Crazy Busy Kids

Sep 23, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Pretty cute kids, if I do say so myself. They are not funny in the same way that Justin Taylor is funny, but not awkward in the same way either.

After a lot of hard work, Crazy Busy releases today. Many thanks to the whole team at Crossway for being such terrific partners in this project. The book should now be available in brick and mortar stores, as well as online (WTS, Barnes and Noble, Amazon).

Crazy Busy – Kids’ Edition from Crossway on Vimeo.

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The Wrath of the Lamb

Sep 21, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

John Witherspoon commenting on Revelation 6:14-17 and the terror that will come upon sinners when they stand before the wrath of the Lamb:

Mark this extraordinary expression, the wrath of the Lamb, that meekest and gentlest of all creatures; teaching us, that his former meekness and patience and suffering shall inflame and exasperate his future vengeance.

Could I conduct you to the gates of the infernal prison, I am persuaded you will hear Judas Iscariot, and all the other treacherous disciples, crying out, “O that Christ had never come in the flesh! The thunders of Sinai would have been less terrible. The frowns of Jesus of Nazareth are insupportable. O the dreadful, painful, and uncommon wrath of a Saviour on the judgment seat!”

The Lord speaks consolation to his own people, and pierce the hearts of his enemies, that they may be brought to repentance. (Sermon 6, The Love of Christ in Redemption)

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Parenting Does Not Create the Child

Sep 20, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.

It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunch. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated with cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little Vitamin D.

As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are mistaken. It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like. Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”

Excerpt from Crazy Busy, A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem

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The Front Porch

Sep 19, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

“Conversations about biblical faithfulness in the African American church and beyond.”

That’s a great one sentence summary of a new venture called The Front Porch. The name speaks to the importance of the front porch in African American communities–the front porch as a place for gathering, a place for conversation, a place for hashing things out, a place for exhortation, a place for disagreement, a place for food and fellowship, a place for talking about the things that matter most.

I am thrilled to commend this new website and this new initiative. No one asked me say anything about it. No one needs my commendation. But I can’t help but think The Front Porch represents something unique and precious in the church in our day. Of all the things happening in the evangelical church, I believe that looking back, generations from now, the most significant may prove to be the resurgence and redevelopment of strong, biblical theology in the African American church.

You’ll get a better idea for The Front Porch from the video below, featuring Louis Love, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Tony Carter…on the front porch. I’ve read Louis, know Tony, and count Thabiti one of my dear friends. I have learned much from him, been challenged frequently by him, and consider him one of the finest pastors I know anywhere. Period. I can’t wait to stop by his front porch and learn from him and from many others in this incredibly significant conversation.


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Theological Primer: Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism

Sep 18, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

From time to time I try to post brief articles like this one as a short primer on some topic in systematic theology. The aim is clarity. The approach is brevity. No more than 500 words—starting now.

I’m not aware of any two words in the theological lexicon quite like supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. They sound dreadfully esoteric and hopelessly elitist, like they might be concerned with how many angels can dance on the head of a pin if that pin were resting upon a rock which God made so heavy not even he could lift it. First year seminary students love to throw out the terms as a not so subtle reminder they are in seminary. Pastors of a certain ilk toss around the words when they want to demonstrate how impractical theology can be. Parishoners hear the words and just cringe.

So what is this all about?

Reformed theologians have often argued about the order in which God decreed certain things to happen. The debate is not over the temporal order of the decrees. After all, we are talking about what God has determined in eternity past. Time is not the issue. Instead, the debate is about the logical order of the decrees. In the mind of God, which decisions did God make first, second, third, and so on?

Specifically, which is logically prior: the decree of election and reprobation, or the decree to create the world and permit the fall? Supralapsarianism—supra meaning “above” or “before” and lapsum meaning “fall”—is the position which holds that God’s decree to save is logically prior to his decree to create the world and permit the fall. Infralapsarianism, on the other hand, insists that God’s decree to save is logically after his decrees related to creation and fall (infra meaning “below” or “after”). Both positions are well attested in Reformed theology, though infralapsarianism would be more common.

The whole debate may seem utterly irrelevant, but before dismissing the terms as a silly seminary schtick, we should appreciate how our understanding of the order of the decrees may influence (or perhaps reflect) our understanding of God.

The supra position underscores the high sovereignty of God. Before the twins had done anything good or bad, the Lord loved Jacob and hated Esau (Romans 9:11). So, argues the supralapsarian, God must have first purposed to ordain some for life and some for death. Then he purposed to create the word and ordain a fall so that the glory in election and reprobation might be realized.

By contrast, the infra position highlights the mercy of God. The reference in Romans 9:11, infralapsarians argue, is simply a statement about merit—neither son was more deserving of salvation than the other—and has nothing to do with the decrees. Besides, Romans 9:14 describes election as God having mercy on whom he will have mercy. God’s decree to save must follow his decree to permit the fall, or how else would mercy be mercy?

