DeYoung does something

I am a big fan of Kevin DeYoung and his book, Why We’re Not Emergent, but I was initially disappointed when I received his new book on the will of God, Just Do Something.  It just seemed so small.  But then I read it, and I realized that Kevin and the folks at Moody knew what they were doing.  This book is packed with biblical wisdom and uncommon sense for doing God’s will, and it is just the right size for giving to a multi-tasking young person who may be intimidated by a larger tome. 

I will always recommend my colleague Gary Meador’s book, Decision-Making God’s Way, but now I will also point people to Kevin’s practical guide.  Here are a couple things that I appreciate about this book:

1. Kevin hits the sweet spot between rationalism and mysticism.  He doesn’t preclude God from speaking to us outside the pages of Scripture, but he doesn’t give much weight to those messages either.

He says that he is not “suspicious every time someone claims to have heard from the Lord.  Candidly, though, I’m just not blown away by these claims, either.  If you think you’ve heard from God, I’m not ready to lock you up in the psych ward, nor am I ready to bless whatever you ‘heard’ because you think God said it” (74).

And this solid advice:  “Apart from the Spirit working through Scripture, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect him to” (68).

2. I like his emphasis on “just do something.”  Kevin claims that many people today are suspended in a state of prolonged adolescence because they fear making the wrong decision or not finding God’s best for their life.  He recommends that we follow the example of the greatest generation and get off our butts and try something.  “In other words, God doesn’t take risks, so we can” (41).

3. I like how Kevin applies this to marriage.  He observes that too many young women are forced into careers they don’t want because too many young men are afraid to step out and marry them.  This leads to people marrying later, which further complicates their lives. 

Kevin writes:  “Sometimes when a couple with debts or young careers get married, their decisions about birth control and family planning—difficult decisions on which Christians can disagree—seem to already have been made for them.  This is a tough spot to be in.  There are always hard decisions to make and choppy waters to navigate, but I suspect some stories would turn out differently if growing up happened sooner, and men were thinking seriously of marriage at twenty-one instead of thirty-one” (111-12).

4. I appreciate how Kevin cuts through the spiritual fog and honestly says that leaving his church in Iowa for the one in Lansing was his decision.  He asked God for wisdom but didn’t pull out the trump card that “God was leading him” to Lansing (49).  He also wisely says that while we should expect our leaders to “bathe their decisions in prayer,” the fact that they have done so does not automatically prove that their decision is right (84-85).

Here is the upshot of this exceptional little book:  God does have a specific will for our lives (in his sovereign decree), but he doesn’t expect us to figure it out beforehand.  So just do something, so long as it’s not sinful or stupid.  This short review is just scratching the surface of this wonderful book.  It is well worth reading and passing along to anyone who desires to please God.





49 responses to “DeYoung does something”

  1. Kevin is awesome and I look forward to reading this book. However, I’ve got to say that I got married at 22 (my wife was 20) and we still waited until I was 30 to have a kid. And I”m REALLY glad we did…

    BTW, I’m going to try the impossible task of getting ahold of you this week re: SUnday’s service. Wish me luck.

  2. Drew

    I had the same reactions. I had high hopes for the book, but was disappointed when it arrived because of its size… and now after reading it, I’m excited to get it into the hands of others. Very clear, helpful, and convicting.

  3. Thanks for this brief. I read Garry Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God in 1981 and thought it was outstanding. Later, after growing in my faith I realized he left out the Holy Spirit almost entirely. Of course, there is some good counsel in there still. Sounds as though DeYoung’s work comes to the opposite conclusion of Friesen (God does not have a specific will for our lives notwithstanding his moral will explicit in Scripture).

    I wonder what DeYoung might say to Moreland’s paper “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It” read at ETS in 2007 and how that might impact rigidly following Scripture?

  4. mikewittmer


    I’ll let Kevin answer that if he drops by and wants to take a swing, but my take is that he would be pretty close to Friesen. I can guess his response to Moreland would be something like “How is it possible for evangelicals to be over-committed to the Bible?” He’s not charismatic like Moreland, but he’s also not willing to dismiss such leading out of hand. That seems right to me.

  5. Thanks Mike. Appreciate the response and look forward to hearing from Kevin, perhaps. I appreciate what Moreland is getting at in his paper (and his book, Kingdom Triangle), but not sure about swinging too far in the charisma direction. After all, mining Scripture (and correspondingly, God’s heart) seems more than adequate to guide us, eh!?

  6. Paul,

    Mike answered your question as well as I could have. I land pretty close to Friesen’s position. As I mention in the book, I’ve been very helped by Poythress’s article on affirming the work of the Spirit in the Reformed tradition (not the exact title). I think the Spirit works by illuminating the Scriptures to us. This doesn’t mean the Spirit is “in a box”, because after all the Spirit inspired the Scriptures that he now illumines. I’m open to non-discursive processes from the Spirit, but my counsel to anyone wanting to hear from God will always be “Read the Book.”

