Kevin DeYoung tweeted earlier today:
Let’s not be more “gospel-centered” than the Bible. The Bible is not afraid of words like striving, fighting, effort, and work.
What I am inferring from this is that he is referring to people who are into excessive “grace”, or what Bonhoeffer might call cheap grace. In Puritan times DeYoung might be challenging what was known as anti-nomianism, and what today, more popularly might be referred to as the ragamuffin gospel. Essentially DeYoung, as I read him is referring to the idea that it is okay and even necessary to “work” out one’s salvation; and I wouldn’t fully disagree. Of course the reason I am writing this quick post is because I do ultimately disagree with DeYoung; it’s his informing theology that concerns me.
DeYoung is a Young, Restless, and Reformed pastor/theologian who thinks about work, effort, striving, fighting, etc. from a certain perspective; at least when it is in reference to someone’s personal salvation. It is this informing theology, of DeYoung’s that I, of course, see as the problem. Because DeYoung believes that Jesus unconditionally elected certain people for salvation; because he believes that Jesus only died for these chosen few; and because he believes that a sign of people’s election is persevering in good works, when he calls for folks to not be more “gospel-centered” than the Bible, he is calling for them to essentially prove their election. It is from striving and working out one’s salvation that these elect individuals can assure themselves that they are one of the elect for whom Christ died. In the olden Puritan days they would call this experimental predestinarianism, because it was an experiment proven emperically through works which could demonstrate if an individual was truly one of the elect.
Of course the problem with attempting to prove one’s salvation was that it turned the person inward to themselves. This corrective that DeYoung is calling for comes from a certain theological vantage point. But is it really in alignment with a gospel of grace?
A genuine gospel of grace doesn’t ground one’s assurance of election or salvation in what they do. Instead the ground of salvation in a genuine gospel of grace is in the vicarious humanity of Christ and what he has done for us. It does not tell people to do things from a ground in an abstract decree of election, but instead it challenges them to look directly and immediately to Jesus Christ. It encourages the bruised reeds out there to understand that strife, effort, work, etc. have all been carried out for them in what Jesus has done for them in his humanity. It calls people to a life of participation and gratitude, and to live obediently to the Gospel of grace only in and from the life of Christ through union with him. There is no call to prove one’s election through perseverance in good works and striving. But this is what stands behind DeYoung’s statement.