Kevin DeYoung

Toward a Better Discussion about Abuse

Abuse, of any kind, is an egregious sin by those who commit it and an immensely difficult and heavy burden to bear by those who are victims of it. As with any sin, abuse is, worst of all, an offense against a holy God. Those who perpetuate abuse must be confronted in their sin, called to faith and repentance, and offered the one true hope that can be found in Christ alone. Those who are sinned against must be comforted in their suffering, helped to put away misplaced shame, and offered the one true hope that can be found in Christ alone.
So far, I trust that every Christian is in agreement with these affirmations.
But beyond these foundational truths, the current discussion about abuse—as it is being played out online, in articles, in books, and in churches—gets quickly twisted and tied up in knots. To some degree, this is simply what happens when emotionally charged issues get talked about online (especially on Twitter). Social media has not been known to foster a spirit of charity or cultivate an intellectual atmosphere interested in careful distinctions and patient deliberation. The other difficulty is that depending on a whole host of factors—one’s personality, position, experience, or context—we tend to see the present dangers leading in different directions. For some, the most pressing concern is obviously that abuse is perpetrated, minimized, and covered up in the church. For others, there is another concern, that abuse is becoming a totalizing category and that even the accusation of abuse takes down everyone and everything in its path.
I admit I am concerned that correcting the church’s failures when it comes to abuse has given way in some places to an unhealthy overcorrection. Of course, in one sense, you cannot correct an error too much. And yet, you can correct one error in a way that produces new errors. That’s what I see at times in the current discussion about abuse.
I realize there are important points that need to be made on both sides. I have several points below warning against the overcorrection, but I don’t want to minimize the need there has been (and continues to be in many places) for the initial correction. So let me do my best to sincerely voice the correction and warn against the overcorrection.
What Needs to Be Said
Here are five things we need to say about abuse.
One, abuse is in the church. As much as we strive to be different from the world, there is still worldliness in the church. Children have been abused by adults. Wives have been abused by husbands (and sometimes the other way around). Congregants have been abused by leaders. Subordinate staff members have been abused by senior staff members. We in the church have not always done a good job protecting the vulnerable or holding the powerful to account. Predators, narcissists, and sinners of various stripes have too easily found the church a place to hide, and sometimes a place to flourish, in their deeds of darkness.
Two, the church has not always handled abuse well. Even when church leaders have not been guilty themselves of abusive behavior, and have not sought to cover up abusive patterns, they have sometimes failed to handle abuse situations with biblical fidelity, pastoral sensitivity, and Christian grace. These failures may include: failing to put proper safety measures in place, failing to act in a timely manner, failing to warn others and share information with pertinent parties or assemblies, failing to include women (when appropriate) in matters of domestic abuse, applying Matthew 18 in a wooden fashion, treating abuse situations as straightforward matters of personal reconciliation, being slow to listen, and being ignorant of proper reporting procedures.
Three, there are many devastating ways we can sin against one another. We should all know by now that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. We can be deeply hurt by words as well as actions, by emotional pain as well as physical harm, by subtly manipulative leaders as well as by obviously tyrannical ones.
Four, victims need our help. Victims often deal with misplaced shame and need to be reassured of their innocence and of God’s grace. The cries of victims have sometimes gone unheard; they need people in positions of influence to listen to them and to speak for and with them. Often they need people in power to step in and protect them from harm.
Five, the first instinct of Christian leaders should be to help genuine victims. There can be a sinful tendency in those who are in positions of authority to view abuse victims as threats to be neutralized rather than sufferers to be helped and comforted. Of course, institutional boards and presidents and pastors cannot cease to be wise, responsible leaders. But being a good steward of the organization is no excuse for treating situations of abuse as strictly legal matters or as public relations disasters to be mitigated. We must think about victims before we think about our own institutional liabilities.
What We Need to Be Careful About
All of the points above are important. They cannot be assumed. They should not be minimized. I lead with these five points because they need to be said.
At the same time, there are other things that need to be said, lest in our zeal to care for victims we end up making new victims. Let me, then, make five additional points.
One, there is almost no room to say anything besides the first five points without some people accusing you of not really caring about the first five points. At times, the topic of abuse gets put into a category by itself where—unlike other pastoral or theological topics—any efforts at nuance or dispassionate analysis are completely off limits. As a result, people are often pushed to opposite sides: You either get it and are 100% on the right side, or you are an oppressor and part of the problem.
Along with this all-or-nothing mindset comes an unrealistic expectation that every discussion of abuse must proceed as if one was in an intimate counseling setting. That is, no matter the platform (book, blog, tweet) and no matter the genre (scholarly article, theological inquiry, cultural analysis, exegetical exploration), the writer or speaker must communicate with a commitment, seemingly above all else, that the most aggrieved person or eager critic could not possibly misunderstand or misappropriate what is being said. Too often there is an unrealistic expectation that every internet article or podcast comment or pulpit sermon must speak as you would in a one-on-one counseling situation. We do not produce balanced thinking by making the internet a counseling office, nor will victims be helped in the long run by giving them the expectation that the care they need can be found from strangers online.