  7. Sincere appreciation, Kevin, for the thoughtful reply. I’ll be sure to pick up your work and give it a thorough read, as well as Poythress’s article. “Non-discursive processes from the Spirit”….hum, interesting expression and rightly captures the epistemic tone of the charisma bent on finding God’s will (among other things). At the end of the day, the “Book” is the guide and the Spirit would only comport with it. After all, God does not speak out of both sides of his mouth!

  8. Quote:
    And this solid advice: “Apart from the Spirit working through Scripture, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect him to” (68).

    Prior to the printing press, the Scriptures were almost always read within the context of other believers. It was unthinkable to simply say, “Read the book for yourself and see what the Spirit says.” It was the task of the prophets and priests and pastors to tell the stories for the people.

    To suggest that the Spirit works primarily through Scripture, negates wisdom. It negates discernment. It negates the reality that God lives and moves among his people. Frankly, it negates the reality of the ‘people of God’ as the people of God.

    We are not simply followers of God. The Spirit of God lives among us. Let’s get back to the biblical text here. Read Paul’s take on the position of the Spirit among his people:

    Romans 8:11
    And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

    Romans 8:14
    because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Galatians 5:22
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…

    Philippians 2
    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion..

    Interesting that the Phillipians could attain ‘fellowship with the Spirit’ even though they likely had one copy of the letter Paul wrote, and they had no copies of the New Testament.

    I could argue for good theology, but we should ask blog readers to simply do a word study of the ‘Spirt’ within the New Testament.

  9. Quote: He [Kevin] observes that too many young women are forced into careers they don’t want because too many young men are afraid to step out and marry them. This leads to people marrying later, which further complicates their lives.

    Perhaps this is a bit more complicated than simply wanting women to stay-at-home and have kids and be moms.

    Perhaps socio-ecomonic factors are keeping young men from getting married as early as two decades ago. The idea of inviting a young bride to live with your parents in your bedroom isn’t too attactive.

    The idea of starting a family and raising kids with a ten dollar an hour job is laughable. In reality, college graduates are accepting these jobs today.

    Perhaps marriages falling apart at the rate of 50% keeps young men and young women from commitments.

    Perhaps it isn’t biblical to take a wife at a specific age? I would LOVE to see biblical evidence that ‘young men’ should marry at a particular age???

    Perhaps women are realizing that it’s entirely acceptable to be a follower of Jesus and have a career, support the family, and love a good man at the age of 30 rather than 20??? Again, I would LOVE to see biblical evidence to the contrary.

    Is this really stuff that theologians should be engaging… really?

  10. mikewittmer



  11. Mike,

    This isn’t stuff you should be considering if you can’t back it up with good biblical text. You can’s use the position of theologian to expound on stuff the Bible doesn’t come close to addressing.

    Or at least, you can’t expound on the correct age for young women to get married without considering good psychology, sociology, economics, and theology.

    If the biblical text can be used whenever its convenient, then don’t be critical of emergent folks. By embracing DeYoung’s book, both of you are guilty of aweful exegesis on this issue.


  12. mikewittmer


    I think that you inadvertently praised me with the compliment “aweful.” I am a theologian, but that doesn’t mean that everything that I think is interesting has to come with a Bible verse attached. I am sure that Kevin would not claim that his idea that men should not be afraid to marry younger is a Word from God. So your claim that he needs biblical support is misguided at the outset. It’s just an interesting idea. That’s it.

  13. Neither you nor I have the right to suggest that women should be getting married at a younger age because it’s something that we ‘feel’ or ‘think’ in our gut.

    If we are to be the people of God, our ideas need to have some basis in the biblical text.

    Or pehaps they don’t, but my reformed tradition suggests that all of life is tied together. All I do and say is a reflection of my interaction with God and thus with the inspirted Word of God.

    We dare NOT be theologians and write books on why women should get married at earlier ages IF we have no biblical evidence to support it.

    If we can use the biblical text to our leisure, then it has absolutely no value ever…. never…

    So, we can declare the resurrection of Jesus in our heads on Easter, but it has no bearing on the way that we live our lives? It has no implications every word and every sentence that we proclaim? It has no implication on the books we write?

    Please tell me more about when the biblical text has value and when it doesn’t? I really want to hear this one.

  14. Randy:
    Your emergent hermeneutic grid is eclipsing the concerns/topic raised here.

    Back on topic…
    Kevin/Mike: Do you address Philippians 3:15 in your book on God’s will?

    (“And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you”)

    It is not stated how God will make clear what Paul intimates but he’s clear that God will reveal what is necessary.


  15. And if the idea of women getting married earlier is an interesting idea, perhaps the idea should be floated past some women, perhaps in front of your female sem students or some students at Cornerstone before it is written in a book by a pastor.

