Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Don't Read Just Do Something

This review of Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung was made possible through a complimentary copy of the audiobook through christianaudio's reviewer program.

I was looking forward to this book, expecting a bit of an incarnational perspective on finding God's will. That was there, but not in the way I expected. It presented nothing useful and was possibly the worst religion book I've read (or listened to). In fact, I think it can be quite spiritually, relationally, and psychologically damaging.

It seems appropriate to start the review with the title. Compared with other books I've reviewed recently, this title is very appropriate and accurate. In fact, it tells you exactly what the book is about. DeYoung's answer to God's will is don't worry about it; just do something. Anything. As long as it is not morally reprehensible.

This is where I started having problems. DeYoung discusses valid problems in today's society, namely indecision. But his solution is too extreme of just doing something. I do not believe that is the answer, nor is it God's desire for us to just act. I could probably go line-by-line with counterpoints to DeYoung's assertions, but that would make another book, and it's hard to do with an audiobook.

Here's a couple of his main points, though. One is that we do not really need to seek counsel in most any situation. That's what God gave us a brain for. Okay, that's true that we should use our minds, but that's also what the Holy Spirit is for. DeYoung's way of dealing with God's will does not require any real relationship with God; it just requires a knowledge of Scripture. He states that the Spirit speaks to us through Scripture. Fair enough. But he also speaks to us in other ways. True, they're subjective at times, as DeYoung says, but that does not mean they're unhelpful. Frankly, biblical interpretations are subjective, too.

He argues decisions need to be made in alignment with God's goals for our lives. I couldn't find the quote again in the audiobook, but the first two goals are moral purity and theological fidelity. Compassion was in the list, but it almost seemed an afterthought. While moral purity and theological fidelity are nice, Jesus did say the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. I think love is the primary purpose.

DeYoung argues that we do not have to worry about what we do because whatever we do will be what God's will is. Sorry. Completely disagree there. There's many examples everyone could come up with of ways that we act that are not in alignment with God's will.

He also asserts that we should never worry because that is a sign of little or no faith. True, God does not want us to worry, but we do. That's normal and not necessarily a sign of spiritual frailty. I could go on on this topic for hours from my psychology profession...

Then there's the real juicy stuff. It seems one of the primary reasons he wrote this book is because people are waiting to get married. He stated that in most cases, people should be married and own a house by 30. He sees a lot of problems as due to delayed marriage. That may contribute to some social problems, but there may be other, better solutions than just getting married earlier.

He almost argues that everything will be solved by marriage and mentions many "problems" due to and causing delayed marriage. Frankly, many of them seem like no big deal and not problematic. While he states there is nothing wrong with singleness, I just simply do not believe him. He pushes people to get married, saying things like, "Getting married is good for your sanctification."

He tells men that if you like a girl (and she likes you), you're both Christian, and no one has major problems, get married. This is one of the worst pieces of advice I've ever heard. This is the kind of thing that causes needless divorce or horrific marriages.

He goes on to say that women start a career, "which is not necessarily wrong, when they would rather be married and having children." He says, "Men, if you want to be married, find a godly gal, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, tie the knot, and start making babies." I couldn't even believe I heard him say these things.

Not that these aren't important, but marriage and kids don't have to happen immediately. And they definitely do not solve all problems. There's also a lot more to life than that. DeYoung does not think so, arguing that fulfillment is selfish and not in God's plan. He needs to read the psychological literature on it, though, starting with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In a situation, like many of my generation's grandparents grew up in, the focus was on a lower level of needs (like food and shelter), which were not guaranteed. Now for most Americans, those are not a struggle, so we can address higher level needs, including self-esteem and self-actualization. They are critically important.

My wife listened to this section, and she was shocked, also saying this book is awful, damaging, and offensive to women. She adds, "this is exactly the kind of crippling fear that so many single women feel today... that there's something wrong with them because they're not married yet.. this just adds to that feeling of inadequacy! The author is basically saying that we as women are all just waiting around for a man to come along so our lives can finally start. That's sickening." I completely agree.

DeYoung relies too much on his grandfather's perspectives as fact. We need to look to our elders for wisdom, but not all of them did things perfectly nor do they understand everything perfectly. My grandpa would disagree with his. So does that mean I can write a book arrogantly asserting that I know all Truth about God's will based on my grandpa?

The narrator, Adam Verner, was fine. He had good tone and intonation and made the book relatively interesting. Frankly, he was the best part of the book.

Better books dealing with God's will are John Eldredge's Walking with God (DeYoung criticized an unnamed book, but I think it was this one) and Francis Chan's Forgotten God. If you want a contrary opinion to those books or want to explore perspectives on God's will, this could be useful. Otherwise, don't waste your time on this book. I think it's unhelpful at best, spiritually and psychologically damaging at neutral, and possibly borderline heretical at worst.


  1. The best book I've found on decision making and God's role in that process is "Decision Making and the Will of God" by by Garry Friesen and Robin Maxson. It's definitely not one of those glib, "just put out the fleece and God will show you everything" books. Like the book you review, it also emphasizes the importance of working the brain God gives us.

    But the Friesen and Maxon book is good for people who actually use those God given brains. It gives what I think it a very balanced view of the multiple ways we can find help with important decisions in our lives. The authors stress the fact that God doesn't send a heavenly printout with specific instructions in most situations. Nor is there usually just one right choice that should keep us agonizing until we are certain we've found it. Still, there are some are better than others and the Bible does offer useful perspectives on how to seek wisdom and Godliness in our decisions.

    Don't get me started on the "everybody should marry young" thing. Guess you don't need to--you said it all and I agree with everything you write.


  2. Thank you for your reveiw, Josh. I definately agree with your wife regarding the women and marriage issue. I feel that a lot of the divorces that are caused today are people getting married too young. I think you should be mature enough to deal with the many issues that will arise in marriage. That may not happen for some until later in life. Statistics actually show that people who get married later in life, are married longer and happier.

    Also: marriage is not about only have children. I have been married five years now, and plan to stay married, with no plans of bringing any children into this world. Of course, the LORD guides my steps, but having children is not the reason I married.

    I also agree that into today's society, the first three tiers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs are met for most people at a young age, and stay met. The last two tiers are mre critically important.

    Thank you for your very thorough review.

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