Two, sometimes there is an unwillingness to distinguish between the abuser and anyone else in “the system.” It’s true, the system—and those in it—can fail victims and cover tracks for the abuser. And yet, we should be cautious about charging “the culture” with producing iniquity—a charge that is usually impossible to prove or disprove. We must not impute guilt to anyone and everyone who is somehow connected to “the system.”
Likewise, we must be careful to distinguish between high handed sin, unintentional sin, honest mistakes, and simply being connected to a sinful person or a tragic situation. It is far too easy—whether from a sincere zeal to ameliorate injustice or from a desire to seem virtuous—to malign others without evidence or due process. A commitment to helping victims should not necessitate second-degree (let alone third- or fourth-degree) separation from anyone deemed “controversial” or from those who have been accused of abuse without due process.  “Guilty until proven innocent” is not a Christian way to pursue justice, nor is it loving our neighbors as we would want to be loved.
Three, abuse has become an ever-expanding term. Because “abuse” is such an explosive term, bringing shame to the accused and bringing power to the offended, we must not throw around the word haphazardly. Not too long ago, if you said “abuse” everyone would have assumed you meant physical harm or the sexual exploitation of a minor. As I said earlier, it is important to realize that there are ways we can be powerfully sinned against that don’t involve anyone laying a finger on our bodies. The problem is not in recognizing the many ways we can sin and be sinned against. The problem is in forestalling further questions and conversations by simply mentioning the word “abuse.” The danger of verbal inflation is real. The language of violence and trauma are now used for everyday interactions. When hurt feelings, gruff personalities, ill-conceived jokes, run-of-the-mill staff disagreements, and the ordinary misunderstandings of life get labeled as “abuse,” we not only run the risk of slandering the accused, we also make it more difficult for the genuinely abused to get the help and attention they need.
Four, when it comes to allegations of abuse, it is sometimes communicated (implicitly or explicitly) that the only acceptable stance is immediate and unquestioned advocacy. Again, let me try to make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that advocacy is wrong. There are certainly many times where the most helpful, most courageous, and most Christian thing to do is to make sure the victim knows, “I am on your side, and I will fight for you.” What I am saying is that we should not expect that immediate and unquestioned advocacy is the only appropriate response—indeed, it may sometimes be the wrong response—when serious allegations are made. No matter how much we want to listen to and sympathize with people in their pain, there must be a place for fact-finding, for hearing from both sides, and for objective analysis—whether from journalists, boards, pastors, investigators, or whomever.
We are all capable of misinterpreting the facts—even the facts that form our story. None of us passively experience life. We actively interpret what happens to us, and sometimes we interpret our experiences incorrectly. Abusers can be blind to their abusive behavior, and those who consider themselves victims can misread what actually transpired. We must allow for the possibility that sheep can mislabel as “abuse” what is, in fact, necessary pastoral correction and oversight. After all, “for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
Five, the abuse discussion can forget that all of us are both sufferers and sinners. There are real oppressors and real victims. People don’t all suffer the same amount. People don’t all sin in the same ways or to the same degree. And yet, we must remember that hurting people often hurt people. They may not mean to. They may be trying to deal with genuine pain as best as they can. We must be patient with those who have been egregiously sinned against. But the sinned against are still sinners. Suffering does not make us sovereign. Our pain does not make us infallible. Sometimes our sense of trauma is misplaced. Sometimes we are less fragile than we think.
And finally, and somewhat controversially I know, we must acknowledge that even when we were sinned against, we are still responsible for the sins we commit. The existence of a power disparity, for example, does not automatically eliminate personal agency. Clearly in some situations—when dealing with minors, for example, or when one is physically overpowered—there is complete exoneration of guilt. But in other situations, the one with lesser power can still bear moral responsibility, even if the one with greater power is guilty of a much more heinous transgression (see Westminster Larger Catechism 151). If Joseph had slept with Potipher’s powerful, conniving, and threatening wife, she would have had the greater sin, but Joseph’s actions would still have been a great wickedness and sin against God (Gen. 39:9).
Conclusion
We have heard a lot in the last couple years about the danger of authority, and understandably so. We have seen some utterly terrible abuses of power in the Christian world. Power dynamics are real. Narcissism is insidious.  Siding with the gifted abuser and ignoring the oppressed victim happens. Authority is sadly, tragically, too often used for diabolical ends.
But the response to a fire in the kitchen must not be to burn the whole house down. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, so we must not be suspicious of all authority. The abuse of authority is a profound distortion of God’s own character, for He is the one who sovereignly rules over all things. In my experience over twenty years of ministry, I believe most pastors deserve the benefit of the doubt. Most are doing their imperfect best to lead and serve and teach in increasingly difficult days. To help people see God for who he is, we must correct abuse where it exists, without overstating the problem, without calling all authority into question, and without damaging the reputations of those who don’t deserve to be pilloried.

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: Puritans, Preaching, and Productivity with Dr. Joel Beeke

In this latest episode of LBE, Dr. Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, and editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books joins us to dive into the theological and historical world of the Puritans, providing reading suggestions for both beginners and experts. We also talk about improving your preaching through expository and experiential content.

Timestamps:
Gift Ideas [0:00 – 2:00]
Accomplishing Much [2:00 – 8:57]
Family Foundation [8:57 – 11:30]
Denominations & Hyper-Calvinism [11:30 – 16:58]
Experiential Preaching [16:58 – 34:21]
The Weary, Wayward, Lazy, & Lost [34:21 – 37:21]
Puritans [37:21 – 57:24]
Book Recommendations [57:24 – 1:04:30]
Books and Everything:
Gift Ideas:
Good News of Great Joy: 25 Devotional Readings for Advent, by John Piper
Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship, by Jonathan Gibson
ESV Concise Study Bible
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, by Paul David Tripp
George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century, by Arnold Dallimore
Spurgeon, by Arnold Dallimore
Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon
Preaching & Preachers, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Pastoral Theology, by Thomas Murphy
The European Reformations, by Carter Lindberg
Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were, by Leland Ryken
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane C. Ortlund
The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ, by F.W. Krummacher
Christ Our Mediator, by Thomas Goodwin
By Our Guest:
Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 3: Spirit and Salvation, by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley
Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People, by Joel R. Beeke
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
Meet the Puritans, by Joel R. Beeke and Randall Pederson
Living for the God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, by Joel R. Beeke
Puritans for Beginners:
Puritan Treasures for Today
Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, by John Flavel
Stop Loving the World, by William Greenhill
The Works of John Owen
Heaven Taken by Storm, by Thomas Watson
The Works of Thomas Watson
The Puritan Documentary
Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: Puritans, Preaching, and Productivity with Dr. Joel Beeke

In this latest episode of LBE, Dr. Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, and editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books joins us to dive into the theological and historical world of the Puritans, providing reading suggestions for both beginners and experts. We also talk about improving your preaching through expository and experiential content.

Timestamps:
Gift Ideas [0:00 – 2:00]
Accomplishing Much [2:00 – 8:57]
Family Foundation [8:57 – 11:30]
Denominations & Hyper-Calvinism [11:30 – 16:58]
Experiential Preaching [16:58 – 34:21]
The Weary, Wayward, Lazy, & Lost [34:21 – 37:21]
Puritans [37:21 – 57:24]
Book Recommendations [57:24 – 1:04:30]
Books and Everything:
Gift Ideas:
Good News of Great Joy: 25 Devotional Readings for Advent, by John Piper
Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship, by Jonathan Gibson
ESV Concise Study Bible
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, by Paul David Tripp
George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century, by Arnold Dallimore
Spurgeon, by Arnold Dallimore
Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon
Preaching & Preachers, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Pastoral Theology, by Thomas Murphy
The European Reformations, by Carter Lindberg
Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were, by Leland Ryken
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane C. Ortlund
The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ, by F.W. Krummacher
Christ Our Mediator, by Thomas Goodwin
By Our Guest:
Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 3: Spirit and Salvation, by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley
Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People, by Joel R. Beeke
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
Meet the Puritans, by Joel R. Beeke and Randall Pederson
Living for the God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, by Joel R. Beeke
Puritans for Beginners:
Puritan Treasures for Today
Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, by John Flavel
Stop Loving the World, by William Greenhill
The Works of John Owen
Heaven Taken by Storm, by Thomas Watson
The Works of Thomas Watson
The Puritan Documentary
Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: What We Love About Christmastime

In this episode, Collin and I enjoy a fun conversation about the best parts, and the worst parts, of the Advent/Christmas season. Were the Puritans right to strip all the fun out of it? Are Christmas cards worth it? Can we bear another rendition of “Last Christmas”? Plus, by popular demand, time management, and productivity tips! Learn how I manage to read so many books and also be present for my family.

Timestamps:
You Just Keep Turning the Pages [0:00 – 4:22]
Airing of Christmas Grievances [4:22 – 11:51]
Favorite Christmas Activities [11:51 – 24:33]
Keep Christmas Messy [24:33 – 31:25]
Time Management & Productivity Tips [31:25 – 43:22]
How to Read 82 Books in a Year [43:22 – 57:31]
I’m working on new books. [57:31 – 1:02:36]
Books and Everything:
Psalms in 30 Days, by Trevin Wax
“Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green),” by Joseph Bottum
(Sleighbell sounds from zapsplat.com.)

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: What We Love About Christmastime

In this episode, Collin and I enjoy a fun conversation about the best parts, and the worst parts, of the Advent/Christmas season. Were the Puritans right to strip all the fun out of it? Are Christmas cards worth it? Can we bear another rendition of “Last Christmas”? Plus, by popular demand, time management, and productivity tips! Learn how I manage to read so many books and also be present for my family.

Timestamps:
You Just Keep Turning the Pages [0:00 – 4:22]
Airing of Christmas Grievances [4:22 – 11:51]
Favorite Christmas Activities [11:51 – 24:33]
Keep Christmas Messy [24:33 – 31:25]
Time Management & Productivity Tips [31:25 – 43:22]
How to Read 82 Books in a Year [43:22 – 57:31]
I’m working on new books. [57:31 – 1:02:36]
Books and Everything:
Psalms in 30 Days, by Trevin Wax
“Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green),” by Joseph Bottum
(Sleighbell sounds from zapsplat.com.)

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Top 10 Books of 2021

First off, my usual disclaimer and explanation.
This list is not meant to assess the thousands of good books published in 2021. There are plenty of worthy titles that I am not able to read (and lots I never hear of). This is simply a list of the books (Christian and non-Christian, but all non-fiction) that I thought were the best in the past year. “Best” doesn’t mean I agreed with everything in them; it means I found these books—all published in 2021 (or the very end of 2020)—a strong combination of thoughtful, useful, interesting, helpful, insightful, and challenging.
Instead of trying to rank the books 1-10 (always a somewhat arbitrary task), I’ll simply list them in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
Special Note: in addition to the Top 10 list, I’ve included a number of other books I’ve enjoyed in the past year. Don’t miss all the bonus books mentioned at the end of the post! Now on to this year’s list.
Erika Bachiochi, The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (University of Notre Dame)
I admit, I’ve never thought of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) as a possible source of conservative wisdom, but Bachiochi brilliantly employs Wollstonecraft’s 18th century feminist vision as a counterpoint to the moral bankruptcy that characterizes too much of contemporary feminism. At the heart of Bachiochi’s prescription is the contention that the best feminism is pro-woman, pro-family, and pro-children. She also insists, along with Wollstonecraft, that male infidelity is, in many ways, the problem to be remedied, and certainly not a lifestyle for the “liberated” woman to imitate. 
Katy Faust and Stacy Manning, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement (Post Hill)
Speaking of family and children, Faust and Manning argue forcefully that if we really want to put children first (“them before us”), we must be honest about how the sexual revolution, new reproductive technologies, and new familial arrangements are undeniably harmful to the most vulnerable among us. This book is a good one-stop guide to much of the latest sociological and biological research on marriage, family, and human flourishing. 
Bruce Gordon and Carl Trueman, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Calvin and Calvinism (Oxford)
Gordon and Trueman are to be commended for commissioning an outstanding collection of chapters, written by outstanding scholars and covering a wide array of topics. With chapters on standard and excellent topics like Knox and Calvin, Calvinism in Germany, and Calvin among the Puritans, as well as “newer” topics covering the influence of Calvinism in places like China, Brazil, and Ghana, everyone interested in Calvinism should be interested in this book. The last chapter on “The New Calvinism” is a fair and evenhanded summary of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. This hefty volume is a terrific resource for pastors, scholars, and students.
 
Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford)
I’ve recommended this book many times in the last several months. If you want to see what fair-minded, contemporary historical research looks like (as opposed to advocacy historiography), this is a great example. With an even-handed approach, Gribben explores the growth of the Christian Reconstruction movement in places like Moscow, Idaho. What is Doug Wilson up to? This book tries to answer that question, without telling you whether the project is good or bad or something in between.
 

David Haines, Natural Theology: A Biblical and Historical Introduction and Defense (Davenant Press)
No doubt, we are seeing in our day a renewed appreciation among Protestants for natural theology. This is a good thing, and Haines shows us why. With an emphasis on the Greeks and the Romans and the first centuries of the church, Haines makes the convincing case that natural theology has been around a long time, is taught in the Bible, and has been the default position in the Western Church (Catholic and Protestant) until the last century.
 

Allen C. Guelzo, Robert E. Lee: A Life (Knopf)

Guelzo is one of the finest living historians. His research is impeccable, his prose memorable, and his insights provocative. All Guelzo’s learning and lucidity are on display in this magisterial biography. Oh, and he gives a great podcast interview.
 
 
 
John W. Kleinig, Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body (Lexham Press)
Being Reformed, I didn’t agree with every jot and tittle of Kleinig’s theology. But overall, it was a refreshing, positive, unflinching exploration of what Christians ought to believe, and should be teaching, in these crazy times. We need as many good Christian books about the body as we can get. This was a very good one.
 
 
Stephen Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Crossway)
This book was a pleasure to read. I think I devoured it in two sittings. Nichols has a flair for biographical writing, and Sproul makes a great subject for biographical history. I knew much of the broad outline of R.C.’s life, but I learned a lot I didn’t know. Anyone who has benefited from a Sproul book or lecture or sermon will enjoy this book.
 
 
Gary L. Steward, Justifying Revolution: The American Clergy’s Argument for Public Resistance 1750-1776 (Oxford)
Not everyone is into revised doctoral dissertations, but this one was particularly interesting. Did pastors support the American Revolution because they had become Republicans more than Christians and had drunk too deeply of Enlightenment wells? Or were they drawing upon an older Reformed tradition in resisting British tyranny? Steward makes a good case for the latter.
 
Scott Yenor, The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies (Baylor)
Do we need another book aimed at undermining the sexual revolution? Given the way the revolution continues to roll on and roll over everything in its way, the answer, Yenor argues, is yes. This is a bracing analysis of how incoherent our modern assumptions have become and how the family suffers as a result.
 
 
*****
And now for more books! This isn’t everything I’ve read in the past year, but here are a few dozen other books I read in 2021. You may want to check out some of these titles (even if I don’t agree with everything in every book).
Five of my favorite (non-2021) books:
David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, Volumes 1 and 2 (Banner of Truth, 1994, 1996)Wilfred McClay, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (Encounter, 2019)Te-Li Lau, Defending Shame: Its Formative Power in Paul’s Letters (Baker Academic, 2020)Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny (Viking, 2018)James S. Stewart, Heralds of God: A Practical Book on Preaching (Regent, 2001)
Books from 2021 that I just started and look forward to reading more:
H.W. Brands, Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution (Doubleday)Jay Cost, James Madison: America’s First Politician (Basic Books)Benjamin M. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Knopf)Jonathan Gibson, Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship (Crossway)Arthur Herman, The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World (Mariner Books)
Books on productivity and time management:
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (Currency, 2018)Cal Newport, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload (Penguin, 2021)Greg McKeown, Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters (Currency, 2021)Oliver Burkman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2021)Jordan Raynor, Redeeming Your Time: 7 Biblical Principles for Being Purposeful, Present and Wildly Productive (Waterbrook, 2021)
Books on politics and economics and social issues:
Russell Kirk, Concise Guide to Conservatism (Regnery, 2019)Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th rev. ed. (Gateway, 2019)William Julius Wilson, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (Norton)Glenn S. Sunshine, Slaying Leviathan (Canon Press, 2021)Thaddeus Williams, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth (Zondervan, 2020)James R. Otteson, Seven Deadly Economic Sins (Cambridge, 2021)Wilfred Reilly, Taboo: Ten Facts You Can’t Talk About (Regnery, 2020).Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters, 2nd Ed (Harmony, 2017);
Books on history and historical figures:
Danny E. Olinger, Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian (Reformed Forum, 2018)Iain Murray, “The Life of John Murray” in Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 3 (Banner of Truth, 1982)Edward H. Bonekemper III, The Myth of the Lost Cause (Regnery History, 2015)Lucas E. Morel, Lincoln and the American Founding (SIU Press, 2020)Allen C. Guelzo, Redeeming the Great Emancipator (Harvard, 2016)Jason Riley, Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell (Basic Books, 2021)Steven Ozment, Ancestors: The Loving Family in Old Europe (Harvard, 2001)Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Harvard, 1983)H.W. Brands, The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom (Doubleday, 2020)Ritchie Robertson, The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness 1680-1790 (Harper, 2021).
Books on theology:
Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP Academic, 2014)Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ (IVP, 1998)Donald Macleod, Therefore the Truth I Speak: Scottish Theology 1500-1700 (Mentor, 2020)Michael J. Kruger, Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Crossway, 2021)James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification (Banner of Truth, 2016)Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Eerdmans, 2006)Michael Allen and Scott Swain, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology (OUP, 2020)David Fergusson and Mark W. Elliott, The History of Scottish Theology, 3 Volumes (OUP, 2019)Doug Moo, The Theology of Paul and His Letters (Zondervan Academic, 2021)G.K. Chesteron, The Everlasting Man (Ignatius, 1925)

