Having recently read several tomes on the subject of sanctification, as well as some popular but misguided books on the same topic, it was refreshing to turn to DeYoung’s little book dealing with the same doctrine. The Hole in Our Holiness is gracious, readable, full of scriptural engagement and, most importantly, biblical. Written to balance Tulian Tchividjian’s liberate theology (although Tchividjian is never mentioned by name), DeYoung both addresses the errors in Tchividjian’s Radical Lutheran view on sanctification and clearly presents scriptural support for the classical understanding of growth in holiness.
Liberate theology has pitted gospel against obedience, seeing gospel as grace-based and injunctions to obedience as law-based. The idea is that, as we preach the indicatives of the gospel and what Christ has accomplished for us, preaching the imperatives are unnecessary and force believers back under the law. By preaching the finished work of Christ, and placing little emphasis on commands we most likely grow in Christian maturity, although growth is not assured or necessarily even expected (pp. 19-20). By contrast DeYoung argues that imperatives (the call to effort and obedience) flow from the gospel (pp. 19, 55-56), are at the heart of the Great Commission (pp. 16, 45), and are found everywhere in Scripture (pp. 24-30). The author assures us that holiness is not perfection (pp. 33-38, 66-67), rather it is the renewal of God’s image in us, marked by virtue and a clean conscience, involves obedience, and is Christlikeness (pp. 38-47).
DeYoung understands the difficulty of knowing the place of the law in the life of the Christian (p. 50) and so devotes a good chapter discussing its role (chapter four), clearly demonstrating that love and law are not enemies (p. 53), and providing an excellent list of biblical motivations (pp. 57-60). DeYoung is not advocating behavior modification and rightly recognizes God’s involvement in our sanctification. But this does not negate our efforts which should be spirit-powered, gospel-driven and faith-fueled (pp. 80-89). Understanding our identity and union with Christ is also vital as doing so leads to solidarity, transformation and communion (pp. 94-105).
Perhaps the most practical chapter deals with sexual immorality (chapter eight). This chapter could be used as a helpful counseling tool, as well as for personal challenge. The author encourages use of normal means of Christian growth as found in the New Testament – Scripture, prayer, fellowship and the Lord’s Supper (pp. 129-134).
The Hole in Our Holiness is a valuable resource and reminder of our need to pursue personal holiness and the means whereby we are to do so.
The Hole in Our Holiness Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 159 pp., paper $14.99.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel