Review: Why We Love the Church

kinnon —  August 3, 2009 — 59 Comments

UPDATE 2: Note that the comments below lost their threading when was transferred from TypePad to WordPress – making them occasionally confusing.

UPDATED: Worth reading in light of this post (or not in light of this post), Brian Auten @ the BHT, the iMonk’s post that is partially a response to this one and Frank Turk’s series on not leaving church. (And I’ve removed a few “approvingly” adverbs, from the original post.)

I was contacted by Moody Publishers a while back to see if I was interested in reviewing Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s Why We Love the Church. I said yes. (More on that later.) Before I begin the review, let me quote a little advice on book reviewing.

Over the years, I have come to find writing book reviews even more distasteful than reading them. Part of this is my own fault, for being one of those old-fashioned holdouts who still believes that you should actually read the book before reviewing it.

Sometimes I am only into the first 20 pages of a 500-page book when it becomes painfully clear that this one is a real dog. The rest of the ordeal is like crossing the Sahara Desert—except that often there are no oases. True, the reviewer gets to slaughter the author in print at the end of it all, but this merely appeases the desire for revenge, which only real blood would satisfy.

I think the writer might be a little over the top in his 2nd graf, though he does make a point.


Reading DeYoung and Kluck’s book to the very end (Page 234), I was reminded of a scene in the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg shot a large portion of the movie in Tunisia. Most of the crew & cast came down with dysentery. On the day Harrison Ford was to shoot a fight scene – Indy’s whip against a giant’s sword, Ford suggested a rewrite – as he was rather ill. After shooting only a few segments of the scene, Ford suggested, “What don’t I just shoot the bastard?” (Apparently Ford was aware the sword-wielding giant had been born out of wedlock.)

After forcing my way through all 234 pages of this book, I’m sorely tempted to follow Ford’s suggestion. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll follow DeYoung’s advice – at least the advice he quotes from Thomas Sowell – found in this post’s first quote on book reviewing, above.

Challies nails the book when he says this,

…much of the book is a response to Leonard Sweet and William Young and George Barna and the other naysayers.

If you’re Young, Restless, Truly Reformed and in need of cheap cuts of red meat, then this book is for you. On page 208, DeYoung states, “This book has been an attempt to develop, in a pastorally sensitive and culturally savvy way (edit) a more thoughtful, biblically robust, and historically rooted ecclesiology.” To which I would respond in the language of my 20-something sons, “epic fail.”

Rather than a thoughtful and engaging book on Christ and His Church, this book’s title could just as easily have been “Why We Love Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them.” Kluck and DeYoung (who write separate chapters in the book) both quote this verse and approvingly quote other writers who say things like, “Without church membership there’s no place for the important role of church discipline (page 162).” My note scrawled in the margin screams “versus discipleship?”

DeYoung/Kluck have read lots of books on the disaffection of many Christians with the Institutional Church (see page 222) but rather than actually speaking to one or two, they instead create the straw man, Disgruntled Johnny (Page 23). It’s so much easier to create a character you can make fun of – rather than listening to flesh and blood folk from a wide cross section of the church who have left the IC. (DeYoung/Kluck might have attempted communication with a number of the voices in the People Formerly Known As the Congregation meme from 2007. But that would have required listening to people who didn’t fit their stereotype.)

DeYoung/Kluck’s notoriety came from their first book, Why We’re Not Emergent. I haven’t read it. Nor do I now have any plans to do so. But this new book, apparently, continues in the same vein. DeYoung appears to be making a second career out of being anti-emerging. His first career is as Reverend Kevin of the Bible Rust Belt’s East Lansing University Reformed Church.

Challies recently quoted DeYoung appealing to his Truly Reformed base with a rather tortured “how you will know if you’re emerging” statement. The iMonk makes this comment about it,

When I first read this, it tipped my already leaning inclination to be highly annoyed at needless stereotyping and dividing of the Christian family by things that are neither significant nor truly divisive, but simply are the perceptions and caricatures of one team over another. We’ve come to the point where portraying emergent Christians as “useless idiots” is an approved form of bigotry…

In keeping with his anti-emerging second career, earlier this year RevKev had a bit of a set-to with Tony Jones over comments RevKev made about Shane Claiborne (and Doug Pagitt – who according to the reports of statements made by RevKev, is in no recognizable way a Christian.”. For the record, I’m not a particular fan of Jones or Pagitt – but as a wise South African friend once said to me, “there’s only room for one person on the Judgment seat of God – and that person ain’t you.”) Regarding Clairborne, DeYoung opined,

…my beef with Shane Claiborne (is) that it gets to be sort of pseudo-Marxist, liberation theology lite without a robust doctrine of gospel reconciliation.

Unfortunately, RevKev had never read Claiborne nor spoke with him. His opinions were probably based on memes from within his TR tribe – opinions somewhat moderated when he was shamed into speaking with Claiborne directly. According to Jones, RevKev neither confirms nor denies the Pagitt comment.

Following the natural path of unrestrained hubris, RevKev recently decided to take on the theology of the Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, and Wright’s book on Justification. Kevin’s rapier-edged wit sees him title his final post of three on Wright, Flying Monkeys and the New Perspective. A note to RevKev; if you’re going to attempt to hunt Theological Big Game, you need to pack more than the rhetorical equivalent of an Airsoft Pistol. I’m just saying.

Now RevKev wants to protect you from thinking that might upset your theological apple cart. He wouldn’t want you confused by theological opinions that differ from his own. As he suggests when he says this about Wright’s book,

Too many dangerous spots to recommend except to those already well-grounded in the doctrines of justification, imputation, and faith alone.

That’s right kids, RevKev will tell you what you should and should not read. No reason to think for yourselves. Which leads me back to the book. It feels like DeYoung/Kluck have stepped out of the 50’s where Father Knows Best. (A quote from page 169, “Mom and Dad make the rules, with Dad leading the way.”) Pastors are shepherds, pew-fodder are sheep. And we all know what happens if sheep aren’t properly led and disciplined. They leave to gather together at Starbucks – which can in no way represent the “visible church”, of course.

And, since you are probably confused on this, the church really is a building. Because the building houses the “visible church.” Which leads me to ask the question, if the church people are inside the church building, how are they visible exactly?

On page 121, DeYoung seems to think he’s making an argument-winning statement about church buildings and the complaints of many of the dechurched about said buildings,

Here’s the bottom line: The whole conversation about church buildings is much ado about nothing. (It is interesting that DeYoung uses a Shakespearean quote from a play that deals with love and deception – deception mainly on the part of the male sex – Shakespeare taking a shot at the patriarchal society in which he lived. But I won’t bother chasing that rabbit right now.)

Really Kevin?! Is it really, “Much Ado About Nothing”?! In 2006, the American church owed 28 billion dollars in mortgages, loans and church bonds; this figure only a small part of the what’s been spent on churches in the U.S. It is commonly acknowledged that the average church in America spends 85% of its budget on it’s building and staff. Is this really “much ado about nothing.” Hardly! And contrary to Kevin’s assertions, most churches are only used to partially-full capacity a few hours a week. (Although most church staff I know are over-utilized.)

Kevin’s opinion on church buildings, is just that, opinion. It fits his world view. He doesn’t engage the arguments of church-leavers – he simply attempts to make their arguments appear irrelevant. And no doubt his TR base eats it up.

But let’s get back to the underlying theme of DeYoung/Kluck’s book, the overarching stupidity of Emergents, church-leavers and missional folk. With his vast knowledge, DeYoung categorically states that “Emergents, church-leavers and the missional folks have a vision for a planet without mourning, crying or pain (Rev 21:4).”(He means they think they can do this in their lifetime.) How does he know this? Did he hire Barna to do a poll? Or is this just RevKev’s assertion that Disgruntled Johnny et al are biblically illiterate. I know more than a few missional folk who are abundantly aware of the brokenness of creation and who look forward to the new heaven and the new earth. This doesn’t stop them from having both a hope and an expectation that Christians can and should be impacting the planet for good. What a bunch of ninnies, eh!

You may have noted by now that I really haven’t said anything about Kluck, the Laurel to DeYoung’s Hardy. Kluck is particularly taken with their new found notoriety – mentioning it many times. He loves sports metaphors. His comments on his wife’s inability to conceive and their not homeschooling their two children reveal more than I’m sure he intends to about their church culture. (Though I do appreciate Ted’s positive comments about Tim Horton’s.) Kluck even manages to upset Challies by interviewing Chuck Colson, “who, through his efforts with Evangelicals and Catholics Together, seeks to undermine much of what the church is.” Challies statement perfectly encapsulates the DeYoung/Kluck world of the TRs.

Kluck is the cheerleader for DeYoung. He loves that RevKev spends 20 hours a week preparing his sermons. And like Kevin, he seems to enjoy taking shots at McLaren, Bell, Sweet et al. (Guys, after a while, isn’t this like shooting fish in a barrel.) And Kluck is not afraid of using timeworn clichés like his ‘letter to his five year old son’ which really is a letter to you, dear reader. It just makes it easy to excuse Kluck’s patronizing tone.

Not surprisingly, I guess, I find Jesus strangely absent from much of this book. Oh sure, He appears occasionally here and there – whatever proof-texting references necessary to support DeYoung/Kluck’s thesis that Jesus was all about the Institutional Church. But, since DeYoung/Kluck resist the Kingdom of God arguments of their emergent targets, it’s best to ignore the fact that (according to my friend, Jonathan Brink) the word church only appears twice in the Gospels, whilst the word kingdom appears 116 times. We wouldn’t want Jesus’ words to screw up our carefully crafted arguments, now would we.

And just when I think DeYoung is going to say that the cure for the church’s ills is a return to its first love, Jesus, he says instead that the hope for the church is a return to the doctrine of original sin – which, in his TULIP way, he conflates with Total Depravity (Page 208).

(I should note that I do believe in original sin, I believe that the world is broken because we broke it and I believe that our sinful natures are the primary cause for the problems in this world. I believe our free will has caused us to make choices that infect and affect our family, friends, neighbours and the planet. I do not believe in a God who foreordains every action, but in a God who is not surprised by anything. As an example, the collapse of the I35 bridge in Minneapolis/St. Paul was not part of God’s sovereign plan – no matter what Piper told his young daughter.)

DeYoung/Kluck are the young celebrities of the Truly Reformed book audience. They are content to splash and scream in their end of the theological swimming pool. The rest of us are idiots for swimming where we choose to swim. (Of course, DeYoung/Kluck were predestined to be in the correct end of the pool where the water is perfectly clear.)

There is much more that I could write, but I’ve already written more than I intended. In a future post, I will make the connections to Clay Shirky, Bruce Medina, Umair Haque et al that I intended for this post. (As I mentioned previously.)

We live in a liminal space in the church. Whether or not everything must change, everything is changing.

To quote John Armstrong,

The way we gain real access to people’s minds and hearts is being altered so quickly that only those who are doing evangelism in the trenches seem to recognize the real significance and power of this hyper-change.

John quotes former Navigator’s President Alan Andrews,

In my opinion the time has come to do church differently. I am convinced that we must shift our focus from highly programmed ministry to developing Missional / Transformational Communities that are formed as a seamless organic whole. These types of communities are rare and difficult to visualize because we have moved so forcefully to programmatic ministry in the last half of the previous century. . . . Now the climate in America has begun to shift. Much of the culture is beginning to look for integrity and wholeness. Many people are coming from broken backgrounds with deep wounds in their souls. They long for something that provides real relationships, something that provides integration for their lives, and something that fills the longings of their soul. In short, though they are not aware of it, they seek the whole Gospel for their whole lives.

Roger Thoman reviews a book that I’ve ordered and am excited about, Steve Addison’s Movements That Change the World – which I believe stands in stark contrast to DeYoung/Kluck.

Jesus did not come to found a religious organization. He came to found a missionary movement that would spread to the ends of the earth.


Christianity conquered the Roman world without an organizational structure, without access to significant resources, without academic institutions, and without a professionalized clergy. Ordinary people, on fire with the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, told their families, friends, and casual acquaintances what God had done for them.

For a movement to grow rapidly it has to spread both within social networks and between social networks.

Jesus turned individual encounters into opportunities to touch whole social networks. The Gerasene demoniac begged Jesus to be allowed to join his band of disciples. Instead, Jesus told him to go home and tell his family what God had done.

My friend, Ed Stetzer, says this about the book

Steve casts a compelling future vision by tracing God¹s discernible lessons demonstrated in movements. He taps into the heart hunger of the growing number of us that want to see God do something great.

I look forward to reviewing the book myself – which leads back to the opening comment that I said I’d get to later. I won’t be reviewing anymore books that I haven’t chosen myself. If publishers wish to send me a book, that will be their choice. I will no longer agree to review what’s has been sent – unless I feel it’s worthwhile. Had I not agreed to review Why We Love the Church, I would not have. DeYoung/Kluck will not easily be ever again on my reading list – which was predestined by my reading this book of theirs.

And if you’re looking for reformed writers that are a little more irenic in their writing while not afraid of being strong, please read my friends, Darryl Dash, the aforementioned Ed Stetzer and John Armstrong, Dan MacDonald (who has just begun blogging, at last) and, of course, Jared Wilson. (Whose book I managed to leave in the city – and which I genuinely look forward to reading. As noted in an earlier post, the iMonk raved about Jared’s book.)

Please also make a point of reading this post from Michael Spencer, Checking the Pulse of the Post-Evangelical Conversation in Three Manifestos, which I believe to be an important comment on where we find ourselves now.

And, as Michael recommends, read this from the DeYoung/Kluck-despised Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola. I’m not normally a fan of Frank’s writing, but this from Sweet Viola brought tears to my eyes.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

59 responses to Review: Why We Love the Church

  1. I know how you feel about Frank, but I have to say that where he’s pointing (to Christ) is where I want to go.

  2. Now, THAT’S what I call a book review!

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve read a negative book review. I wonder if everybody who’s doing them feels obligated to be halfway positive to keep getting the free books.

    I probably would like this book, but it’s refreshing in any event to see a good old fashioned shredding. 🙂

    My (positive) review of Driscoll’s book comes out Wednesday. 😉

  4. Not a fan of this review. I haven’t read this book, but “Why We’re Not Emergent” is a very good book. It is humorous yes, e.g. “you might be emergent if…”, but Kevin DeYoung’s analysis of the emergent is very sharp. Probably the best book I have read on this whole debate is called: “Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough” in which the author tries to craft a middle way between fundamentalism and emergent theology. Believing does matter. Living does matter. Doctrine matters. Caring for the poor matters. Both matter. However, the foundation for ministry is sound doctrine.

  5. Nick,
    See the thing with DeYoung’s “you might be emergent if” rant is that stereotypes are pretty easy to cook, especially unflattering ones. I’m sure if I had time and I wanted to, I could easily concoct an unflattering “you might be truly reformed if” list myself. I know it’s a bit of joke, but if those are the strawmen that DeYoung is chasing, then he instantly undermines his whole project. Besides, what’s wrong with liking urban living?

  6. Actually Nick, the foundation for ministry is Jesus.

  7. Whatever I can do to make you smile, Jared. And I’m not sure that a writer of your calibre would like the book, though you might agree with some of DeYoung Kluck’s assertions.

  8. Susan, Amen!

    And Mark, REALLY?!

  9. Dan, I think that the ability to laugh at oneself is a sign of humility. Maybe why Emergents don’t like the list is because they are prideful (even though they claim to be humble). I think it is great when people point out our weaknesses in a friendly manner because it helps us conform more to the image of Christ.

    Bill, which Jesus? Doctrine defines what we believe and who we worship, which enables us to do biblical ministry that is faithful to God.

  10. Finally…someone who speaks truth!

  11. Bill,
    Thanks. A slashing review. Cuts like razor wire in the right direction.

  12. Nick,

    I don’t know what you were reading but DeYoung’s manner didn’t strike me as overly friendly, nor do I think that my particular critique was overly prideful. What DeYoung did was smarmy passive-aggression: Here’s my critique of you guys but with some jokes thrown in so if you beg to differ it is out of an ill-temper or lack of humour. I probably don’t laugh at anyone quite so much as myself, but DeYoung just wasn’t funny – that’s his problem.

  13. Dan,
    We really do need to grab a bite together at some point. It would be good to meet you. (You are in Toronto, right?)

    I’m gonna assume you are NOT talking about me.

    Long time, no conversation. We need to rectify that. Thanks for the comment here.

    The Jesus I refer to is the one you will find in the Gospels. You know, the one who talks about us worrying about specks in other’s eyes whilst ignoring the log in our own, or straining on gnats whilst swallowing camels.

    “Emergents are prideful” as compared to whom, Nick? Your writing would suggest you struggle with this sin as much as the rest of us. Welcome to the real Christian world of imperfect and broken people.

    And. I have no doubt, your “doctrine” defines what you believe.

  14. Bill,

    I’m so mad right now I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the review.

    My book, by the way, is totally aimed at church leavers, with a rather different take than those longing for bishops.

    mo’ later.


    p.s. I’m in a foul mood as one of my best pastor friends was terminated for being a “bad fit,” so I’m going to podcast tonight. 151 should be a doozy.


  15. Wow. I’m not sure you read the same book I did.

    What would be the right way to write a book like this, Bill, given the overwhelming tide of books and resources out there telling people that the local church is completely useless coming from all sides of the theological spectrum?

  16. The problem with the “which Jesus” question is that you can basically keep asking searching, objectivity-seeking questions ad infinitum. The rabbit hole by nature leads us to endless qualifying as to what the text REALLY means. Which Greek scholar? Which theologian? Which preacher? etc…at what point does there cease to be “one mediator?” It all becomes rather pre-Reformation Catholic looking, with smart people(usually loud, white, articulate males) in the place of the Pope. “Sound doctrine,” understood as someone else’s interaction with the text, extracting principles from it, and then telling “laymen” how to apply it goes Christless very quickly. Of lesser import, it begins violating sola scriptura- if you’re into that sort of thing. In short, it seems to me safer to let Jesus tell you “which Jesus.” Through the exact words of Scripture.

    Bill I liked your review,


  17. I also gotta ask about this:

    Christianity conquered the Roman world without an organizational structure, without access to significant resources, without academic institutions, and without a professionalized clergy.

    c. 110 this guy Ignatius from Antioch died, and he wrote all these letters. And he was called a “bishop”, which I think means something — even if it doesn’t mean “dude with funny hat and a big chair”. And he wrote to Polycarp, whom he called a “bishop”.

    And in writing to Polycarp, he wrote as if the “bishop” had specific responsibilities to people as if he had authority — “It is becoming, therefore, to men and women who marry, that they marry with the counsel of the bishop, that the marriage may be in our Lord, and not in lust,” for example. “As stewards of God, and of His household, and His servants, please Him and serve Him, that ye may receive from Him the wages [promised],” is another example from the same letter.

    So my thesis would be that there was actually a “professional clergy” and a “organizational structure” at least between Polycarp and Ignatius on or before 110 AD. And if that thesis holds up, it seems that Steve Addison’s book has a rather large hole in its historical reasoning.

    How does that work for you, Bill? Do you think that Polycarp and Ignatius were the only guys thinking like this around 110? If not, where’s that put us in terms of thinking about the earliest church?

  18. Bill, I haven’t read the book, but I have heard the reasoning from people in the same camp, and I think it incredibly sad that people are as blind to 1 Cor 14 as they accuse others of being blind to their favourite scriptures.

    My only…concern?…is that your biting critique generalises and speaks disparagingly of the so called TR’s. Is that not just doing what you accuse DeYoung and co. doing to Emergents and Church leavers?

    If it was a deliberate rhetorical device (which you probably mentioned and I didn’t pick up) then it didn’t work – for me, anyway.

  19. I agree with Frank. You clearly didn’t read the same book I did. DeYoung does a great job of disagreeing with people while remaining respectful and irenic. Maybe he just hit a little too close to home and you’re being overly defensive, I don’t know. I thought the book was simply a great defense of Christ’s bride, flawed as she is, against those who say the traditional church is not needed.

    I think it’s hysterical you take a shot at John Piper in a review of a book that has nothing to do him. Honestly, this review comes off as just a rant against reformed Christians.

  20. OK — last thing. Really.

    There’s another book that’s been out a while called /Total Church/ but Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. In spite of some of the anabaptist stuff I can’t completely agree with in there, it’s a great book about local church and the life it demands.

    Have you read it? How does it compare with DeYoung & Kluck’s book? Why?

  21. The TRs seem to want Church, but not too much church. It’s interesting to watch the same folk who make the “visible church” arguments against the Emergents come unglued from the other direction over the Federal Vision.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy August 6, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I assume “Truly Reformed (TM)” means Utter Predestination and Obey The Anoinited Without Question?

    Why don’t they just tack “AL’LAH’U AKBAR!” onto the end and drink it straight on the rocks instead of watered down?

  23. >…the overwhelming tide of books and resources out there telling people that the local church is completely useless..

    I think most of what you need to know about this discussion can be found right there.

  24. Thank you, Bill.

    Jesus came to save sinners, and in the process give them a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, not pile legalism on their backs. I think many of our Reformed brothers forget this.

  25. Jesus came to save sinners, and in the process give them a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, not pile legalism on their backs. I think many of our Reformed brothers forget this.

    Umm, a tad bit of a generalisation there, methinks.

    (Note: If you are not used to understatement, what I mean to say is you are making a HUGE, SWEEPING generalisation.)

  26. great stuff bill. love the honesty

  27. Frank,

    I am completely unconvinced that there is a tide of books saying the church is “useless.” There is a tide of books rethinking the church, revisioning and rescuing the Biblical message of the church, and much of that disagrees with the current reformed interest in high ecclesiology, authoritative pastors, church discipline over doctrine, etc. As Driscoll said, to question is to be rebellious. I see that those books are annoying, but I don’t see that they are saying the church is useless.

    IOWs your comment seems to be hanging a straw man book summary on the usual emerging straw man.

    I don’t agree with all these people say, but their critique is useful to many people.


  28. Frank
    I think I spell that out in my review. DeYoung Kluck, who spent time interviewing Christian Celebs – even one Challies doesn’t like, should have spoken with a cross section of church leavers – and framed their book as a reasoned and loving response to that perspective. Instead, they chose to respond to predominantly “emerging” books – thus making this book truly a sequel to their “Why We Aren’t Emerging”.

  29. Ignatius and Polycarp would not recognize the church and its polity, today, Frank.

    The word Bishop (as you, no doubt, well know) is an Anglicization of the Koine Greek word – episkopos – which simply meant (at that point) an overseer or elder. Might I humbly suggest that rather than an organizational structure, Ignatius and Polycarp were in relationship as presbuteros or episkopos in the Body of Christ – I don’t want to be seen as arguing from Viola’s playbook here as I think Ben Witherington made mincemeat of Viola & Barna’s Pagan Christianity argument.

    As well, your Ignatius quote suggests he saw his role as counselling and overseeing people in his local church – rather than a hierarchical role over the wider church.

    But let’s save our further joyfilled or angry critique of Addison’s book ’til its in our hands. (If Stetzer liked it, I’d suggest it has more than a modicum of historicity.)

  30. Awesome, review, man. I’ve never looked at this book, but I have flipped through “Why We’re Not Emergent..” Flipping through it was enough. Partly because I’ve been on the other side of the “ranks,” and have sympathized in the past w/ folks like RevKev, I feel an extra little sting when reading about these types. I’ve even written a book from “the other side,” so to speak, and, if I had it to do over again, probably would have some different things to say. But oh well.

    You’re spot on about setting up straw-men Johnny’s to tear down — it saves you the dirty work of actually .. you know.. relating to people.

    Thanks for this review. I really enjoyed reading it.

  31. Whose doctrine, Nick? Jean Cauvin’s? Martin Luther’s? Jacob Arminius’? Pope Benedict’s? John Stott’s? Cornelius Van Til’s? Tim Keller’s? J.I.Packer’s? Katherine Jefforts-Schori’s (God Help Us!)? Rowan Williams’? Tom Wright’s? Peter Enns’?

    What flavour of doctrine do you subscribe to, Nick?

  32. 151 was another good podcast, iMonk! I recommend your podcasts highly. (Other than when you talk about baseball, of course.)

