Is Tchividjian a Smidgen Antinomian?

Tullian Tchividjian has made waves recently amidst what seems to be a coerced departure from the Gospel Coalition. More than just the grandson of celebrated evangelist Billy Graham (I won’t hold that against him), Tchividjian is a celebrated theologian and is considered more than just an up-and-comer, graduating the status of up-and-came several years ago. The great body of Tchividjians work has been sound, God-honoring, edifying, and Scripturally solid. For some time, however, it seems that Tchividjian’s teaching has minimized the Doctrine of Sanctification.

Both the title and the content of Tchividjian’s farewell post to the Gospel Coalition took pot-shots at the organization, and he used his exit as an opportunity (which he calls “pulling the trigger”) to fire rounds at several of the organization’s recently-departed board members, CJ Maheney and Joshua Harris, and to (according to some) impugn the Gospel Coalition as a whole for not dealing more directly with Maheney’s scandal that has consumed Sovereign Grace Ministries. One wonders at the timing of his volley towards Maheney and the Gospel Coalition, considering there was no shortage of opportunities to deal with the scandal while yet remaining a Gospel Coalition blogger (although, perhaps, the organization could have had an ironclad David Hankins-type gag order preventing him from speaking out – but considering this level of thought-suppression is typically quarantined to the Louisiana Baptist Convention, I highly doubt it).

The strained relationship between the Gospel Coalition and Tchividjian isn’t altogether unclear, but some of the details are muddled. The division has partially been under the surface as various posts from Tchividjian has seemed by some to undermine Christian sanctification and have raised charges of improper Law-Gospel distinctions. Particularly among those that have left the Easy Believism of mainstream evangelicalism and found themselves embracing Reformation theology, the appearance of eschewing the importance of repentance and sanctification is especially troubling. Gradually, concerns over Tchividjian’s interpretation of certain scriptures and perceived de-emphasis of these doctrines has become more public, first in private blogs and more recently, among the members of the Gospel Coalition.

Certain evangelical and confessional Christians have defended Tchividjian, particularly those of the Lutheran variety, who typically also have a diminished view of sanctification (which, in my opinion, hasn’t helped Tchividjian evade the charges leveled against him). Conversely, to my knowledge, his most prominent critics haven’t leveled charges of outright antinomianism, but some have suggested it. As Tullian makes the rounds of Christian talk outlets to defend himself (Tchividjian is on today’s episode of my friend Chris Rosebrough’s program, Fighting for the Faith), the bulk of this controversy will unwind itself over time and we’ll all have a better view.

For my part, Tchividjian seems to have been evolving in his theology and if not in substance, at least in rhetoric. Chris Rosebrough, host of the aforementioned program is certainly no antinomian (and lengthy conversations with him about Law-Gospel distinctions have proven this to me), but this is a charge that I would apply to certain Lutherans that at least sound antinomian in their outrage over sanctification – as they recently demonstrated in their criticism of Steve Lawson’s message at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference. I pray that Rosebrough can explain why we’re all wrong and we can chock this up as one big misunderstanding. And yet, I’m unsure that much of Tchividjian’s written words can be explained away as simple misunderstanding. Clearly, there is a doctrinal difference that has become more profound over the years. Perhaps Tchividjian is providing an apologetic on Rosebrough’s program because his is the fastest growing and most listened-to web-based religious radio network in the country, or more telling, perhaps because Tchividjian’s view is more akin to the Lutheran position on Sanctification than the majority of those contributing for the Gospel Coalition. Either way, Rosebrough will do a good job and clarifying the parameters of this debate and I’d encourage everyone to take a listen.

In Mark Jones’ short rant (I don’t mean that despairingly) against Tchividjian’s theology, he presents certain problems with his theology that can’t be overcome by a clarification of terms.

Tchividjian’s law (“do”) – gospel (“done”) distinction does not have quite the Reformed pedigree that he assumes. Indeed, what are we to say about the fact that the Canons of Dort expressly say that the gospel “threatens” (5.14)? John Owen spends copious time on the nature of gospel threatenings (and gospel commands), as well. Has Owen made a basic “category mistake”? If, as Tchividjian suggests, “redeeming unconditional love alone (not fear, not guilt, not shame) carries the power to compel heart-felt loyalty to the One who bought us,” then I’m afraid he has abandoned the Reformed tradition to which he claims to belong. The reasons we obey are many and varied. If Herman Witsius is correct, we may even obey God with a regard to our own advantage. Now that’s liberating!

