This review is an incredible look at the human condition (even post-regeneration) and it is rubbing a lot of Christians the wrong way. Personally, I agree with the theology behind what Mark is saying.
Mark is gracious in his critique of the book, and refreshingly honest about his own struggles.
If you have the time, stop by CT and read the review in its entirety. For everyone else, here are some highlights:
"What I've discovered is this: The older I've grown, the more I realize how layered and subtle is my sin; the more spiritually mature I am, the more I realize, along with Jeremiah, how desperately wicked my heart is. In that sense, as I run the last laps of life, I'm much less impressed with my outward progress, and more aware than ever of my sin, and more and more in a constant state of repentance. Others compliment me on my "progress"—I no longer have a temper, I'm more considerate of my wife, more compassionate toward others, and so on and so forth. But they cannot see my heart, and if they did, they'd run in fear, repelled by the cauldron evil that remains. Perhaps I've simply failed in the pursuit of holiness. Or maybe the pursuit of holiness is not so much a striving to adopt a life of habitual virtue but learning how to live a life of constant repentance.
[DeYoung] says that those who pursue a righteous life are “susceptible to judgmentalism and arrogance.” What I think he fails to see is that those who pursue holiness with the passion that he pleads for are more than “susceptible” to these temptations; they will inevitably become self-righteous. This is my personal testimony and the witness of history. DeYoung points us to the Puritans as examples of holiness. But there is a reason that the Puritans have a reputation for priggishness and self-righteousness. Having been a student of the Puritans myself, I know their movement started out with the best of motives—to live godly lives in a sinful world. But their passion for holiness led inevitably to self-righteousness. Their historical reputation is due in part to secular bias, but it is also due to historical facts.
…while I applaud the reminder that we are called to be holy, and while I recognize that there is some deliberate effort involved, I believe that a conscious and purposeful pursuit of holiness is about the worst way to go about it. I cannot think of a person I know or a historical figure who has aspired to holiness without suffering from spiritual pride. This has certainly been the case in my own spiritual journey. The times I have deliberately tried to become godly are when I have become most like the devil—irritable, judgmental, arrogant, and prideful to start with. The paradox is when I stop trying to be holy, and simply repent as the sinner I am, I become more patient, kind, and loving."
Right on Mark!
Right on Mark!