Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review - Die Young

In his well-known hit about a Catholic girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Billy Joel crooned that he’d “I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/ the sinners are much more fun.../ you know that only the good die young”.  Joel was attempting to persuade the morally superior Virginia to walk away from her religious and pious upbringing with the thrust of his argument being that the good die young. Hayley and Michael DiMarco use their book, Die Young: Burying Yourself in Christ, to turn the tables on this line of reasoning and encourage Christians that they should die young. This, of course, is not a literal bodily dying; rather, it is a biblical dying to self which occurs on many levels. The DiMarcos have delivered a book with fast-paced prose and many personal reflections that introduces the reader to the seemingly negative and somewhat paradoxical aspects of the Christian faith. Through their frank discussion and personal experience, the DiMarcos convey that these seemingly negative aspects are just that; they only seem negative.

The first thing I noticed with this book is that I initially had some difficulty reading it. I generally find myself reading books that cover one topic thoroughly and they do so in a somewhat slow manner. The DiMarcos’ style is anything but slow. Once I switched gears from a plodding pace to a speed more in line with a sprint, I found I liked the rhythm and flow of this book. Ideas and examples, Scriptures and anecdotes are related expediently. It seems to me, this would be ideal for  teens and young adults. It is my guess that the authors have targeted that group. Nevertheless, even older curmudgeon-types like me can enjoy a bit of the need for speed.

This book is permeated with personal testimonies, reflections and anecdotes from the authors. I found these insights into the authors’ lives enjoyable, educational, and edifying. Having a front row seat to how the issues raised by the DiMarcos played out in their lives was an integral part of this books appeal. Their candid confessions gave a real-life feel to their ideas and they helped me to better relate to the concepts under consideration.

The authors’ primary goal with this book was to introduce and enlighten the reader to some foundational truths about the Christian faith that could be interpreted as negative and are definitely portrayed paradoxically. The potential for these ideas to be misunderstood is apparent when one simply considers them: death is the new life, down is the new up, less is the new more, weak is the new strong, slavery is the new freedom, confession is the new innocence, and red is the new white. I’ll leave it to you to investigate in detail how each of these conundrums is explained. Paradox, according to Scott Oliphint in his wonderful book God With Us, involves “conflicting or seemingly contradictory propositions that themselves are presumed to be true." The DiMarcos do an excellent job of introducing the reader to these Christian tenets that are paradoxes to our modern, fallen way of thinking. They follow this up with an explanation of how these seeming contradictions work themselves out in the Christian walk. Their constant reference to Scripture solidifies their ideas and helps the reader formulate the ideas into their worldview.

The one area which I think would have been helpful for the authors to address in greater detail is the practical implications of this discussion. This book does not address many of the ‘how to’ questions that might arise. How does one, practically speaking, live in weakness or practice confession or die to self. Practical considerations are not entirely absent, but I thought this might be helpful particularly for younger readers.

I enjoyed reading this book particularly when I adjusted to its fast-paced prose and I found the personal stories and experiences invaluable. The explanations of the paradoxes covered were helpful and encouraging. I think this is a book well-worth reading.


  1. You convinced me. I'll watch for this one when it becomes available. The paradox of Christianity are always worth more study.

    And I should probably place myself in the "older curmudgeon-type" category too. ;-)

  2. Jude,

    Thanks for your thoughts here. I received this book for early review as I imagine you did as well. I found it very compelling at parts and plan to post a largely positive review. However an area that gave me a little concern was on pages 123-128 of the edition I have (the "advance proofs"). The section deals with freedom from sin in the context of slavery to Christ. There's a lot of great material here, but I felt like the authors were a little unclear at times about the relationship between definitive sanctification (our break with sin by union with Christ) and progressive sanctification (the outworking of this freedom in our life with Christ). There were elements of this section that made me pause and consider what they were saying. For example they downplay the use of the word "struggle" to describe out ongoing battle with sin and say "you would be far better off to call it sin and be done with it" (125). There's a complacency about sin that they are expressing here which I appreciate, but on the other hand, there's a sensitivity to one's ongoing life in Christ and the weariness of indwelling sin that they appear reductionistic about the point of having tingest of Christian perfectionism in their wording. I think on the whole of the book they rectify this problem, but in this section that's focused on the issue, I'm not sure they are as clear as they could be.

    I'm just now starting to formulate my review and concerns here. I was wondering if you could help me out here - am I misreading or imparting too much to this section? On the whole the book is very good, but this section made me pause to make sure I was clear before moving ahead with a review.

    Thanks for your time!

  3. Jacob,

    I think that there are several areas where the authors are unclear about the practical implications of some of the things they talk about. In the one you suggest, it seems that they do ok talking about sanctification in terms of Christ freeing us from slavery but they do not go into the practical side of what sanctification looks like on a daily basis.

    I guess that is what I am hinting at in the paragraph above that discusses the lack of practical considerations.

    In reading the book, it seemed to me that they were not writing the book to interact with application so I did not want to take them to task for something they were not addressing. I think they were going for awareness of the ideas as opposed to a thorough teaching on them.

    But I think that you have good reason to pause and perhaps you have focused in on a particular troubling issue that arises from the practical aspects of these topics not being pursued.

    As it turns out, I can't find my copy right now but when I will do I'll look specifically at that section and consider what you have noted and respond.

    Thanks for interacting with me on this ... and happy new year!