    The idea itself is absolutely insulting to women unless the presenter has some outstanding studies to back it up…

  16. Yooper


    From reading your prior posts and blog, I would not have thought that you were all that concerned with backing up statements with “good biblical text” (e.g. Doug Pagitt).

  17. I think that you inadvertently praised me with the compliment “aweful.”

    HA!!! Classic.

  18. Yooper,

    That’s where you are wrong. I know my theology can at the very least stand among Mike or Kevin’s. I believe that I hold the biblical text to have at least as much value as either of them.

    In fact, this is what I believe will be the reality of the next ten years: Critics of ’emergent’ people have text proofed whenever it works and quoted old theologains whenever it works to their advantage.

    Over the next decade, you’ll see some amazing stuff written and said by voices who believe in the missio dei, who believe God calls us to be his church 24/7 regardless what topic we are addressing.

    Bright young minds will look at the biblical text without the notion that it needs to be protected. Instead, they’ll leave that task to the Spirit, and they’ll see the text for what it has to say to us as God’s people.

    Jeremy Bouma, Josh Schmidt & Andy Dragt are several voices here in West Michigan who come to mind.

  19. mikewittmer


    I don’t remember Kevin addressing that. And you’re right, Paul doesn’t say how God will make that clear. I’m supposing it has something to do with the Holy Spirit, and if so, then the way may be different for the Philippians than for us, who have the completed canon. But you knew that already. Where is Gary Meadors when you really need him?

  20. Thanks, Mike. I’ve always been curious about that passage in Philippians and don’t recall Friesen addressing it either.

    Our having the completed canon is hugely different from, say, the way Abraham knew God’s will. Sometimes I wish we could have it Abraham’s way rather than getting bogged down into hermeneutical diatribes and exegetical discourses. Not that the latter is unimportant, but a clear and distinct (borrowing from Descartes) word from the Lord would be refreshing sometimes (am I showing my weak faith here?). After all, I’m rather thick most often and my heart misses so much while my head is parsing verbs and diagramming sentences, so to speak. Of course, “we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and [everyone] will do well to pay attention to it.” “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

  21. Greg Larson


    While I appreciate your passionate defense of women’s rights, perhaps it would be good to take a breath and consider the views we hold that cannot (and should not) be proof texted.

    The first that jumps to mind is our political leaning. I have heard men smarter than I “prove” biblically that I should vote Democrat or Republican. Would you agree that this is a place where we need to use our biblically informed world views to discern the best option? Or can we come to a place where it is unbiblical (and thus sin) to vote one way or the other?

    Getting back to the discussion at hand, quote: “He observes that too many young women are forced into careers they don’t want because too many young men are afraid to step out and marry them.” Notice there is not a lament of too many women marrying past 25, or anything like that.

    Would you agree that if 1 woman is pushed into a career she doesn’t want, that’s too many?

  22. Another great slip of the tongue for Randy!

    Critics of ‘emergent’ people have text proofed whenever it works

    I believe you mean “proof text,” not “text proof.” But perhaps that’s a Freudian slip. The emergent crowd certainly does see themselves as “text-proof.”

  23. Greg,

    I am passioante about women’s rights precisely because it is an issue of the biblical text. Jesus treated women as equals in a society that considered them so much less significant than men. “In Christ there is no free nor slave, male nor female…”

    Perhaps it’s my centrist reformed background, but making political choices doesn’t happen apart from the biblical text in my life or the lives of my friends either. Talking about sexuality is within the context of the biblical text as well. All of life flows through the biblical text.

    So, to make speculative statements about why young men not choosing a mate is obsurd. To make these kind of statements as a pastor is simple thoughtlessness.
    Regarding young women being forced into careers they don’t want, the same happens to men and to millions of children around the world every day largely the result of American influence, policies, and corporate decisions…

    Fourteen year olds are picking our veggies and fruits in California every day. Yet, this is entirely forgotten by DeYoung?

    So, what is our issue? Is it that we don’t want our white protestant girls having to do a job t that they don’t want to do? OR is it that there is an INTENSE desire to hold to the status quo — keeping women at home raising kids and tending to the laundry as well as the Sunday school?

    Either way, the positions hold no biblical weight. Either way, these kind of less-than-biblical positions continue to empty our churches… let us not ask why the gospel has no weight.

  24. Yooper


    What do you have against those women who chose to be a stay at home mother for their children? And believe me, it is NOT the status quo.

  25. Yooper,

    I believe they are amazing women using their gifts as God has called them no more nor less than any other woman following God’s calling.

    It’s simply wrong for us to lament and pontificate based our our own thoughts and feelings as male pastors and theologians when people expect that we’ll be true to the biblical text. We owe people much than that.

  26. Greg


    Please don’t get me wrong…the rights of women must be upheld and defended. I’m sure everyone here agrees with that.

    However, I do think that you have taken a minor statement in the original post and extrapolated a world view that isn’t there.

    I believe the “conversation” going on in the Christian community is important and has a lot to offer. However, I think we are derailed by straw man arguments like that above.

