Author Archives: Kevin DeYoung

A Fleeting Tolerance

Excellent insights and, unfortunately, prescient words from David S. Crawford writing in Humanum in 2012 on same-sex unions and two versions of tolerance:

This last point concerning the legal value of moral disapproval of a majority suggests another theme in the courts’ reasoning–the sharp distinction between public reason and private morality. The claim of the traditional arguments’ irrationality is of course made in a civil and legal context. The courts emphasize repeatedly that they are only addressing “civil marriage,” that is to say, marriage insofar as it is a juridical creature of state legislation. This limitation allows them to say that they are not mandating a moral position, but only making a judgment about what the law requires. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code” is a claim piously repeated by the courts. The Goodridge court appears at least to acknowledge the legitimacy of citizens’ deeply help convictions on both sides of the “gay marriage” issue. The implication would seem to be, then, that the issue of “gay marriage” transects two distinct domains–the public and the private–and that, if the traditional arguments are not civilly or legally rational, they may be rational — and therefore morally sustainable — in contexts other than civil or legal one, where broader religious and moral starting points are relevant and may be decisive.

The courts seem, therefore, to offer a kind of settlement of the issue, by means of the distinction between the public and the private. …

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Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

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These sober lyrics, set to a somber tune, make for an ideal Lenten hymn. The opening line draws from Isaiah 53:4 and its description of the Messianic Suffering Servant: “We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” In verse two, we are forced to consider the depth of Christ’s passion, his groaning, his betrayal, his insults, and his unmatched grief. The deepest stroke that pierced him, however, was the stroke that divine justice gave.

Sometimes we hear the cross described as a symbol of how precious we were to God. This is true, so long as we understand that we were not some diamond in the rough that irresistibly drew God to us. The cross …

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Monday Morning Humor

Here’s hoping your special services this week go better than this one. Skip ahead to 1:20 for the action…

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Not That Bright

I had read John 1 hundreds of times before. But this time I got stuck on verse 8: “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.”

“Huh,” I thought, sitting up straight and staring at nothing in particular for a minute or two, “that’s a word I need to hear as a pastor.” More than that, it’s a word I need to hear as a Christian. Here’s John the Baptist–pretty important guy, wildly popular prophet, forerunner of the Messiah, just about the greatest person ever born of a woman (Mt. 11:11). And when the Holy Spirit takes a moment to introduce him in John’s prologue, He wants to make clear: John the Baptist was not the light.

Hey pastor, have you forgotten that this whole church thing isn’t about you? Have I forgotten that it’s not about the size of my church, the number of compliments I receive, or the reach of some nebulous social media platform? I am not the light. Never have been. Praise God, I don’t have to be.

Hey mom, do you remember whose perfect example your kids need to see? It’s not yours. It’s Christ’s. Do you remember who alone can save their souls? Same deal.

Hey ministry entrepreneur, have you forgotten what really matters? It’s not what you can build. If you know how to be a ministry success without bearing witness to Christ, rethink your definition of success.

Hey missionary, have you lost sight of why you left home in the first place? …

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Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Holy God, We Praise Your Name

This is the first installment of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

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A few people reading this post can remember World War II. The rest of us know about it from movies, books, and television. The war ended 65 years ago, which seems like the distant past if you’ve used email your whole life. But it’s recent history compared to the U.S. Civil War (1861-65), which feels like yesterday compared to British Civil War nearly four centuries ago (1641-1651). Think of how the world has changed in 400 years. The growth of cities, the car, the plane, the computer, indoor plumbing, the rise of democratic capitalism, the transformation of agriculture, the first European settlers in America—400 years was a long time ago.

And yet, you have to go back another …

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RCA Approves University Reformed Church’s Transfer to the PCA

On Saturday afternoon the Great Lakes City Classis (formerly the South Grand Rapids Classis), one of forty-five classes in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), approved University Reformed Church’s request to transfer to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). As a condition of its transfer, together with all its real and personal property, University Reformed Church (URC) must pay its annual assessment for 2015 and 2016 (roughly $80,000 total) and pay an additional $200,000 so that the classis can plant another church in the area.