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Top 10 Books of 2021

First off, my usual disclaimer and explanation.
This list is not meant to assess the thousands of good books published in 2021. There are plenty of worthy titles that I am not able to read (and lots I never hear of). This is simply a list of the books (Christian and non-Christian, but all non-fiction) that I thought were the best in the past year. “Best” doesn’t mean I agreed with everything in them; it means I found these books—all published in 2021 (or the very end of 2020)—a strong combination of thoughtful, useful, interesting, helpful, insightful, and challenging.
Instead of trying to rank the books 1-10 (always a somewhat arbitrary task), I’ll simply list them in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
Special Note: in addition to the Top 10 list, I’ve included a number of other books I’ve enjoyed in the past year. Don’t miss all the bonus books mentioned at the end of the post! Now on to this year’s list.
Erika Bachiochi, The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (University of Notre Dame)
I admit, I’ve never thought of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) as a possible source of conservative wisdom, but Bachiochi brilliantly employs Wollstonecraft’s 18th century feminist vision as a counterpoint to the moral bankruptcy that characterizes too much of contemporary feminism. At the heart of Bachiochi’s prescription is the contention that the best feminism is pro-woman, pro-family, and pro-children. She also insists, along with Wollstonecraft, that male infidelity is, in many ways, the problem to be remedied, and certainly not a lifestyle for the “liberated” woman to imitate.
Katy Faust and Stacy Manning, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement (Post Hill)
Speaking of family and children, Faust and Manning argue forcefully that if we really want to put children first (“them before us”), we must be honest about how the sexual revolution, new reproductive technologies, and new familial arrangements are undeniably harmful to the most vulnerable among us. This book is a good one-stop guide to much of the latest sociological and biological research on marriage, family, and human flourishing.
Bruce Gordon and Carl Trueman, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Calvin and Calvinism (Oxford)
Gordon and Trueman are to be commended for commissioning an outstanding collection of chapters, written by outstanding scholars and covering a wide array of topics. With chapters on standard and excellent topics like Knox and Calvin, Calvinism in Germany, and Calvin among the Puritans, as well as “newer” topics covering the influence of Calvinism in places like China, Brazil, and Ghana, everyone interested in Calvinism should be interested in this book. The last chapter on “The New Calvinism” is a fair and evenhanded summary of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. This hefty volume is a terrific resource for pastors, scholars, and students.

Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford)
I’ve recommended this book many times in the last several months. If you want to see what fair-minded, contemporary historical research looks like (as opposed to advocacy historiography), this is a great example. With an even-handed approach, Gribben explores the growth of the Christian Reconstruction movement in places like Moscow, Idaho. What is Doug Wilson up to? This book tries to answer that question, without telling you whether the project is good or bad or something in between.

David Haines, Natural Theology: A Biblical and Historical Introduction and Defense (Davenant Press)
No doubt, we are seeing in our day a renewed appreciation among Protestants for natural theology. This is a good thing, and Haines shows us why. With an emphasis on the Greeks and the Romans and the first centuries of the church, Haines makes the convincing case that natural theology has been around a long time, is taught in the Bible, and has been the default position in the Western Church (Catholic and Protestant) until the last century.

Allen C. Guelzo, Robert E. Lee: A Life (Knopf)

Guelzo is one of the finest living historians. His research is impeccable, his prose memorable, and his insights provocative. All Guelzo’s learning and lucidity are on display in this magisterial biography. Oh, and he gives a great podcast interview.

John W. Kleinig, Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body (Lexham Press)
Written from a Lutheran perspective, I didn’t agree with every jot and tittle of Kleinig’s theology. But overall, it was a refreshing, positive, unflinching exploration of what Christians ought to believe, and should be teaching, in these crazy times. We need as many good Christian books about the body as we can get. This was a very good one.

Stephen Nichols, R.C. Sproul: A Life (Crossway)
This book was a pleasure to read. I think I devoured it in two sittings. Nichols has a flair for biographical writing, and Sproul makes a great subject for biographical history. I knew much of the broad outline of R.C.’s life, but I learned a lot I didn’t know. Anyone who has benefited from a Sproul book or lecture or sermon will enjoy this book.

Gary L. Steward, Justifying Revolution: The American Clergy’s Argument for Public Resistance 1750-1776 (Oxford)
Not everyone is into revised doctoral dissertations, but this one was particularly interesting. Did pastors support the American Revolution because they had become Republicans more than Christians and had drunk too deeply of Enlightenment wells? Or were they drawing upon an older Reformed tradition in resisting British tyranny? Steward makes a good case for the latter.

Scott Yenor, The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies (Baylor)
Do we need another book aimed at undermining the sexual revolution? Given the way the revolution continues to roll on and roll over everything in its way, the answer, Yenor argues, is yes. This is a bracing analysis of how incoherent our modern assumptions have become and how the family suffers as a result.

*****
And now for more books! This isn’t everything I’ve read in the past year, but here are a few dozen other books I read in 2021. You may want to check out some of these titles (even if I don’t agree with everything in every book).
Five of my favorite (non-2021) books:
David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, Volumes 1 and 2 (Banner of Truth, 1994, 1996)Wilfred McClay, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (Encounter, 2019)Te-Li Lau, Defending Shame: Its Formative Power in Paul’s Letters (Baker Academic, 2020)Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny (Viking, 2018)James S. Stewart, Heralds of God: A Practical Book on Preaching (Regent, 2001)
Books from 2021 that I just started and look forward to reading more:
H.W. Brands, Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution (Doubleday)Jay Cost, James Madison: America’s First Politician (Basic Books)Benjamin M. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Knopf)Jonathan Gibson, Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship (Crossway)Arthur Herman, The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World (Mariner Books)
Books on productivity and time management:
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (Currency, 2018)Cal Newport, A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload (Penguin, 2021)Greg McKeown, Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters (Currency, 2021)Oliver Burkman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2021)Jordan Raynor, Redeeming Your Time: 7 Biblical Principles for Being Purposeful, Present and Wildly Productive (Waterbrook, 2021)
Books on politics and economics and social issues:
Russell Kirk, Concise Guide to Conservatism (Regnery, 2019)Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th rev. ed. (Gateway, 2019)William Julius Wilson, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (Norton)Glenn S. Sunshine, Slaying Leviathan (Canon Press, 2021)Thaddeus Williams, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth (Zondervan, 2020)James R. Otteson, Seven Deadly Economic Sins (Cambridge, 2021)Wilfred Reilly, Taboo: Ten Facts You Can’t Talk About (Regnery, 2020).Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters, 2nd Ed (Harmony, 2017);
Books on history and historical figures:
Danny E. Olinger, Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian (Reformed Forum, 2018)Iain Murray, “The Life of John Murray” in Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 3 (Banner of Truth, 1982)Edward H. Bonekemper III, The Myth of the Lost Cause (Regnery History, 2015)Lucas E. Morel, Lincoln and the American Founding (SIU Press, 2020)Allen C. Guelzo, Redeeming the Great Emancipator (Harvard, 2016)Jason Riley, Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell (Basic Books, 2021)Steven Ozment, Ancestors: The Loving Family in Old Europe (Harvard, 2001)Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Harvard, 1983)H.W. Brands, The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom (Doubleday, 2020)Ritchie Robertson, The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness 1680-1790 (Harper, 2021).
Books on theology:
Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP Academic, 2014)Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ (IVP, 1998)Donald Macleod, Therefore the Truth I Speak: Scottish Theology 1500-1700 (Mentor, 2020)Michael J. Kruger, Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Crossway, 2021)James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification (Banner of Truth, 2016)Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Eerdmans, 2006)Michael Allen and Scott Swain, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology (OUP, 2020)David Fergusson and Mark W. Elliott, The History of Scottish Theology, 3 Volumes (OUP, 2019)Doug Moo, The Theology of Paul and His Letters (Zondervan Academic, 2021)G.K. Chesteron, The Everlasting Man (Ignatius, 1925)

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: Evangelism, with William Taylor

In this latest episode of LBE, I interview the keynote speaker of the 2021 Faithful Conference, William Taylor. William is the rector of St. Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate, London. You’ll hear a lot of fun banter, book recommendations, and a wealth of advice about evangelism, but what shines through most clearly is William Taylor’s firm faith in the Word of God to accomplish the mission of the church.

Timestamps:
William Taylor [0:00 – 3:23]
End the Confusion! [3:23 – 4:56]
Conversion Story [4:56 – 10:27]
Hospitality [10:27 – 14:26]
Personal Miscellany [14:26 – 17:59]
St. Helen’s and Dick Lucas [17:59 – 26:02]
Teaching and Planting in England [26:02 – 32:35]
Christian America [32:35 – 35:19]
The Word: One to One [35:19 – 39:32]
Evangelism Advice [39:32 – 46:03]
Lightning Round: Books! [46:03 – 56:13]
Books and Everything:
By William Taylor:
The Word: One to One
Revolutionary Work: What’s the point of the 9 to 5?
Read, Mark, Learn series
On Evangelism:
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer
Knowing God, by J.I. Packer
Questioning Evangelism, Second Edition: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did, by Randy Newman
Know and Tell the Gospel, by John Chapman
Evangelism As a Lifestyle: Reaching Into Your World With the Gospel, by Jim Petersen
True Devotion: In Search of Authentic Spirituality, by Allan Chapple
Funny:
The Jeeves & Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: Evangelism, with William Taylor

In this latest episode of LBE, I interview the keynote speaker of the 2021 Faithful Conference, William Taylor. William is the rector of St. Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate, London. You’ll hear a lot of fun banter, book recommendations, and a wealth of advice about evangelism, but what shines through most clearly is William Taylor’s firm faith in the Word of God to accomplish the mission of the church.

Timestamps:
William Taylor [0:00 – 3:23]
End the Confusion! [3:23 – 4:56]
Conversion Story [4:56 – 10:27]
Hospitality [10:27 – 14:26]
Personal Miscellany [14:26 – 17:59]
St. Helen’s and Dick Lucas [17:59 – 26:02]
Teaching and Planting in England [26:02 – 32:35]
Christian America [32:35 – 35:19]
The Word: One to One [35:19 – 39:32]
Evangelism Advice [39:32 – 46:03]
Lightning Round: Books! [46:03 – 56:13]
Books and Everything:
By William Taylor:
The Word: One to One
Revolutionary Work: What’s the point of the 9 to 5?
Read, Mark, Learn series
On Evangelism:
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer
Knowing God, by J.I. Packer
Questioning Evangelism, Second Edition: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did, by Randy Newman
Know and Tell the Gospel, by John Chapman
Evangelism As a Lifestyle: Reaching Into Your World With the Gospel, by Jim Petersen
True Devotion: In Search of Authentic Spirituality, by Allan Chapple
Funny:
The Jeeves & Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

Life and Books and Everything: ‘A Theology of Paul and His Letters,’ with Dr. Douglas Moo

In this latest episode of LBE, Dr. Douglas Moo, theologian and professor at Wheaton, joins Collin, Justin, and myself to talk about his new and substantial contribution, A Theology of Paul and His Letters. Weighing in at 784 pages, there is a lot to unpack. Among the topics we cover are: how to balance text and tradition, the biggest change in Pauline theology, Paul’s instructions on the family and sex, the work of N.T. Wright, and how substitution makes everything work.

Timestamps:
What Thanksgiving Means in Michigan [0:00 – 2:12]
Dr. Douglas J. Moo [2:12 – 7:32]
Text and Tradition in Theology [7:32 – 15:17]
What is the biggest recent change in Pauline theology? [15:17 – 19:29]
Same Text; Different Takes [19:29 – 29:26]
Traditional Conclusions [29:26 – 34:05]
Women and the Home [34:05 – 37:45]
Sexual Mores Conflict [37:45 – 41:08]
A Glaring Omission [41:08 – 44:25]
On N.T. Wright [44:25 – 49:07]
New Realm [49:07 – 51:57]
Substitutionary Atonement [51:57 – 55:24]
The Gagging of God, by D.A. Carson [55:24 – 1:01:45]
Books and Everything:
A Theology of Paul and His Letters: The Gift of the New Realm in Christ, by Dr. Douglas Moo
Other books by Dr. Moo

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He has written numerous books, including Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, Tabitha, Andrew, and Susannah.

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