Kevin DeYoung Sings to the Flock at the 2012 T4G Conference
Here we go. The lonely lovers of the truth are already singing the praises of Kevin DeYoung for “getting it right” at the T4G. Gag. Actually, I have more respect for Tullian Tchividjian because he causes me to work less. Messages like this one from I was born sitting on a fence post DeYoung have to be meticulously unraveled and explained. But here is the easy part via my I was born with good ole’ fashioned horse sense grandmother: “Birds of the feather flock together.” At the beginning of the message, DeYoung identified himself as a New Calvinist. It is what it is. His theses that New Calvinists just need a little tweaking in regard to the relationship of obedience to sanctification, doesn’t fly with me. He runs with a bunch that believes in perpetual justification, and mere tweaking doesn’t fix heresy.
DeYoung began his message with about fifteen minutes of humor which I found both annoying and out of place when one considers the gravity of this subject in our day. Finally, when he got into some substance, he reiterated the fact that New Calvinism is a “resurgence” (because everyone else is out to lunch spiritually). He also said that the “centrality of the gospel” is the primary concern of the movement. That is, central in sanctification. This is just the same old song and dance; preaching reconciliation to the already reconciled is just as important as the reconciled preaching reconciliation to the unreconciled. From there, and throughout the message, DeYoung flips back and forth between toeing the New Calvinist line and the importance of putting forth effort in sanctification. At some points, he is actually theologically correct in the sermon, stating that we must “work out what God has worked in,” but then flips back to the contradictory New Calvinist position throughout the message. It’s pathetic.
In his introduction to the main points of the message after almost 30 minutes of foolishness, he starts out strong by saying that sanctification requires both hard work by us and the grace of God. Amen, but then he listed the four points of the message: growth in godliness requires Spirit powered, gospel-driven, faith fueled effort. Even though he describes “effort” as one of the four points, it isn’t, the message is really a three point message about the three different things that drive effort in sanctification. This is a grammatical twisting. Effort does not stand alone as one of the points because the other three points are modifiers. And, effort in sanctification is not, “gospel-driven”; that’s blatantly false.
New Calvinists trade the word “justification” for “gospel” so that this error is not completely obvious; ie, “justification-driven” or perpetual justification. Our effort in sanctification is not driven by justification because justification is a finished work and a legal declaration. We are not sanctified by justification, nor is justification the power source for our sanctification—regeneration is. Though there is agreement with orthodoxy on the other two, it must be assumed that all three are needed to power sanctification, so his premise is dead on arrival. Moreover, the fact that DeYoung states that justification (gospel) is needed in sanctification speaks to his like belief with all New Calvinists that justification and sanctification are linked together, and that sanctification must derive an efficacious element of its power from the gospel of justification. Game over. He can now dress this up any way he wants to, but that dog won’t hunt.
On his first point, “Spirit powered (effort),” even though no one would disagree that sanctification is Spirit powered, DeYoung uses this point to once again toe the New Calvinist/Gospel Sanctification line. He states that the Spirit’s role is to empower, show us “sinners” our sin, while mentioning that we as Christians run from our sin and want darkness (oh really?). He states this as a primary purpose of the Spirit’s work in sanctification: to illumine “sin/truth.” Deyoung primarily speaks of illuminating sin, but slips in “truth” along with it (“sin/truth”) to insinuate that sin is not the only thing he is talking about. But then he follows with the third role of the Spirit in sanctification which is to glorify Christ. Again, this is the same old New Calvinist line that restricts the use of Scripture for showing us two things only: our sin and Christ’s glory. He prefaces “sin” with “truth” to insinuate a general, or multiplicity of truth, but never specifies anything other than “sin.” This is deliberate deception. It’s the same old making the cross bigger as we see the depths of our sinfulness more and more, and the glory of Christ more and more. He then cites the staple New Calvinist Bible verse for this, 2Cor. 3:18 to make his point and refers to the “beholding as a way of becoming” truism.
In the second point (gospel-driven effort), he notes that “everyone agrees” that holiness flows from the gospel and good works flow from “good news.” Again, this, for all practical purposes is an admission that he believes in the fusion of justification and sanctification. And if justification is monergistic, well, you do the math. From here, DeYoung is simply trying to convince people that the horse is really a camel. He continued in the message to invoke the same old worn out all obedience flows from gratitude formula. You first contemplate the gospel and your sin which creates gratitude, then obedience flows from that. In real life, gratitude does not always walk with obedience, but often comes after. DeYoung at this point hints at orthodoxy by saying that there are “many other” motivations for obedience other than the cross, but of course, doesn’t mention them specifically or talk about them.
DeYoung finished the message by making many good statements about obedience in the Christian faith, but he was simply talking out of both sides of his mouth. He also prefaced those concluding statements with the same old “we can’t obey in our own strength” without any mention that it is not our strength only. If our strength is not involved in any way, who is doing the work? When we exercise, is it our own strength? And aren’t we supposed to do all things to the glory of God? So, if we are exercising to the glory of God, is the Holy Spirit lifting the weights for us? DeYoung criticized confusing cliché’s in this message while using the mega confusing New Calvinist cliché about “obeying God in our own strength.”
DeYoung lectured the audience about how Christians are confused by the way many are trying to make New Calvinism seem plausible in real Christian life. He acted as if his message was a clarifying voice among the background noise. What a joke. Everything about the message, especially the delivery, was a train wreck.
DeYoung is one of them. Birds of the feather flock together. He is trying to sell himself as a voice of reason among penguins. But he did make some troublesome, isolated statements about obedience. Though made out of one side of his mouth, I wonder, will he be invited back next year? I learned a lesson when I was in college: I tried to date three girls at the same time and ended up losing all of them. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for DeYoung. The penguin singing in the midst of the flock: “I just got to be me.”