Thursday, July 14, 2011

Agreeing and Disagreeing with Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is an intelligent, gifted, and funny theologian, writer, and speaker. He is also senior pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI. DeYoung is one of the new generation of Reformed writer/speakers who will eventually be handed the leadership of the Reformed mantle in this country from men like John Piper, Albert Mohler, and R.C. Sproul.

DeYoung fascinates me because I agree with him very much on some things, but at the same time disagree fervently about others. When it comes to theology in general and salvation in particular, I couldn't agree more with almost all of what DeYoung has to say and write. He also has much wisdom about living out the Christian life in general. One book that he has penned, entitled Just Do Something, provides a great deal of solid advice for Christians trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

I disagree, however, with DeYoung on almost everything that he writes about the workings of the church. I'm referring here specifically to the institutional side of church life. This is no surprise coming from a man who wrote a book called Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (I'm not making up that title by the way). DeYoung is a full supporter of the current Reformed way of church life. He fully embraces the things you would expect: large buildings, salaried pastors, multiple programs, planned services, and the preaching of sermons to the church. DeYoung certainly believes in more than the few things I've listed; I'm simply trying to show that his views about the shape and functioning of the church fall in line with most of American Protestantism today.

DeYoung has a very high respect for the scriptures. I have no doubt that he desires to interpret them correctly. So why do we agree on some things but disagree on others?  Part of it obviously has to do with the fact that we are both faulty humans.  Neither of us has perfect knowledge or understanding. However, I think something else is going on as well.

The gospel, on which we heartily agree, leaves little to no "wiggle room." There are certain clear things you must believe in order to be saved - the core doctrines of the faith. The biblical writers give no options about believing in the divinity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the necessity of faith in Christ, etc. The scriptures are also clear that a new creation will live a changed, if imperfect, life. This means fruit bearing. Because the gospel and its ramifications are so clear, there is little room for disagreement among Christian brothers - like DeYoung and me.

When the bible discusses the church, however, there does seem to be a bit of wiggle room. We know that the church is all saved people of all time. What I'm referring to is the living out of church life together in the here and now. The bible certainly has instruction for us in this matter, but this information is not as black-and-white or clear-cut as what we see about the gospel itself. Issues such as church gatherings, leadership, women's roles, preaching, use of money, etc. are all important. Despite this, the bible often does not provide us with direct, imperative statements that match what it provides regarding the gospel. Because of this, DeYoung and I disagree on a lot about the church.

Although I don't know him, DeYoung and I are brothers in Christ. This unites us. Because of the clear-cut gospel, we are redeemed brothers. Within that unity, we disagree heartily about much regarding the functioning of the church. This is somewhat understandable in light of the way the scriptures discuss the church.

My hope is that we (all of us) will embrace our unity in Christ as we discuss church issues on which we might not find agreement. These conversations should not divide us; instead my desire is that they bring us closer together as we seek biblical truth.


Scott said...

I feel like they had to say about "house churches" is fair and accurate.

Many that are frustrated with high levels of organization opt to bypass this by establishing a house church. They claim that house churches are God's original design. But they fail to recognize one fact: "The Christians met in homes for three hundred years because their faith was illegal. They didn't have anywhere else to meet, which is why buildings started popping up after Constantine decriminalized Christianity" (120).

Furthermore, "a Roman house, especially with the courtyard, could be quite spacious, allowing for up to one hundred people in attendance" (120).

Here's the bottom line: The whole conversation about church buildings is much ado about nothing. You have to meet somewhere. Even if you don't own a building, presumably your worship gathering does not meet in a random, always-changing, undisclosed location (unless you're facing persecution). You do have some address. There is some place where your church meets. (120, 121)

DeYoung and Kluck do not write off house churches as a legitimate expression of faith, but they take issue with those who assume that only house churches are legitimate expressions of faith:

If house churches have good preaching, good leadership, good theology, intentional discipleship, appropriate structures, rich worship, and administer the sacraments and practice church discipline, then I don't care if they meet in my basement. House churches aren't the only way to do church, but done right, they are a way.

But that's the key: House churches are a way, not the way to do church. Churches meeting in homes is not the problem. The problem is that "house church" in America often means anticlergy, antiauthority, antiliturgy, antisermon, antibuilding, anti-most ways of doing church over the past 1,700 years. (179)

Quotes by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck other comments by Rich Vincent of

Eric said...


Thank you for your comment, but that wasn't really the purpose of this post. I have dealt with the arguments DeYoung makes about house church many times already. This post was about being unified despite our disagreements. I'll just leave it at that.