As Jones points out, Tchividjian’s interpretation of 1 John 5:3 (“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” ESV) “because we don’t carry them” (I presume because of Tchividjian’s view on the role of Christ’s active obedience) is troubling – or at least it is for a 1689 LBC confessing Baptist like myself who believes, as our catechism teaches, that the purpose of the Moral Law is “to teach us our duty, make clear our condemnation, and show us our need of a Savior.” Although we find justification through the latter two designs of the Moral Law, it still teaches us our duty. It seems as though Tchividjian argues that the Christian has no duty before God.

Jones also levels the charge that Tchividjian often speaks of Reformed leaders who confuse the Law and Gospel, too often, in vague generalities and anonymity, which makes it hard for us to tell who he’s speaking about. Being unbridled now from the Gospel Coalition, I suspect we’ll find out to whom he refers. If Tchividjian believes that a solidly Reformed brother errs in his understanding of justification because he teaches that a believer has non-justifying duties before God, then there is indeed a real problem with his theology. Again, in vague generalities, it is hard to tell.

In traditions instinctively hostile to works-righteousness (as they all should be, but some are more than others), there can be an over-correction of the wheel when they become hostile to teachings of Christian duty, even when those they oppose so fervently clearly believe and articulate that justification is by faith alone.

I suspect that this debate, for some, might come down to the Doctrine of Assurance. I would not teach that assurance of salvation is found in having faith in our faith (which is the same error, albeit in a different form, from Decisional Regenerationists who tell us to have faith in the fervency and sincerity of our decision to ask Jesus in our heart), our baptism, or a sacrament (because we are justified by neither). For me, it comes to down to whether or not Tchividjian can earnestly confess that we can know that we have eternal life by opening our Bible to the Book of 1st John and determining if the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Some would argue that is works-righteousness, and of that I would ardently object and proclaim with fervency that my hope is built in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness.

I know that Tchividjian would agree with that sentiment, but I’m afraid that he has not made prominent or explicit in his theology the role of sanctification in the life of the believer.

So, we’ll watch and wait.

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42 Responses

  1. allennelson4 says:

    Great job. Am starting a series soon on 1 John. These current events make it all the more important to be clear in my preaching of it.

  2. Shauna Bryant says:

    J.D. Hall, I laughed out loud when you said you wouldn’t hold being BG’s grandson against him! When I heard of this controversy I actually did hold him being BG’s grandson against him. In fact, in our previous location, our Reformed Baptist Pastor had recommended Tullians book “Jesus+Nothing=Everything” and I quickly learned he was BG’s grandson – I almost put the book away. Glad I didn’t, but I can honestly say I used to say “Despite whose grandson he is, the book is good” (sad, huh?!). However, this time I was kind of like “I knew it! ” It was like I was almost gleeful in a ‘gotcha’! kind of way for which I do repent. In doing so, I figured, “OK Shauna, why don’t you quit the labeling and just look at the facts” so I was compelled to look into the matter, since I remember when TGC had made their first rather strong statement of support for CJ & I told a friend (and posted it) “That this statement by these men is going to come back and bite them. They’d have done much better to have said nothing on that day.” (esp. in light of the lack of support towards the actual victims). Additionally, I believed the biblical approach would have been to ‘firmly allow’ CJ to take a leave of absence so the trial would not be a distraction to TGC’s Gospel furtherance. Being ‘above reproach in those leadership positions kind of thing’, was my way of looking at it. Anyway, according to Tullian – he is one of the reasons they had to amend it (the statement of support for CJ) so quickly so that it didn’t appear that TGC as a whole endorsed their blanket statement of approval of CJ. Basically & according to him, he kept it ‘in house’ until he was booted in what does appear to be retaliation. If it really was that TGC was just questioning Tullians views on sanctification/justification & they needed clarity…well, how come they didn’t (again according to Tullian) have a sit down with him and just ask? He was only a contributing author after all – so maybe they felt that they needed to only give these benefits of the doubt to board members like CJ. Who knows, but it is certainly ‘curious’. Grace for others & much seeking of clarification for others (TGC hasn’t exactly been controversy free), but boot Tullian and act as if he has The Gospel wrong and yet they didn’t back it up, but rather ‘supposed’ it up along with various inconclusive and vague articles by others??? (yes, I read Jens initial article & it wasn’t that great, Truemans, Keller & Carsons too amongst others) So that had me thinking….what in the world is really going on here. I decided to check out some of Tullians sermons, interviews & blog posts. While I won’t say he is the clearest person I’ve heard preach (my Pastor is pretty hard to beat!), I certainly didn’t see anything seriously antinomian by way of what Reformed people would use it against someone. I say seriously, because as I heard preached one time “If you haven’t been labeled an antinomian at least once, you may not be proclaiming The Gospel of Grace aright”. (It was in relation to various calvinist/non calvinist discourse going on at the time). Of course we are not under the law (10 commandments), but under the Law of Christ (which sums them up in a fashion) yet that distinction is amazing. It takes one from legalism to grace. I am a Christian (Reformed Baptist) – I agree with The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. I have listened to various preachers…hey even over at TGC they like MacArthur (as do I) – yet MacArthurs own views have changed, matured and become meatier over the years (for instance he used to teach incarnational sonship view, no longer) so I don’t think TGC has shown much grace to Tullian. I mean, let’s be real… as an example, (’cause well Driscoll is finally gone so I can’t use him) Tim Keller quite frankly disturbs me, not just the charisma stuff but particularly & especially his writings over at Biologos, amongst quite a few other points. But that doesn’t mean I paint all of TGC with my views on Keller…and I have appreciated some parts of his articles a time or maybe even two – gasp (and bit painful to admit in writing)! My point is that Keller is way more controversial than Tullian and for far, far longer, so what gives? Unfortunately for TGC, it does appear like this is retribution for Tullian and Bozs stance against the SGM scandal. Now time will tell – who knows, in a few years it may well be that Tullian is as antinomian as they are making him out to be and that indeed would be another Gospel and rightly condemned. It may turn out to be that all the church staff & in their meetings even and CJ’s own brother in law indeed managed to hide the sexual abuse cover ups from CJ – a man so in charge and so concerned with personally overseeing as much as CJ …that he was literally & entirely duped and outright deceived by all that leadership under him, it could happen. I guess. That’s the best vindication TGC can eventually hope for in either matter considering how they have handled both situations….which begs the question….When you handle a cadre of situations so consistently poorly of late & with so much vagueness, that your best hope for vindication is that the man you boot later does turn out to actually be a deceitful, false gospel preacher & that one of your own board members turns out to have actually been so clueless & out of touch with his own church that he was deceived by all that leadership under him, then what does that say about the organizations leadership itself and its statements/discernment/adherence to biblical approaches in these matters? I feel like there is another Elephant in the room! As a christian who has benefited greatly (and who still will) by the articles & teachings at TGC…I am sorely disappointed in a lot of what has gone on in the past few years. Shauna B. Listened to Janet Meffords interview of TT – have you listened to it and if so what did you think?

  3. mbwoodside says:

    Trueman has responded to Tullian’s interview on FFF. In February of 2013 on a podcast of the Mortification of Spin, Trueman and Todd Pruitt brought this issue up and the overarching issue among the PCA (Trueman is OPC, therefore it would not be in his jurisdiction to bring up charges) is does Tullian teach according to WCF or is he more in line with the Book of Concord? If so, their contention is, he does not need to be serving a PCA church but a Lutheran or one more in line with his convictions. Also, Trueman has pointed out that Tullian is misunderstanding Luther’s views on justification and not taking into consideration post 1525 Luther. If Tullian were to take Jones and Trueman up on their offer to debate, I think we would see the following: Tullian would quiet some of the charges of antinomianism (though not all), he would affirm the three uses of the law, and he would quiet some of his critics on his view of sanctification (though not all), BUT we would see that he has missed some crucial concepts within Luther’s writings and we would see that he is more in line with Concord than WCF. Then the larger question within the PCA would be can he continue being a pastor in that denomination?

  4. Shauna Bryant says:

    Just listened to Chris R’s interview with TT …I still don’t see any antinomianism. Am I missing something?

  5. mbwoodside says:

    Shauna, I listened to the interview as well. I think the way Chris asked him the questions, TT was able to answer them in such a way that affirmed the 3 uses and made a case that he is not antinomian. But, the charges that TT has labeled toward other Reformed pastors were not addressed. The real crux of whether TT has taught antinomian ideas in the past in his writings and sermons can’t be sufficiently solved in an interview with someone who is sympathetic to his position. His own presbytery and denomination will have to examine him.

  6. JD Hall says:

    Chris did a GREAT job. And in terms of the charge of antinomianism, his view is obviously not the classical definition of antinomian. And yet, Dr. Spurgeon might call him that, as he did Tobias Crisp. More on this later…

  7. Danny says:

    If he was so antinomian would he really care that much about the wrongs committed by people who seek to preserve power and institution above all else?

    • JD Hall says:

      Antinomians might have a problem with sin (particularly sins against them), but they deny the necessity of justification leading to sanctification. So to answer you question, if he is an antinomian, it wouldn’t prevent him from acknowledging the existence of sin.