  33. Frank,
    I should add that I’ve appreciated your recent series on Church Leaving – and the need to operate from a position of love, love and more love. I’ve linked to it at the top of the post.

  34. Thanks, Nate. And I would add that too many of us seem to have a truncated understanding of the Trinity. We seem to think the Holy Spirit is taking a long vacation somewhere – and is not interacting with us as we read Scripture, pray and discern – whilst God, the Father & God, the Son angrily await someone coming up with the correct interpretation of the Scriptures – or being willing to die on the correctly interpreted hill.

  35. Ali,
    I appreciate your comment and have been rebuked by a friend privately for what he saw as me “gushing venom” at the Truly Reformed. I will do my best to tone the rhetoric down in the future. (How successful I will be remains to be seen – broken sinner that I am.)

  36. Matthew, may I humbly suggest you look up the definition of respectful and irenic – and then go back and read the book from the perspective of those who are not Truly Reformed. And yes, my review is simply a “rant against reformed Christians” – which is why I recommend five different Reformed Christians as actually irenic and respectful writers in your tradition. All of whom have had a positive impact on me – not one of them afraid to take strong positions from that tradition and defend that position ably. And I really should have added Tim Keller to that list.

  37. Send me a copy and I’ll read it, bro? 🙂
    Or perhaps someone in the Toronto area might have a copy to loan me.

    I should note that I’m reading Jared Wilson’s new book, Your Jesus is Too Small – and loving it. And Bro Jared is thoroughly Reformed in his theology (rather than being a cage-phase TR).

  38. Thanks, Andrew.

    I look forward to seeing videos from you soon of all the cool things God is doing in Europe and points beyond.

    And thanks for the TSK-lanch that has added to the iMonk-lanch. Lots of folks dropping by this nanonode on the interwebs as a result of Michael’s and your posts.

  39. Thanks for your kind response, James.

  40. Michael, I think the scariest thing I’ve ever read from Driscoll is the statement that “to question is to be rebellious.” He must have removed Paul’s praising the Bereans from his ESV Study Bible. (Note to readers: I own a copy and appreciate much, if not all of the notes in this Study Bible.)

    Of course, I was once fired from a senior megachurch leadership position because I dared question the senior pastor and his wife – and the scar still itches from time to time. I look forward to being able to tell that story more fully in the not too distant future.

  41. Is it normal to want to stand and applaud for a review? Cause I kind of want to do just that.

    Thanks, Bill. I feel rather alone in my struggles with the TRs and you’ve articulated much of my thinking but much more brilliantly.

  42. Bill,

    Thanks for the review. I’ve heard good and bad about this book, all from people I respect and trust.

    I find many of your ideas to resonate with me, but throughout the review I kept getting distracted (read: Frustrated) with your seemingly endless attempts to demean DeYoung/Kluck as people.

    “Kevie” seems to be nothing more than a way to diminish DeYoung’s standing in your reader’s eyes. Why not do that with the facts, rather than by name calling?

    I’m sure DeYoung has worked hard enough for the kingdom to deserve a little dignity? yes?

  43. Bill,

    Timothy emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine. This is what I mean by doctrine.


  44. Greg Gilbert’s short piece called “Give Me Doctrine or Give me Death” is relevant to this discussion:

    link to,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2249932,00.html

  45. Michael —

    I’d love to do a title-for-title summary with you on the top 50 books in the category of church critique — the books which, today, are having the most imfluence on the conversation about the value of the local church.

    I’d suggest we use the top 50 by sales or the last 50 titles in that category. The summaries would look like this:

    Title, Author
    2-sentence summary based on chapter content.
    Q#1: does this book recommend committed fellowship in a local group with mature believers leading spiritual formation?
    Q#2: does this book offer any scripture to support its recommendations?
    Q#3: if the average evangelical followed the recommendations of this book, would it result in more people being united to the local church?

    we’re busy guys each, I know, but if we did the top 50 books in this category, how many would have a “yes” answer to even one of the 3 Q’s? How about 2? I suggest that fewer than 5 would have 3, but we should test that theory.

    So I’m game if you are. It would mean some weekends in the local bookstore for me, but it would be worth it. I would even let you suggest all the titles.

