Friday, May 17, 2013

Kevin DeYoung on Tithing

Kevin DeYoung is a pastor, author, and blogger I greatly appreciate. I have never been a Senior Pastor at a church and had the rigors of preaching every week placed on my shoulders. I'm so glad men like DeYoung are doing such a wonderful job shepherding their congregations. I have sent links to DeYoung's blog posts countless times to friends, urging them to read his man's insights. I have advocated his book Just Do Something, WhyWe're Not Emergent, and What is the Mission of the Church? to countless students and friends. I hold Pastor DeYoung in very high regard.

So when I heard that he had preached (and subsequently tweeted) on the topic of tithing, I was listening. Unfortunately, we disagree on this issue. I wasn't sure if I should weigh in on this until I listened to his sermon and heard this quote from an unnamed theologian: “There is a shape to the biblical story that seems to me to include tithing principally, even if the specific shape of the redemptive history calls for an adjustment in the New Covenant situation.” The sentence sounded very familiar and intriguing and sure enough, it was written on page 90 in a book called Perspectives on Tithing, in a chapter titled Response to David A. Croteau, written by Reggie Kidd; this is a book I contributed to and edited. Since DeYoung has quoted a response to me, I thought I would give my two cents over the next few days.

Before I do, let me comment that I fear that in responding to DeYoung's sermon, I might be accused of “whack(ing) at everything like its (my) special nail and whack(ing) at everyone for not being just as zealous about (my) one issue” (see DeYoung's blog here). Knowing some of the back story to how I got involved in writing on this issue might help clarify why some might think of me as a “academic who thinks everything that ails the church finds its root in” my dissertation on tithing (again, see DeYoung's blog here). Actually, I think the church is ailing, but the root has nothing to do (directly) with tithing. I think the church is ailing because the gospel that DeYoung so clearly explains regularly to his congregation isn't explained at all in most churches. We are a gospel-starved church. That has lead to many churches being filled with people who are not regenerated and the dumbing down of discipleship, the main mission of the church.

In my Ph.D. program I wrote a paper for a class on tithing. I had been thinking about the issue for about 3 or 4 years and had many stimulating debates and dialogues with fellow students and I wanted to write out my thoughts. So I did that and I was satisfied. However, when I talked to my Ph.D. mentor about a dissertation topic, he seemed more interested in me writing on tithing than the topics I wanted to write on. The two issues I had desired to write on were, basically, the phrase “eternal life” in the Gospel of John or the concept of repentance. I wanted to invest the next few years of my life into a topic revolving around the gospel, like I did for my Th.M. thesis. My conversations on those topics with my mentor didn't go anywhere, so I took his suggestion on tithing and ran with it.

I have published two articles in journals (co-authored: part 1 and part 2), a revision of my dissertation (You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe?), a four views book (mentioned above), and a soon to be released booklet on this topic. I have studied tithing intensely for about 8-10 years, so when the topic comes up I believe I have an informed opinion on it. So, I will post some thoughts over the next few days on DeYoung's sermon. You can listen to it yourself here.

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