    Obviously neither DeYoung or Dr. Wittmer are misogynist crusaders against womens rights. Let’s move on to the important disagreements that actually exist.

  27. Greg,

    Go read Kevin’s book regarding the place of women in the church, and you’ll likely have a different perspective on his position regarding women.

    His thoughts in the new book were not simply thoughts in passing. His theological position is quite clear. Thus, this isn’t a small issue at all.

  28. I’d be interested in whether Kevin can provide documentation from sociological research this demonstrates this pattern about women who pursue careers that they don’t want because they’d rather get married, or whether this is just a hunch. Likewise, since Randy brought it up, I’d be interested if he knows of any research that would back up any of his claims of the economy having an effect on the age of people getting married. Also, I think we have to be quite careful of judging people’s motives for why they hold the views that they do. Whether we are demonizing someone for their emergent worldview or rather we are demonizing them for holding a more traditional view of the role of women, it still leads to the development of straw-man arguments.

  29. Yooper


    I have visited your blog, and you really look like a nice fellow. It would be good if you could demonstrate the same passion with regards to the essentials of our Christian faith. It would appear that your presence on this thread is in retaliation of Kevin’s rebuke of Doug Pagitt’s theology as heretical. Am I missing something?

  30. Yooper,

    There is lots that you don’t know… which is o.k.

    It’s about people claiming to know ’emergent’s’ and yet have virtually nothing in common. It’s about writing a book that say’s ‘by two guys who should be (emergent)’ while in reality at least one of them is a neo-conservative, pre-Barth conservative.

    I am passionate about the things of the gospel. Ask my friends. Passion is more than plentiful in my body. And my passion for the ways of Christ are second to none on my best days.

    Thus, I get absolutely angry when another pastor dares tell an audience of two hundred (at the seminary from which I graduated) that my good friend of mine is in ‘no recongizable way a Christian.” I’ve shared the Eucharist and meals and family time with Doug. I know his wife as a friend, and we’ve trusted one another with sincere friendship for nearly a decade. So, this deal with Doug is personal. It is also biblical. We have NO right telling people that other Christ followers of which we know very little are in ‘no recognizable way’ Christian.

    I’m passionate about the Church of Jesus Christ. I’m passionate about teaching my kids the ways of Jesus as has been passed down to me for the past three hundred plus years through the families that make up my genes.

    I’m passionate about honesty and integrity and speaking truthfully. I don’t think anyone can be on some rampage for ‘truth’ and then tell half-truths in books and to audiences who come to listen.

    I’ll straight out say it. I think Kevin’s thoughts on emerging church, and some of the particular evaluations are so far off base that they lack any sort of integrity.

    I may be more than upset about these evaluations. But. Here’s the but. Kevin touted his idea that more good preaching is what is necessary to convict people more with the gospel message… that was one of his big things when he spoke at Calvin.

    Yet, if integrity and honesty are not of primary importance in our entire lives, then we can preach whatever we want on Saturday or Sunday. It simply doesn’t matter.

    When I see a public apology to Doug and Shane Claiborne, then I’ll reconsider my position.

    So, we can believe whatever kind of theology that we think is ‘right’, and we can lament that some people are not believers of penal substitutionary atonement as the only means to Christ. But at the end of the day, it’s secondary to righteousness, to being people filled with honesty and integriy, and to walking humbly with God

    You see. It is all about the gospel. Honesty and integrity flow out of lives filled with the Spirit. As the biblical text states, these are the people who are in step with the Spirit.

  31. mikewittmer


    Your arrogant and condescending comment to Yooper is unChristian. Please aim to be more respectful of others. As for Doug, I appreciate that he is your friend, but that does not change the fact that his beliefs are not Christian. And since you are his friend, you should warn him rather than defend his unorthodox views.

  32. Mike,

    I have no idea what is condescending and arrogant in my reply to Yooper.

    I simply know that we are called to stand under the authority of the biblical text, and judging if somone is a follower of Jesus or not isn’t your right nor any humans right.

    So, how is it disrespectful to say such?

    Honestly. Please tell me.

    p.s. if we want to talk about disrespectful, let’s get back to that issue of women.

  33. Randy,

    This is probably off topic, but since you brought up the Kevin D. topic, about Shane and Doug, I will discuss at least what is on tape (the question about Shane) I do not see anything uncharitable (to use Tony Jones’ words) about what he said about Shane Claiborne. Misinformed, but not uncharitable. He states that “my beef with Shane Claiborne that it gets to be sort of pseudo-Marxist, liberation theology lite without a robust doctrine of gospel reconciliation.”

    Actually if Kevin had done his homework on Shane, he’d realize that Shane’s influences come from the Sacramental view of the poor from Mother Teresa and Tony Campolo, the Ana-Baptist pacifistic social action from Yoder, and a view of structural sin and “the powers” from Walter Wink, non of which does lead to a liberation theology. However, his conclusion is right that it doesn’t lead to a robust doctrine of gospel reconciliation. Having read just about everything that he has written or preached (some of which I really like and some that I don’t), I am waiting for him to lovingly preach the gospel to the poor (which was definitely a focus of Jesus), rather than only lovingly preach the irresistible revolutionary gospel to rich folks. But if the poor are really “Jesus in disguise,” why deal with the sin problem in poor people? By the way, I am all for social justice as a partner to evangelism, but he has made that clear to people that it’s not what the Simple Way does-evangelism (talk to Art Boulet on that one) As for his answer about your friend Doug, since it is not on tape, I won’t delve into that topic…..

  34. Joel.

    Interesting thoughts on Claiborne. Perhaps not all of us are called to preach the gospel to the poor as in ‘kerus’ kind of heralding. Perhaps preaching comes in the form of moving into a neighborhood and standing on the side of the poor and oppressed. Standing alongside people convicts them plenty.

    I find it difficult to understand how we dare to take shots at someone like Shane when most of us are controlled way too much by our uppper-middle class lifestyle. It is us who need to be changed. It is us who Jesus was harshest on. Perhaps we just don’t want to hear it; so we find it easiest to take shots at the theology of someone like Shane.

  35. Joel


    I just have a few questions for you. And I hope they don’t come across as loaded – I simply ask these questions anytime I see a cry for social justice from a Christian (conservative, liberal, emergent, consemerbral, etc):

    1) Do you live like the poor and among the poor by choice or because you have to…or at all?

    2) How often have you physically gone out and helped the oppressed (economically or otherwise); “raising awareness” doesn’t count.

    3) Have you ever sat down and honestly evaluated the relationship and connection between theology and action, or do you see the two as separate and/or divorced?

    I know those might seem like “gotcha!” questions, but they have a point. When I run into conservative Christians who are outraged that the 10 Commandments are being taken down somewhere, I ask them to recite the 10 Commandments (most of them can’t). When I hear them talking about how important an infallible Bible is, I ask them how often they’ve read through the entire Bible (mostly they haven’t).

    My point is this; preaching something is quite easy. Following up and living a lifestyle that backs up one’s message is quite difficult. If one’s life can’t back up one’s message, then why bother to say anything at all? Isn’t that point of Wittmer’s original post?

  36. Joel

    I should also add that if you answer the first two in the affirmative, then mazel tov! It’s rare to find someone who can back up their message.

    However, my primary concern is the answer to #3. You stated that “it’s all about the Gospel,” but if we remove theology, what Gospel is left? A social Gospel? A liberation Gospel? No – both of those are exclusive, classist, and racist. Do we go with a Unitarian/Universalist Gospel? If so, then why care about people, why help others out other than to feel good?

    The true Gospel is jam-packed with theology, but it is so much more than that as well. This is because all theology, true theology, requires action on that theology.

    Concerning Dough Pagitt, allow me this tangent: Peter Rollins is the nicest person I’ve met and had correspondence with. He’s hilarious. He’s very easy to get along with. But he’s dead wrong. What he’s saying, aside from damaging the walks of other Christians or leading people away from Christ, is also dishonoring to God. Could the same be true for Doug Pagitt (not saying it is, just asking)?

    Remember, passion is important, but it’s only part of the equation for loving God (with all our heart, soul, and mind). If we abandon theology or truth, then how are we loving God with all our minds?

  37. Yooper


    It appears that you confuse “judgment” and “discernment”; which many have a tendency to do. The power to judge, or condemn, rests with Jesus Christ alone. I had previously posted the positions of Doug Pagitt (from his blog and in his own words) with regards to hell and judgment. Pagitt’s views are not Christian. His heretical teaching can leave followers thinking that there is no need to concern oneself with the need to be born again or the wrath of God. Randy, it concerns me that you are unable to see this.

  38. Randy,

    I have lived eighteen years among the urban poor. I’ve taken homeless people into my house that needed a place to stay. I’ve lived in an urban neighborhood in G.R. overrun by drugs, crime, and violence. In fact, I’ve lost count of my former and current students who have been shot and killed on the streets of Grand Rapids. I have spoken up many times for justice for my poor neighbors and have paid dearly for it. My family and I understand what it means to live the simple, incarnational lifestyle. As I have loved my neighbors in a sacrificial way, I have never seen someone “convicted” by my lifestyle to live among them. However, in the context of loving my neighbor for many years, when I lovingly shared the gospel and invited them into community, that is when they responded in repentance and faith in Jesus. I am reminded by the Kanye West song, “Jesus Walks” where Kanye raps, “To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
    (Jesus walks with them)
    To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
    (Jesus walks with them)

    Kanye got it partly right, that Jesus did walk with them and identified with them, but he also called them to repentance.

    And I agree that often there are those who take shots at those who are doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable. I was literally ostracized by the church that I grew up in, as I was called a “neo-evangelical”, follower of the “social gospel,” and dropped from membership from this church. I understand……But that shouldn’t keep us from having a conversation or being able to disagree about it, including those who haven’t lived it like Kevin. He might be speaking out of his element, but he should be able have an opinion, even if it was (as I mentioned before) partly wrong.

    Shane Claiborne, after being uninvited from speaking at Cedarville University after the tabloid bloggers won the day, had this to say. “I would love to have a conversation with these folks who disagree with me. I have often said that one of our great witnesses to the rest of society is how well we can disagree. In fact, I offered to use the honorarium Cedarville promised to fly in the angry bloggers so we can have a public conversation. I take all criticism very seriously. I will prayerfully listen to every critique and concern that is expressed directly to me.” Shane, who is a very godly and humble person, has even invited those that disagree with him to have the conversation. I hope to take him up on that some day (hopefully I have not presented myself as a angry blogger) and maybe Kevin will too (if he decides to further explain what he meant at the Calvin forum).

  39. Joel,

    No, yes, yes. I spent two weeks in Kenya this past December. You are more than welcome to join me for the month of December in Kenya again this December. 🙂 I could put you in touch with the volunteer coordinators of most faith-based non-profits in Grand Rapids.

    Theology does not stand apart from action. Orthodoxy does not stand apart from orthopraxis. Neither does orthodoxy have a trump card over orthopraxis.

    In reality, this is where I will likely disagree with many voices here at Mike’s blog. The Christian life is about how we live and breathe and have our being.

    The stuff that happens in our heads informs our actions, but it isn’t the trump card. When Jesus is talking with the rich young ruler, he never talks about what is swirling in the brain cells. He says, “Go and sell all that you have.”

    When Jesus says, “Come and follow me,” he isn’t talking about mental ascent that could be attained apart from moving one’s feet toward Jesus. He’s talking about the way we live our lives.

    In reality, most of the protestant church begins with the cerabellum and works toward the hands and feet. In reality, the action of the gospel is often an option within our churches. Discipleship should NEVER be an option if we are serious about Jesus.

    “Being a nice guy” and “helping the poor” are always judeged to be secondary to what is swirling in the mind. But, the biblical text doesn’t make the case for this sort of ‘believing.’ Read thru James or I John. Both tell us that we will be known for the way we treat fellow humans.

    If we believed more, we would be in talking about the gospel among people that needed to hear and we would be struggling with our socio-exonomic position intensely rather than expounding so much.

    If we want to argue about who is being a better evangelist, that is fine. I have no idea. I do know that a grouip of ’emergent’ people are talking about the ways of Jesus a lot when the frequent our local brew-pub. They have become known as the theologians we love to talk about the gospel. They also invite people over to their homes and invite people into their lives. So, it isn’t simply talking…

    You are always welcome to join them — most Wednesday nights at Founders.. perhaps around a table or at the bar and certainly on the smoking deck where people are always willing to share their lives…


  40. mikewittmer


    You said that Shane “offered to use the honorarium Cedarville promised to fly in the angry bloggers so we can have a public conversation”? How much are they paying him? Apparently more than the rest of us (which if true, would be ironic–but not necessarily wrong–considering that he is emulating the poor. Maybe he always gives his honorarium away).


  41. Joel


    I’m not too sure you’re going to disagree with too many people on this blog (though I won’t be so presumptuous as to believe I can speak for everyone) in saying that religion is to be breathed and lived. It might be your perception…

    See, those of us who are fundamentalists (I mean that in the older sense, not in the modern connotation) see the importance of living the Christian life.

    Look to Francis Schaeffer. He believed in propositional truth. Some attribute him to being the biggest mover behind the founding of the ‘religious right’ (though I think that claim is spurious and based on a faulty understanding of Schaeffer). What is true is that he breathed new life into evangelical conservatism – I’m assuming that if he were alive today, though he would greatly appreciate the postmodern innovator’s views on life, he would openly speak out against their theology.

    At the same time, this man walked to an African-American church to teach 6th grade Sunday School in the 1940’s – this during a time before the Civil Rights movement. In 1943, before the horrors of the Holocaust were even know, he wrote an essay on why antisemitism is wrong, especially among Christians. When a couple he knew couldn’t afford special education for their child with Down’s Syndrome, he voluntarily taught the child himself 2 times a week, taking time out of his schedule to help. All of this was before he even founded L’Abri and went on to help many there by living out his faith.

    My point in all this is I think you might be overreacting to dead orthodoxy. Certainly orthodoxy without orthopraxi is pointless and worthless – but orthopraxi without orthodoxy is headless and without direction. It eventually loses its purpose. Look at the social Gospel movement and how quickly it fizzled out. Certainly we’re seeing a resurgence, but how long until it fizzles out as well? Compare that to some of the more conservative groups that can trace back their movements in “social justice” hundreds of years.

    The reason for this is that orthodoxy provides a strong foundation on which to build. Though you are correct that it doesn’t “trump” lived religion in that it’s more important, it is simply impossible to “live like Christ” if one believes improper things about Him.

    I guess the two problems I see in what you posted are as follows:

    1) You have the same either/or mentality that you criticize, you simply place the emphasis on the different “or.” For you, living is elevated above thinking. Whereas the mentality you criticizes is all about thinking and little about action, it seems you have made the opposite mistake (but a mistake nonetheless) of saying it’s all about action and not about thinking. Unlike what Rollins says in “How (Not) to Speak of God,” Christianity isn’t like a doughnut. Christianity has a solid foundation, one that leads to good works. It isn’t either/or or one above the other; it’s both/and.

    2) Since moving to the Bible Belt, I’ve witnessed some of the “dead orthodoxy” you speak of – however, I think you’re making a broad-brushed statement. This is, unfortunately, typical among many emergent types (the lone exception I’ve found is, ironically enough, Rollins [my favorite punching bag when looking for an example of someone who has gone too far in the EC]). Just because conservatives aren’t out protesting oppressive governments or building homeless shelters doesn’t mean we’re not doing something. If anything, most TRUE conservatives that I’ve met dedicate most of their money and/or time to helping those who are less fortunate. They bring help for the body in soul by not only addressing the person’s physical needs, but spiritual needs as well (including presenting the Gospel). So I think you might have unfairly categorized many conservatives who put an emphasis on “right doctrine.”

    Again, I see the mentality of (1) in your approach to Scripture. Scripture is clear that we are to live a Godly life; but it also gives us a clear indication that we are to think Godly as well and have the correct doctrine. Look at how Christ tells us to love God with all of our minds. Look at how Paul warns against false teachers who appear godly in their actions, but are ungodly in their rhetoric and doctrine. Look at how Paul tells us to renew our minds.

    Just because one specific verse dealing with action doesn’t say, “And have good doctrine,” doesn’t mean we’re free from it or that action trumps doctrine. Both are equally important and both must be pursued. Just because someone has good actions doesn’t mean we give them the “go-ahead” card and let them pass; their doctrine is just as important as their actions.

    As for your offers, I’d gladly take you up on them; unfortunately, I live in Texas (moving soon to North Carolina), not Michigan. 🙂

  42. Joel

    The anonymous author of the Epistle to Diogentus sums up what I think all Christians should believe concerning the intellect and actions:

    “…for it is not the Tree of KNowledge that causes death; the deadly thing is disobedience. Scripture clearly says, ‘In the beginning God planted in the midst of the garden the tree of knowledge and the tree of life;’ thereby showing that the way to life lies through knowledge. It is only because the first-created couple used it impropertly that, through the wiles of the serpent, they were stripped of all they had. Without trustworthy knowledge; which is why the two trees were planted side by side. The Apostle saw the force of this when he told us, ‘knowledge makes a windbag, but love is a builder;’ that was his rebuke to the knowledge which is exercised without regard to the life-giving precepts of the truth…But he who possesses knowledge coupled with fear, and whose quest for life is earnest, may plant in hope and look for fruit.”

    It seems that the author is saying that knowledge is the foundation of the Christian life, but true knowledge leads to fruit, to actions, to living the truth.

    Just something to think about.

  43. Pam Elmore

    It IS interesting that not one woman has commented on this thread yet.

    After reading the review, I’m interested in reading the book… although I will say point 3 made me gasp a bit. Whenever I hear or read someone polarizing marriage and career in this way, I get a little irritated. Marriage and career are not mutually exclusive for men… why would they be so for women?

    Yes, young men (and women) are more cautious in love than they were 20 or 30 years ago, possibly due to seeing their own parents’ marriages fall apart. And perhaps young men need a gentle nudge in the direction of commitment. But to claim that young women are being “forced into careers they don’t want because too many young men are afraid to step out and marry them” smacks of paternalism of the worst kind.

    And it begs the question: in a worldview that believes that God directs our affairs, who exactly is doing the “forcing?” Wouldn’t that sentence resonate differently if the word “forced” were replaced with “led?”

    I’ll still read the book. It sounds interesting, and it might be just the thing to address the life-decision issues of the college-aged students I know. But that statement really got me in touch with my inner Gloria Steinem.

  44. Pam,
    I appreciate your concerns here and agree with you. Statement 3 was a tad paternalistic and, at first reading, does sound as if the burden falls in men to step up and rescue those women who must choose work over marriage. Moreover, as you point out, the statement does lend itself to bifurcation (a choice between two mutually exclusive options where a “both/and” is not one of them). However, I am a committed biblical egalitarian and am typically keen on noting the male bent comments, but did not read it that way. Instead I saw it as in interesting sociological/hypothetical statement wondering how the lives of men and women would be different had they chosen marriage before careers.

    Just thinking…

  45. Pam Elmore


    Thank you for your gracious reply to my comment.