In the end, I affirm the infralapsarian position taught in the Canons of Dort (First Head of Doctrine, Articles 6, 7). But I also agree with those who caution against being overly dogmatic on a matter that involves some speculation. The debate is not insignificant, but neither is it a hill to die on.

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Once More On Church, Culture, and Transformationalism

Sep 17, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

I won’t go through all the links, but if you’ve traipsed through the blogosphere in recent weeks you may have noticed a series of volleys involving Carl Trueman, Darryl Hart, and Bill Evans (among others) on the subject of transformationalism. It’s an important discussion and one that has taken place before.

Case in point: I found James Bannerman’s chapter “The Church in Its Relation to the World”–in volume one of The Church of Christ (1868)–to be some of the sanest and wisest 13 pages I’ve read anywhere on the subject.

Bannerman begins by putting our subject in the proper context. The work of the church in relation to the world has everything to do with the work of Christ in relation to the world. This work Bannerman understands to be “His purpose of grace;” that is, “the work of conversion and sanctification and preparation for heaven” (81). No longer on earth, Christ has left behind “a twofold agency” to which he has entrusted this task.

First of all, Christ has supplied us with his Spirit to carry forward the “work of spiritual recovery and redemption among men, which He Himself, when on earth, had only begun” (82).

Second, Christ has left us the Church, with its work of Word and sacrament, to be “another instrument in the hand of Christ for carrying forward and accomplishing His purpose of grace on earth” (82).

In short, the work of Christ on earth was one of recovery and redemption, and to continue this work after his ascension into heaven, Christ left behind the Spirit and the Church.

The Mission of the Church

Setting up the question as he does, you have some idea where Bannerman is heading with this discussion. But he does not settle for vague implication of this or that truth. He gets more specific and asks the exact question which seems to bedevil so many Christians today: “What, then I ask, is the mission of the church, and its office in relation to the world?” (83). Great question, no? We would do well to pay attention to Bannerman’s three responses.

“In the first place, the Christian Church, in reference to the world in which it is found, is designed and fitted to be a witness for Christ, and not a substitute for Christ” (83). The church, Bannerman argues, is a visible and outward witness joining with and confirming the internal and invisible work of the Spirit. The preaching of the church proclaim aloud the divine truth of Christ and the ordinance (or sacraments) of the church a public testimony for Christ. In word and sacrament, the church is, along with the Spirit, “the standing and perpetual witness on the earth on behalf of a Saviour” (84).

Importantly, Bannerman insists that the church is “fitted to be a witness,” but is “neither designed nor adapted to be a substitute for Christ” (84, emphasis in original).  Christ is in heaven, no longer present on earth; we are not meant to be a substitute for him in his absence. In fact–evangelical proponents of incarnational ministry notwithstanding–it is Catholic ecclessiology which reckons the church to be a permanent incarnation of Christ. Bannerman is adamant that the church is forever pointing upward to Christ in heaven, not embodying his presence on earth. We are ambassadors, not substitutes.

“In the second place, the Christian Church in the world is an outward ordinance of God, fitted and designed to be the instrument of the Spirit, but not the substitute for the Spirit” (87). Recall that the Spirit and the Church are the twofold agency of Christ on earth. It has pleased God, Bannerman maintains, to conjoin outward ordinances with internal effect, visible organization with invisible influence, ordinary means with supernatural grace. The church is, in a special way, the residence of the Holy Spirit, and through the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments the Spirit’s work is carried out.

The church, then, is fitted to be the instrument of the Spirit, but is not a substitute of the Spirit (89). In the Catholic system grace is dispensed through the sacraments ex opere operato (“by the working that is worked”) regardless of personal faith. The church acts as a kind of substitute for the Spirit, the power and efficacy of spiritual recovery residing not in the Spirit but in the ordinances of the church. Strangely enough, the Roman system is not all that different from the extreme pragmatists and Finneyites in evangelical circles who expect the Spirit to work so long as we push the right button and pull the right levers.

“In the third place, the Christian Church in the world is fitted and designed to serve as a means for effecting the communion of Christians with each other–not to be a substitute for the communion of Christians with their Saviour” (91). One of the great ends to be accomplished by the church, Bannerman argues, is the union of disciples into one fellowship. Instead of an individual Christianity, the church gives us a social Christianity. We care for each other, pray for each other, exhort one another, love one another, and by all manner of privileges enjoy a fellowship the world cannot enjoy and does not understand.

So once again, the church is fitted as a means of communion among Christians, but not as a substitute for communion with Christ. We are not joined to the church so that we may be joined to Christ. Rather, we are joined to Christ; and therefore, we ought to be joined to one another in the church. The church does not, and cannot,”stand to the sinner in place of Christ” (92). We have direct and immediate union with Christ through his Spirit.

Summing Up

Some Christians in discussing the relationship between the church and the world have little patience or careful ecclesiology like Bannerman offers. But it is essential for understanding our relationship to culture and what exactly your local church should or shouldn’t be concerned to accomplish. If Bannerman is right, Christ’s ministry in the world was to save sinners, bring them into fellowship with another, and see them safely through to their heavenly home. This does not describe everything he ever did, but I believe it is a fair summary of Christ’s relationship to the world. God sent his Son into the world so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

And if the Spirit and the church exist as the twofold agency of Christ, left by our Lord to continue the work he began, then it stands to reason that the church’s relation to the world would be similar to Christ’s, provided we understand that we can never replace Christ. The church is no substitute for Christ, or the Spirit, or for immediate union with Christ. Rather, our role as the church–in relation to the world–is to bear witness to the saving power of Christ, to exercise the appointed means whereby the Spirit redeems and sanctifies, and to join in one body for mutual fellowship and support those who have been joined to Christ.

Does this mean Christians should be indifferent to suffering in the world? Or pursue irrelevance in their neighborhoods and in their workplaces? No and no. But I dare assert that Bannerman’s doctrine of the church makes more eminent sense, and is more plainly biblical, than contemporary notions whereby the church is called upon to be something it cannot be and do something it cannot do.

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Coming Very Soon: Crazy Busy

Sep 16, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

I received several copies of the book, so I know they now exist. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short about a (Really) Big Problem is due out in the next week.

Crossway has put together a nice website for the book: The site will give you a number of helpful links, including:

Speaking of videos, you won’t want to miss this sparkling conversation between me and Justin Taylor. Trust me, it’s JT at his finest. As the kids say: Best. Interview. Ever.

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Customer Service in the Church

Sep 13, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Yes, I know, “customer service” is not the right phrase. The church doesn’t serve customers. The church is the body of Christ. So what this post is really about is “loving people well by being organized and responsive.” But that’s hard to put in a title.

Two days ago I sat alongside our church’s bookkeeper for well over an hour as she kindly tried to track down some tax information for me. First she called our current bank to get some paperwork from 2011. She was on the phone for five minutes. I answered a few security questions, handed the phone to our bookkeeper, and within a few minutes she had the bank (a credit union actually) faxing us the information we needed.

Then she called the church’s former bank (and my former bank). Since we switched banks in 2011 we need information from them as well. The two of us–mostly our bookkeeper–were on the phone for more than an hour. In fact, I left once my part was done and don’t even know how long our hardworking bookkeeper had to stay on the phone to get what she needed. We kept getting transferred to different departments and different people, most of whom didn’t know how to help us. The customer service was obviously out-sourced and not all that competent. In the end, it took ten times as long to get what we needed, and even then they said they would mail it in a few days.

What’s the lesson here for the church? Simple: let’s be like the first bank and not the second.

  • Does your church have a website that is easy to navigate?
  • Are the basic things like worship times, directions, and contact information easy to find online?
  • Is your automated phone system simple to understand and to operate?
  • Do you have a system in place to respond promptly and friendly to general inquiries?
  • Does your office staff (and everyone else for that matter) know how to graciously answer questions (even dumb ones) or connect people with the right person who can?
  • Do you convey an attitude that says “I am happy to help and glad you called/wrote/stopped by” or one that says “You are a bother and your problems are unimportant to me”?
  • Is your Sunday morning crew (ushers, greeters, check-in folks, etc.) friendly and knowledgeable or territorial and easily frustrated?
  • Are the rooms in your church well marked and the appropriate signs clearly displayed?
  • Is the information on your website and in your bulletin up to date and accurate?
  • Can people depend on the church staff to follow through on commitments, remember their calendar, communicate ahead of time about meetings and important events, and respond to reasonable questions (or direct them to people who can)?
  • Is your church clean?

No doubt, these “customer service” type items do not embody the core commitments of gospel ministry. But as an expression of kindness, love, and hospitality, they are not insignificant. During one of the long periods while my bookkeeper was put on hold, she turned to me and whispered, “This is why we switched banks.” Smart move. Bad customer service is a terribly annoying, if not grueling, experience. Surely we want to do better than this in the church.

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What Are the Essentials of the Christian Faith?

Sep 12, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

Almost every Christian makes some distinction between essentials of the faith and non-essentials. The distinction itself is fairly uncontroversial. But what exactly are the essentials? That’s a bit tougher.

There are a number of ways to answer that question. We could look at church history and what God’s people have always believed. We could look at the ancient creeds and confessions of the church. We could look at the biggest themes of Scripture (e.g., covenant, love, glory, atonement) and the most important passages (e.g., Genesis 1, Exodus 20, Matthew 5-7, John 3, Romans 8). I want to take a little different route and consider what are the behaviors and beliefs without which Scripture say we are not saved. These are not requirement we must meet in order to save ourselves and earn God’s favor. Rather these are the essential beliefs and behaviors that will be manifest in the true Christian.

I don’t pretend that this is anywhere close to a comprehensive list from the Bible. But a list like this may be helpful in guarding against false teaching and examining our own lives.

Ten Essential Christian Behaviors

1. We repent and turn from our sins (Matt. 5:29-30; 11:20-24; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Heb. 10:26-27).

2. We forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:33-35).

3. We are undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:24; 10:38-39; 19:16-30; John 12:24-26).

4.    We publicly acknowledge Jesus before others (Matt. 10:32-33; 21:33-44; 22:1-14; 26:24; John 5:23)

5.    We obey God’s commands and do not make a practice of sinning (John 14:15; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 5:2).

6.    We live a life that is fruitful and not fleshly (Matt. 12:33-37; 21:43; 24:36-51; 25:1-46; Gal. 5:18-24; 6:5; Heb 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

7.    We are humble and broken-hearted for our sin (Matt. 5:3; 18:3-4; 1 John 1:8-10).

8.    We love God and love others (Matt. 22:34-40; John 11:35; 15:12; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14-15).

9.    We must persevere in the faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29-31; 12:12-17; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 5:11-12).

10.    We help our natural family and church family when there are physical needs (1 Tim. 5:8; 6:18-19; 1 John 3:17).

Ten Essential Christian Beliefs

1.    We must be born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:5).

2.    Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 3:18, 36; 6:35, 40, 47, 53-58; 8:19, 24; 11:25-26; 12:48; 14:6; 15:23; 20:30-31; Gal. 3:7-9).

3.    The benefits of the gospel come by faith, not by works of the law (Acts 15:8-11; Gal. 1:6-9; 2:16, 21; 3:10-12, 22).

4.    Salvation comes from Jesus Christ, our faithful high priest, the radiance of God’s glory and our brother in the flesh (Col. 1:15-23; Heb. 2:4).

5.    God exists and rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6, 16).

6.    We are saved by Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:18).

7.    The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and he appeared to many witnesses (1 Cor. 15:1-11).

8.    Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected and our bodies will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

9.    Jesus was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (1 Tim. 3:16; 1:3, 18-20; 6:3-4, 20-21).

10.    God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8-14).

You could multiply lists like this tenfold. The point is not to be exhaustive, but to show by way of example just how many things the Bible considers to be essential and how precious these truths should be to the Christian. There are a number of behaviors in Scripture which serve to prove or disprove our Christian commitment. Likewise, there are a number of beliefs in Scripture without which we cannot be saved and which must be true if salvation is even possible. We would do well to study these beliefs and behaviors, embrace them, and promote and protect them with our fullest zeal and efforts.

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Is God Too Good for Your Tastes?

Sep 11, 2013 | Kevin DeYoung

“Let’s get down to the real issue here,” the landowner says.  “At the heart of the matter, this isn’t about a denarius or your hard labor under the sun. It’s about your heart.  You are upset because I am generous.”

That’s the gist of what the master of the house says to the laborers in the vineyard. The men were upset because the last workers received the same as the first. The men who came early in morning did not appreciate God’s extraordinary grace to the men who came at the end of the day.  “Is your eye evil because I am good?” That’s the convicting question the master posed to his men.

It’s a convicting question for all of us.

Are you the type of person who marvels at God’s generosity or gets jealous over it? Are you prone to unhappiness when you see the undeserved happiness of others? Do you begrudge God’s kindness if giving to others the blessing of children, of marriage, of beauty, of wealth, of opportunities?

Obviously we have to steward those things well. We must not be haughty about our blessings or presume that we will receive all the earthly good we want just by virtue of belonging to our heavenly Father. But even with those important caveats, certainly we can affirm that it is the Spirit’s fruit in our lives when we rejoice over the Lord’s kindness to others.

We love it when God is generous with us. And it bothers us when he seems to be more generous with others. You know how you make a kid very happy? Give him a toy. You know how to make him very unhappy? Give his sister two toys. We all like grace, but we want it to be “fair” grace. We want “grace” apportioned as we see fit. We want “mercy” to be given to those who deserve it most—people like us, naturally. But if grace has to measure up or fulfill some calculation it’s not really grace, is it? Do you really want God to be in the fairness business with you? Isn’t it better to accept that everything you have is by grace and all they have is by grace as well?

Our Good Master passes out the denarius as he sees fit, because it’s his denarius. None of us would get a denarius if God didn’t go out into the streets, hire us, promise us his goodness, and then deliver on his word. So let him hire more workers and pay them whatever he wants. A mark of a mature Christianity is that we root for each other. Let God be God and let him be good—on his own terms.  He’s been good to you; let him be good to others, as good as he wants to be.

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