gospel

Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness (Kevin DeYoung)

Where have all the Christians striving to be holy disappeared to? Why do so many Christians now think it’s old-hat to live a holy life? Somehow it’s become more widely accepted that Christians don’t need to work hard to be like Jesus Christ. This isn’t just a crying shame; it’s depressingly unbiblical. Yet it isn’t surprising, as believers increasingly allow themselves to be absorbed into the world’s system without so much as a second thought. In general, most professing Christians seem to believe that holiness isn’t worth pursuing. The subject has managed to become controversial even, but that didn’t stop author Kevin DeYoung from tackling it in The Hole in Our Holiness. And perhaps best is how Kevin does, as Pastor John Piper quaintly states on the back cover, “This book is vintage DeYoung–ruthlessly biblical.”

Kevin aims to answer three questions in the book:

  • “What does it mean to be holy?”
  • “Why should we care?”
  • “And how can we change?”

Every Christian and every church should ask those questions, and learn the answers well. We must know what it means to be [holy] like God, why it’s critical to care, and what is necessary for us to make progress toward holiness. As written on the book’s inside flap, discussing holiness is more and more important because “too few Christians look like Christ and too many don’t seem all that concerned about it.” Yet after finishing THIOH, I’m refreshed and enthusiastic…not despondent or discouraged, to join DeYoung in what should be the Christian’s response to I Peter 1:14-16.

If you didn’t catch it before, this holiness stuff is controversial. In a world where more and more people, including Christians, call evil good and good evil…Kevin’s arguments and challenges are timely and a necessary wake-up call. At the beginning of THIOH, Kevin compares what he thinks is the general Christian’s attitude toward holiness to what his is toward [outdoor] camping, that it’s for “other people” to do and enjoy. He further suggests that Christians who give up pursuing holiness do so because there seems to be too little return for the investment. Yet any thinking like that about holiness ignores the reality that holiness is the same thing as obeying God! DeYoung even begs us to consider Heaven as a huge reason why Christians should be thirsty for holiness, as Heaven will be a holy place. He asks, “If you don’t like it (holiness) now, why would you then?”

If that isn’t striking enough, the second chapter got me thinking as it lays out the truth that God saves sinners so they will be like Him. And it makes sense, given the explanation [in chapter 7] that Christians are to be who they are….. in Christ! The problem is, as outlined in chapter three, that so many Christians (myself as well) tend to stray toward rule-keeping, generational imitation, generic spirituality, looking for our true selves (silly!), and perhaps worst of all, the world’s system. Instead, as chapter four declares, we should be more like Jesus Christ as the years go by. We should have a life increasingly marked by biblical virtue, and regularly enjoy a clean conscience because we’re in such lock-step with the Savior that our accounts are short with Him and the Spirit’s fruit in us is abundant!

And what of God’s laws (chapter 5)? You can’t really have a conversation about holiness without thinking of the Torah, the Ten Commandments, where God especially describes His character through commands. Yes, Christians absolutely are not under the [Mosaic] law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). However, Kevin makes a very valid point that holiness requires that we know, understand, and obey God’s laws…not as a means to be saved, but to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) You just can’t do that without obeying Him, and we obey by following His laws! You can’t separate love from law, and vice versa. Even the apostle Paul wrote that he wouldn’t have known sin had it not been for the Law (Romans 7:7).

Squirming yet? Well you can relax a bit now. Kevin does encourage us with the fact that Christians actually please God! We don’t do this on our own of course, but because we are in Christ, and God is pleased with Christ, what Christians do is actually capable of pleasing Him! We should remember that [chapter six] point every single day. We should also always remember we can’t do anything, let alone be holy, without the Spirit’s power, the gospel truth, and faith in Jesus Christ (chapter 7). And on the flip side of that, God gave us wonderfully functional minds and bodies so we could work at becoming more holy! Holiness is really a spiritual workout, not something God spoon-feeds us (I Timothy 4:7-8), so it shouldn’t catch Christians by surprise that becoming more holy isn’t exactly easy! Yet the rewards, the spiritual dividends are worth every bit of eternity they’re paid into.

The chapter on immorality (8) could have been its own book. You won’t finish that chapter without experiencing some conviction. And I could go on and on discussing the book, but you probably get the idea of what The Hole in Our Holiness brings to the table by now. We need its every challenge, encouragement, and wake-up call.

Kevin’s message is essentially that holiness requires a close relationship with the Savior (chapter 10). It requires taking seriously God’s demands that we be like Him. And it takes great courage and boldness to practice personal separation from the world and its God-less system (I John 2:16). If you’re a believer that’s convinced it’s time to care more about really following…really obeying the God who created and saved you, please pick up a copy of The Hole in Our Holiness as soon as possible and prepare for an intense look at your heart. You need it, just like I did.