    Your interpretation is probably closer to the author’s intent. Doubtless things would turn out differently if a couple chose marriage at 21 instead of 31, or if they entered married life with less debt. The choices we make when we’re young follow us around for a long time, so practical advice and mentoring is crucial for that age group.

    What irritated me about point 3 was the twin assumptions buried there: first, that a choice between career and family has to be made, but only by women; and second, that a woman would only choose a career because a marriage wasn’t on the horizon. The “ideal” situation (working dad, stay-at-home mom, 2.5 kids) is a cultural construct, not a biblical one, and it’s dangerous to present cultural constructs as if they’re biblical mandates.

    After a more careful reading, I see that Kevin’s emphasis is on guys “growing up sooner” — which seems to be a comment on extended adolescence. But I think the emphasis there should be less about finding a woman to marry, and more about becoming a Christlike man. But perhaps I will find that there when I read the book. 🙂

    Anyway… thanks, Mike, for pointing out Kevin’s book. I’ll be sure to check it out… as soon as this semester is over.

  46. Pam Elmore

    Correction: “practical advice and mentoring ARE crucial…”

    Sorry, Mike. I didn’t mean to disrespect you with poor grammar.

  47. Darrell Yoder


    I’m going to skip the above discussion completely and ask a different question bouncing off something you say in this original post.

    Above you say: “Kevin hits the sweet spot between rationalism and mysticism. He doesn’t preclude God from speaking to us outside the pages of Scripture, but he doesn’t give much weight to those messages either.”

    Now, I haven’t read Kevin’s book yet, so I’m not sure what he does with this. (I’m trying to be interested, but honestly, it sounds like more of the same–more of what I’ve heard a lot already and struggled to apply).

    How is it that we should not give much weight to what God says outside of Scripture? If God said it, doesn’t it already have weight? And are we not hindering our relationship with Him when we essentially ignore what he is saying simply because we don’t trust His means of communication?

    I get it that Scripture is authoritative, period. The Spirit works primarily in conjuction with the Word. And I get it that our impressions, intuitions, leadings et al are naturally fallible, so they must be tested by Scripture, fellow believers, circumstances, etc. But to just say we should not “give much weight” to them seems like non-advice. Actually, it seems like thinly-veiled rejection what you’re trying to make room for (and what God might be trying to do).

    If God might speak or guide us separate from Scripture (that is, if I sense God’s direction on something, but I don’t have a verse for it, and it didn’t come from something in my devotions)….what advice do you (or Kevin) have for actually navigating those decisions and being responsive to the Spirit? The advice “do what you want as long as it isn’t sinful or stupid” doesn’t seem very helpful. What if someone isn’t clear which option in their decision they really “want”. And what if God pushes someone to do something they DON’T really want?

    The bottom-line (it seems) of your and Kevin’s advice is to basically ignore promptings or intuitions admitting that they might actually be Spirit-given. And if we do this don’t we risk relying too heavily on our minds, the Christian culture we’re in, and the expectations of others? What if God wants a person to do something that is not sinful and only seems stupid or foolish to other Christians. What guidance is left?

    I’m not really expecting either of you to give a full explanation of how to make these kinds of decisions here, but I am wanting to say (and hear your response to this) that while we hold Scripture as authoritative and while we hold that the Spirit works primarily through the Word, if we admit that God may speak “outside the pages of Scripture” (and I think we should), we need to give more attention to this messier area of decision-making. Ignoring it or not giving it much “weight” isn’t enough.


  48. mikewittmer


    Good questions and helpful comments. My response would be that I must be humble about what I claim God is saying outside the pages of Scripture. I can say that “I think God is leading me” or “I believe God is prompting me,” but that is as far as I should go. I know that the Bible is God’s Word. Everything else is less sure.

    I think that God may interact with and lead people in different ways, but as for me, I don’t believe that I receive, and neither do I look for, communication from God outside the pages of the Bible. I pray for wisdom as I sort through the issues and decisions before me, but I don’t think it’s helpful to try to discover the will of God through some other means than Scripture.

    And it can actually be destructive. As Kevin says, and I’m paraphrasing from memory here, “God has a sovereign, decretive will for our lives, but he does not tell us what it is beforehand.”

    So I worry about obeying God’s moral will which is revealed in Scripture, and rejoice in the freedom I have to make decisions in everything else.

  49. Darrell

    I fully agree with what you’re saying about humility and caution in this. I, too, have seen this thoughtlessly abused (or at least misused). It’s frustrating. But I don’t think we should overreact and swing over to an overly cautious approach.

    Again, if we concede that God may speak outside of Scripture–even if it’s as small as “go talk to that person about Me”–then we need to develop an approach that gives guidance to how we should discern that. Ignoring what might actually be God is not enough, and as safe as relying on Scripture feels, it’s not safe to potentially ignore God.

    It’s too easy to rationalize oneself out of small but significant things God wants us to do or say. I’m looking for ways to guide myself and others as they learn to listen to God’s voice–first from Scripture and then from any other way God may speak.

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