I’ve written before about how URC voted to leave the RCA–first as an internal “discerning the mind of the congregation” vote and second as an official part of the transfer process. There was some confusion after these earlier votes that URC had actually left the RCA and joined the PCA. But in RCA polity a church’s departure is not a unilateral decision. We needed approval from the classis (the regional governing body in the RCA) in order to transfer into the PCA, especially if we wanted to transfer in an orderly way with our church building and without any legal wrangling.

The classis committee investigating our petition recommended that our request be denied and we not be able to leave the RCA. The classis, however, approved a substitute motion which granted URC and its pastors a transfer into the PCA. A proposed amendment to strike the $200,000 requirement from the substitute motion failed. The final vote to approve the substitute motion, with the …

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Concerning the True Care of Souls

I think it was in college when I realized that I could actually read the famous authors that I was used to just read about. To read Calvin or Augustine or the Didache on my own was a thrilling discovery. Primary sources are sometimes harder, but almost always better. So I always enjoy reading old, dead saints.

A few years ago I was working through Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer. Kudos to Banner of Truth and translator Peter Beale for giving us this never-before-in-English treatise from the great Strasbourg Reformer (with a fine historical introduction from the late David F. Wright I might add). Bucer (pronounced Butzer), is best known nowadays as a mentor and formative influence for John Calvin, but he was an important Reformer in his own right. Born in 1491, Bucer spent most of his ministry in Strasbourg, Germany and finished his life teaching at Cambridge. His passion as a Reformer comes through in the (very) full title (aren’t you glad we have dust jackets today?) of this 1538 work:

Concerning the true care of souls and genuine pastoral ministry, and how the latter is to be ordered and carried out in the church of Christ: Here you will find the essential means whereby we can escape from the present so deplorable and pernicious state of religious schism and division and return to true unity and good Christian order in the churches. Knowledge which is useful not only to the congregations of Christ, but …

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Why Did Christianity Grow?

If you’ve never read anything by Rodney Stark you are missing out on a lot of educated provocation. Stark’s arguments are always intriguing. I don’t agree with everything he says and I wish he would do more to allow for supernatural explanations, but on the whole I find him full of good sense and delightfully iconoclastic.

A few years ago I made my way through one of his best known books, The Rise of Christianity. Stark, in debunking a number of historical myths, tries to explain from a sociological perspective “how the obscure, marginal Jesus movement became the dominant religious force in the western world in a few centuries.”

Here are thirteen ways, drawn from Stark’s arguments, how we might answer that question:

1. Christianity drew from the worldly, accommodated religious communities of the time. It is hardest to find converts among the serious religious, easiest to get them from those who are most secular or nominal in their commitment.

2. Christianity probably drew its converts, in large part, from the upper class. Privileged classes tend to be the most skeptical about God and most unaffiliated. Thus there are more of them to be won to new religions. If, that is, they are dissatisfied with what they have found in the world.

3. Christianity spread because the Christians cared for each other in times of sickness and disease. Their communal compassion both staved off death and served as an example to outsiders of the transforming power of the Christian faith.

4. The first …

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Who Was St. Patrick?

The question in the title of this post is worth asking for at least two reasons: (1) many Americans will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today and (2) most of those Americans won’t have the foggiest idea of anything remotely historical about Patrick.

And he’s worth knowing something about.

The holiday also gives me the occasion to recommend one of my favorite history books. It’s not a page turner, but I learned something on every page. Actually, I learned something with almost every paragraph. The book is The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity by Richard Fletcher. For a readable, scholarly treatment on the long, slow, amazing transition in Europe from paganism to Christianity I’m not aware of a better book.

So what does Fletcher say about Patrick?

Well, first you need to know what Patrick did not do.

He did not expel snakes from Ireland: the snakelessness of Ireland had been noted by the Roman geographer Solinus in the third century. He did not compose that wonderful hymn known as ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate': its language postdates him by about three centuries. He did not drive a chariot three times over his sister Lupait to punish her unchastity. . . . He did not use the leaves of the shamrock to illustrate the Persons of the Trinity for his converts: true, he might have done; but it is not until the seventeenth century that we are told that he did. (82)

Determining fact from fiction for Patrick is difficult, in part because his writings were not …

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Monday Morning Humor

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up tomorrow, I thought you’d allow me to post this oft-traveled clip one more time.

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