A Brief Response to Ken Ham & Bill Nye Debate

Yesterday, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” joined Answers in Genesis president and co-founder Ken Ham on-stage at the wonderful Creation Museum to debate the concept, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” If you didn’t watch the live online stream and still wish to see it, the archive recording is available below. Bill Nye participated to support the theory of evolution, while Ken Ham defended the biblical [Genesis] account of creation as pertains to the origins of life and material. I enjoyed watching the debate, and below is a brief list of my personal reactions.

Ken Ham/Bill Nye Creation/Evolution Debate

1) Alleluia! Praise God, millions have heard the good news!
I laud brother Ken Ham for his many instances of sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so boldly, clearly, and necessarily…with bits of personal testimony. I was touched and full of praise to our almighty God when Ken made such comments, because he couldn’t have had a more perfect opportunity to offer them to such a wide audience. Many now have heard the good news of Jesus Christ come to earth as the Son of God to die for filthy sinners such as I!

I do wish that Ken would have asserted from the get-go when Mr. Nye started making his “Ken Ham’s model” and “Ken Ham’s flood” comments that creation and the flood, etc, are God’s doing and responsibility. Bill’s real issue is with the Bible and its Author, not Ken Ham and/or AiG. Ken did clarify that towards the end of the evening, but it would have been helpful to do so earlier. Alas, no debater is ever perfect.

2) Bill Nye clearly knows nothing about the Bible.
I thought it was very interesting, given that this was a debate, that Mr. Nye couldn’t demonstrate knowing much of anything about what the Bible actually says or teaches. Ken Ham obviously knows plenty about evolution and associated ideas. Bill’s most ardent comments to refer to God’s word came in the form of “That ancient book written 30 centuries ago translated into American English.”, as if that gives evolution any credence. He even tried to accuse Ken Ham of cherry-picking verses and passages that only he liked in order to support creationism. I thought this was very sad, and it’s really indicative of the atheist community at large. Most that deny the existence of God seem to know nothing about the Bible, or argue against it based on things they’ve merely heard, or cherry-pick verses themselves that the majority of the time are taken out of context in order to support their claims.

3) Brother Ken and Bill Nye both demonstrated that man will never come to know everything.

Then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Ecclesiastes 8:17

Ken Ham is perfectly content knowing man won’t discover the majority of the universe’s facts. It’s just the way it is; God intended it that way, as you read from Ecclesiastes above. Sadly, the self-proclaimed reasonable man, Mr. Nye, declared that all his joy comes from the endless pursuit of this knowledge. And for what? Sure, many discoveries are wonderful to come upon and do well to benefit society, but if Bill is correct in that there’s nothing left after this life…what’s the point? Ken asked that as well. Thankfully there is an eternity of indescribable joy awaiting believers in Jesus Christ as we fellowship in Heaven, and I sincerely hope that The Science Guy will come to know Jesus as his Savior and thus join us for it!

4) Believers must be courteous and gracious, no matter how much unbelievers scoff and mock.
I was encouraged that neither Bill Nye nor Ken Ham ever resorted to character assassination during the 2.5 hours or so of speaking. I wasn’t encouraged by Mr. Nye’s arrogant and ignorant scoffing at the Bible, and belittling of Ken and “his followers” by basically suggesting that young earth creationists are loopy whacko-birds. This is a great reminder for Christians. I really wouldn’t be surprised if there were chat-rooms across the internet filled with Christians and non-Christians engaged in bitter slandering, being altogether cantankerous to one another during the debate. But the Ham/Nye forum serves as a needed reminder that Jesus Christ commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to show perfect courtesy to all (Titus 3:2). Scoffing right back at scoffers does not please God. Mocking mockers right back dishonors the name of our Savior. Truly born-again Christians will do well to remember this.

5) The absolute truth of God’s word will never change no matter how many debates take place here on earth.
It’s so comforting that Jesus Christ [and the truth of His word] is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That means we never have to worry about debates, and whether the Christian involved manages to win or not, or if they looked good. We can leave the silly mainstream media outlets to analyze that nonsense. Yet the truth of the Bible will never waver; its contents will always be the truth, even if only one Christian were to be living on earth at some point. So though Ken Ham is a gifted apologist and was unlikely to falter in presenting his arguments, I hope no follower of Christ actually worried about the reputation of God by the time all was said and done last night.

Altogether, I’m so thankful that Ken Ham reached out to Bill Nye “The Science Guy” to do this, knowing full well that there would very likely be no change of heart on Bill’s part. That wasn’t Ken’s responsibility anyway, nor is it his ability. That’s the Spirit’s job, and God’s decision whether or not Mr. Nye ever repents and believes in Jesus Christ. For now, Nye will continue in his God-given days convinced that he’s the reasonable one and the authority on all things scientific. But let us Christians pray that this man will humble himself before the God he’s rejecting and put his trust in Jesus Christ. Let us also continue to intercede for brother Ken and AiG as they press on to share the truth of God’s word as it relates to both observational and historical science. Last night was all about authority, which lies clearly and only with God’s word.

Recommended book: The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years (Ken Ham)