Friday, March 15, 2013

The Hole in Our Holiness

Throughout the last year or two I have begun a list of essential reads for every Christian. Among these are Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, which explains the true costly grace of following Christ as opposed to the cheap grace presented by the modern church. Another is C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, which I have not reviewed on the blog yet, but which I hope to make an annual read due to it's insightful critique on our war with the underworld.

An Anglican, and a Lutheran. Such a combination provokes a good deal of thought, which further compounds when I add today's review to the list: The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung.

DeYoung pastors the University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, a member of the RCA denomination. Earlier this year, some friends of ours referenced his blog when introducing us to the hilarious Bored Shorts on YouTube, and after that, my further acquaintance with his works grew by leaps and bounds. From reading his blog every so often (though I still haven't sat down to read his articles on "The Dangers of Being Crazy Busy") to finally picking up one of his written works, I have been more than impressed with what I see.

I've been convicted, affirmed, and encouraged.

Earlier last year I pricked up my ears when I heard news of his new book release "The Hole in Our Holiness". Not only was it a powerful title that gave me joy simply from the standpoint of literary excellence (much different than the upcoming release What We Talk About When We Talk About God) it also bid fair to address an issue that the Church is facing today in America.

What does it mean to be holy? In my experience, much of the Church considers the idea of holiness to be a prudish one in the light of Christ's sacrifice for us on the cross. Others consider holiness impossible, due to our sin nature. Some, like me, considered holiness an indispensable calling and a reachable goal. But very few exist in the latter camp. Is holiness an impossibility? Is it an idea of legalistic righteousness that kills the life and joy of the Church?

Without further ado, friends and fellow bibliophiles, I present The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung.

The Book

I had to laugh. When I started this book, I was fully determined to write down all my favorite quotes, so as not to forget them when we had to return it to our friends. After writing down almost the entirety of a section in the first chapter, I realized that note-taking would be impossible without plagiarism. This book simply requires a highlighter. And that's a very good thing.

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. And we all have our reasons too: Maybe the pursuit of holiness seems legalistic. Maybe it feels like one more thing to worry about in your already overwhelming life. Maybe the emphasis on effort in the Christian life appears unspiritual. Or maybe you've been trying really hard to be holy and it's just not working! Whatever the case, the problem is clear: too few Christians look like Christ and too many don't seem all that concerned about it.
This is a book for those of us who are ready to take holiness seriously, ready to be more like Jesus, ready to live in light of the grace that produces godliness. This is a book about God's power to help us grow in personal holiness and to enjoy the process of transformation. --The Hole in Our Holiness, book flap
You've probably heard something like this before: "Praise God for Jesus' salvation! All my righteousness is as filthy rags, and I could never, ever, ever, ever be deserving of Him for one moment."

That's a way.

But not completely. If holiness were impossible, then why would God command us to "Be holy, because I am holy"? (1 Peter 1:16) If "by their fruits ye shall know them", then it is a plausible premise that, as Christians, we are capable of producing fruit pleasing to God. And here's where a call to holiness comes in to play.

Why did God save you?
...Maybe you've thought about how God saves us, or what we must do to be saved, or when you were saved. But have you ever considered why he saved you?
There is more then one right answer to that question. The Bible says God saved us because he loves us (John 3:16) It also tells us that God saved us for the praise of his own name (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14) Those are two of the best answers to the why question.
But there is another answer--just as good, just as biblical, just as important. God saved you so that you might be holy. Pay attention to the purpose statement in this passage from Ephesians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him...that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph. 1:3-4)
-The Hole in Our Holiness, Chapter Two 

Kevin DeYoung discusses why we are redeemed, what Christian growth should look like, the necessity of moral imperatives for the Church, why Godliness is possible, and who we really are in Christ. With numerous Scripture references and notes, his biblical thesis is an encouraging and enlightening call for purity in the body of the believers.

My Thoughts

The Hole in Our Holiness is a family-friendly read, with the exception of chapter 8, which is entitled "Saints and Sexual Immorality". It's a great chapter, and warns us that we're not being as tight as we should be in keeping sex out of our thoughts and entertainment. But it's a mature one, and not for young readers, though it is appropriate for older ones.

What I most appreciated: how this book answered some questions that had been niggling in the back of my mind for years. Common statements about how we are and always will be worms of sin before Christ always bothered me, and now I know why. DeYoung also explained the difference of being with Christ and being in Christ, two different and essential aspects of the Christian walk. And his unabashed biblical literacy showed me yet again that there is a remnant of uncompromising believers, even in the Bible Belt.  To follow more of Kevin DeYoung's teachings, check out his blog here.

It's a small book that carries such a powerful message. If you've ever had questions about legalism, sanctification, or what being like Jesus requires, then The Hole in Our Holiness should give you some answers.

Definitely on my list of essential reads for every Christian.

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. BBC's Cadfael, Season 4, is now available on the "Movie Reviews" page!


  1. Dear Lady B,
    Oh, wow! It sounds like an excellent book! That's something I don't totally understand either, so maybe it would be nice to read it sometime... (if it's a good book for someone on the younger side of teens! ;) :D )
    Great post!

  2. Thank you for this post! It sounds like a wonderful and helpful book...I had never heard of it before. Holiness is a very misunderstood topic in our culture, I think. It is difficult not to fall into the deceptions of either legalism or worldliness, both of which are a terrible reproach against the power, the grace, and the sufficiency of Christ. I don't know how many times I have caught myself either walking around bearing guilt and trying to compensate by "being good", or exploiting God's mercy to satisfy my flesh. Both are so arrogant when viewed through the lens of Scripture and the story of the Gospel. If only we loved Him perfectly, we could follow Him perfectly....
    I am so thankful for His strong love that saves us and His wisdom that keeps us humble. Thanks again for bringing this book to our attention.

    The Philologist


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