  46. “Rather than a thoughtful and engaging book on Christ and His Church, this book’s title could just as easily have been “Why We Love Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them.”

    Bingo. You nailed it. I live close to ground zero of the Young Restless and Reformed movement in the SBC where that badly translated verse sums up their focus.

  47. awesome

  48. David,
    I appreciate your comment and have responded by changing all the Kevie’s to Kevins.

    Kevie was a response to the straw man created by Kevin and Theodore; their mockable “Disgruntled Johnny.”

  49. You said “useless.” “The church is useless.” You didn’t say “falls short of the Biblical ideal. You didn’t say might lead people somewhere other than what you consider a good church as you read scripture. You said “useless” and that was all I responded ot.

  50. Disillusioned Pilgrim August 8, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Oh man – this emergent vs reformed stuff makes my calvinistic un-destined head hurt.

    Why don’t we just put Kevin, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Driscoll and Deepak Chopra in a room with a baseball bat, and follow the guy that staggers out at the end of it…

    I love your review. Absolutely love it.

    I sit in terror at the thought Driscoll believes that questioning = rebellion.

    Questions are quite often the lifeline that keep me hanging on!

  51. ‘ However, the foundation for ministry is sound doctrine.’

    Wrong. The foundation of ministry is love. It was never mandated by Jesus for us to be right. Thank God! Relationship with Him is not founded on being right. Doctrine, I grant you, is important, but is certainly not foundational. Jesus is foundational, not being right.

  52. Sorry… I was too eager, and did not finish reading all comments… Bill beat me to it…

  53. Fantastic review. Thank you.

  54. What about “Disgruntled Johnny”? Doesn’t HE deserve a little dignity from Kevin and Theodore?

  55. Bill – Writing as a young reformed guy who loves and appreciates the ministries of guys like Piper, Keller, and Driscoll, let me say I also loved this review.

    I love the honesty and I also love the points you made. Really, I can’t say it better than you or the iMonk already have. I think the biggest issue here is that Christians need to learn to take criticism well. And if anyone should be capable of it, it’s the Reformed with their emphasis on total depravity. Yet somehow we find it easier to be defensive and lash out when criticized. I know, I (entirely too often) do it myself. But at some point I hope and pray that we can learn to lovingly give and receive criticism, understanding that it comes from a brother or sister whose heart is like our own.

    Thanks for the review, I appreciated it tremendously.

    peace from a reformed brother

  56. DeYoung’s manner is far from friendly

    sure being able to laugh at oneself is a sign of humility, but theres a difference between jocking (which one can laugh along with) and mocking (the difference being slight in tone and vast in freindship)

    it’s more than obvious to anyone that Deyoung is by no mean a freind of emergent and I for one am tired of so called discerning leader’s who seem to get off on by having all their frat boy’s round and laughing at the geek in the postmodern corner (or PJ’s and mommies basement)

  57. Bill,

    It’s a fair statement/question: which Jesus?.

    Websites like yours and Grace’s, for example, regularly shred everything to do with Todd Bentley and similar self-proclamed apostolic wanna-be’s (and rightly so).

    But in order to take these kind of stands against Bentleys and their kin, you are making theological, doctrinal decisions. You are drawing a line in the theological sand and saying “you are out of bounds”.

    Again, the “which Jesus” is a reasonable (and extremely important) question to ask.

  58. Bill,

    Yessir, I’m in Toronto, and yes we should get together at some point in the near future for a bite. I reckon you can glean my email from my comment (assuming typepad works like wordpress). Let me know when is good for you.

  59. Pretty dogmatic your “wrong”. I don’t believe that any one reading the gospels could say that Jesus did not repeatedly and clearly say that right beleif was absolutely foundational to salvation i.e. “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but by me” and Jesus’s constant question “who do you say I am?” I could give several hundred more examples. I think you are confused on what doctrine is and who Jesus is. Doctrine or theology is the study of who God,
    Jesus is. The apostle Paul minces no words when when he tells you how to respond to one who brings you a different Jesus. Also as sinners we need an objective morality to define what love even is, this is not found in ourselves but in propositional scripture. I am also being dogmatic as I accused you of being only because scripture is dogmatic and unapologetic on these points.


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