holiness.
Holiness is an essential mark of God's people, but it's all too often ignored and dismissed. Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in Our Holiness asks readers to think again about this too-often neglected call. He underlines how passé the subject can seem these days and how resigned many Christians are to a sense of wanting to pursue other themes, lest they be either overwhelmed (no one finally succeeds at holiness) or legalistic (no one finds life in merely following the law). The consequence is what DeYoung sees as the "hole" between what we believe about God's purity and what we do to inhabit and live out that holiness ourselves.
DeYoung examines various facets of the biblical call to holiness and considers some of the strongest voices for holy living within his own Reformed tradition. He writes with theological conviction and passion, laying out a case for the recovery of faithful character and piety as one of the highest priorities of Christian pastors, leaders, and laity alike. Surely DeYoung is right about how needed holy living is among God's people, because it is both our calling (it's intrinsic to identification with our holy God) and our mission (it's essential as an authentication of our new life in Christ).
I respect and share much of the vision for holiness that DeYoung lays out. He underlines themes that the church, including me, needs to hear. I found myself both encouraged and challenged by his desire to pursue purity of thought and action in all aspects of my life, and I would think others will react likewise. He writes out of a pietism that will no doubt be familiar and defensible to many of his readers, even at a time when holiness itself may seem on the wane as a popular Christian theme.
I wish, however, that DeYoung would have spent more time exploring two additional themes: first, what lies beneath both the biblical call to holiness and so much of the church's—not to mention the culture's—dismissal of it; and second, the public implications of a holy life.
DeYoung dwelt more on New Testament letters than on the Gospels, often neglecting the ways Jesus worked to recast our understanding of holiness. Thus, his reading of some of the letters seemed less informed by Jesus' ministry among, with, and for the unholy than I would have wished. Jesus scandalized himself by pushing the culturally and religiously shaped boundaries of holiness. In doing so, he set those who follow him on a different course. DeYoung seemed to take a more predictable route. He seemed to take many biblical texts at a verbal level and didn't sufficiently explore questions of context and meaning. This approach fails to help the reader understand why and how God measures holiness, which makes it more difficult for many to understand the Bible's continuing relevance today.
Internal and Individualistic
God's people are to be holy. The character of our hearts, minds, and actions is to mirror God's own. We are to live into the breathtaking moral vision created by and for God's glory. To pursue a holy life means leaving our small, inverted lives behind in order to lean fully into the surprising freedom and life-giving righteousness of God. Awakening to God's sense of what is good and true and beautiful delivers us from a self-serving moral vision that is often petty and trivial, and replaces it with a moral imagination defined by nothing less than the depth and scope of God and God's kingdom.