The Hole In Our Holiness Goes Even Deeper
Of course, the hope and failure of human beings to live such holy lives, including and especially God's people, occupies a central place in the Bible's portrait of our human dilemma. Made to flourish as creatures in God's image living in the fullness of the communion of Father, Son, and Spirit, we turn away from God. We choose a life resolutely bent towards ourselves, other people, and things instead. God's act of salvation culminates in Jesus Christ's life, death, resurrection, and gift of the Spirit, making a way for unholy people to be made holy. In Christ alone lay the unique means by which human beings are offered the way of salvation—a way of true human flourishing given to those adopted by grace into a new life in Christ. To live in Christ means thirsting to become those who embody God's holy life to each other and to the world.
A full-orbed vision of holiness, then, cannot be limited to matters of individual piety. That's why it's so unfortunate that DeYoung sticks largely to themes of holiness defined in internal and individualistic terms. The book did not ask compellingly practical questions about what public piety looks like. How does the pursuit of holiness call us to rethink the consumerism that captures the church as much as it does the surrounding society? How does our call to live moral lives that reflect the God we worship force us to reconsider various idolatries of power that God's purity would surely cast down and redefine? How might a call to holiness undergird and renew, for example, attitudes towards race and class? For an American church that often seems to believe that bigger is better, how does true piety call us towards a vision that is truer and deeper? How does piety call us to greater risk in sacrificial love, forgiveness, mercy, and justice? These are among other questions that surely would have made DeYoung's book richer, and would have moved it beyond more traditional, if neglected, categories.
DeYoung's book addresses and encourages important elements of a holy life. The hole in our holiness, however, seems deeper, larger, and even more urgent than the author suggests.
Mark Labberton is director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Theology. A contributing editor for Leadership Journal, he is the author of The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus (InterVarsity Press) and The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice (InterVarsity Press).