  8. I think the one point TT has against TGC that I totally agree with has been their lack of godly (truth in love) communications with him. He had already informed them he was moving his articles to his new site in August and they appeared to be fine with that schedule. But then last week they told TT to get his writings moved ASAP (like yesterday) without any previous warning. TT was not prepared for such a sudden move and had to scramble to meet their demands. It was also only then that TT also learned that, for almost a year, some had been discussing among themselves displeasure with some of TT’s theology. Not once did any of these men invite TT into these discussions or speak to him directly about their concerns. I do not call this Christian love or Christlike fellowship. Shame on TGC for treating a “brother” in such a harsh, cold hearted way. I treat my dog better than that!

  9. Fred Butler says:

    Does TT teach an antinomianism that encourages a profligate lifestyle? No. Not in that sense at all; and that is not what his critics are saying.

    I see his views being more along the lines of the non-Lordship view of sanctification, or at least headed in that direction. If you read his material or look at his conferences, especially the one from, I think, this past Feb., there is a tendency to down play the role of repentance in a believer’s life along with a misunderstanding of the power of regeneration to conform a believer to the law of God. He is making it that any discussion of the practical work of the law of God in a Christian’s life brings shame and guilt upon that person so it should be avoided.

  10. Born4Battle says:

    IIt depends on how you define ‘antinomian’. Matk Jones’ book is helpful in that area. We did a lunchtime Bible study using “One Way Love” (Tullian), and some of us actually bought and read the book. The ‘study’ (not) was actually about discussing several short videos the book’s study material offered. What was NOT in the book was any reference to the third use of the law, or a sense of ‘duty’ as a motive to walk in obedience to the law. It was simply not addressed. If one had not heard Tullian discuss it and seem to believe in it, one could walk away from “One Way Love” absolutely convinced that the man is antinomian. As was said, time will tell.

  11. It has been my experience in over forty years of pastoral ministry that the more we preach duty, the less people grow in sanctification. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that duty is not important. The New Testament Scriptures are replete with injunctions to obey Christ’s commandments, but sanctification is really the living out of our standing before God. If we do not understand that standing and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with our obedience, we will become entangled in morbid introspection. In my experience, it has been one of the downfalls of Reformed preaching that it tends to leave people looking at themselves rather than pointing them to Christ.

    I believe Dr. D. Lloyd-jones was right when he suggested that if our preaching of the gospel does not leave us open to the charge of Antinomianism, we have not preached the gospel freely enough. I think Reformed teaching has tended to guard gospel preaching against Antinomianism so carefully that, at times, it has sounded like justification by one’s evidences. Where saving faith exists, obedience will exist, but we must never leave people searching for evidences, but must always leave them singing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

  12. Born4Battle says:

    Having now listened to Chris Rosbrough’s interview with Tullian, there is no doubt that he understands all of the various uses of the law (and then some), and that he preaches both law and gospel. That he did/does not address some topics in some of his writings is a matter of his own intentions with those writings, whether they are articles or books. Whether or not I would like to have heard some things addressed is immaterial. I have also read Carl Trueman’s post referenced in the interview and would not be as harsh as Chris R. was toward Dr Truman. It’s time to set this issue aside now and look for my next opportunity to share the gospel.

  13. Shauna Bryant says:

    gracewriterrandy – Loved your comments sir! Thank You.
    I am glad this issue was brought up in that it has led many people to look at what they believe more closely. But I am also having a difficult time with many friends who are writing about this and getting all hot and bothered that TT has not preached specifically & often enough about how we are to obey the 10 commandments, under the third use of the law, as gratitude for what Christ has done. I mean I have specifically asked for many people to point out for me where the Apostle Paul goes into as much depth about obeying all 10 commandments as gratitude for grace and with the specificity that everyone seems to be requiring of TT. No one has been able to show Paul being that succinct and with that specific word usage yet…and I do know my Bible and I have been spending days trying to figure out where those phrases are. Truemans article was harsh, sarcastic and full of very graphic examples that frankly left me wondering why they were even there. It shocked me as he is normally a VERY good & balanced writer. Since Trueman has written more than one article about this – I will post the article in question just so it is clear which article was full of graphic examples (such as perverts in the church, raping little girls and leaving them bleeding in the gutter-I mean maybe as a mom I am being overly sensitive here, but I am pretty sure, as often as I have enjoyed reading Carl Trueman, that he is more than capable of making his point in a much better manner than what he did here in “A Few Practical Questions”): yet everyone is ignoring a bigger problem – a TGC board member was the ‘apostle’ of an organization where sex crimes were covered up and though his leadership and brother in law have admitted to this – somehow CJ was unawares? Seriously? And with all the voices at TGC and all the various opinions on so many biblical issues, TT not being clear enough about the law and focusing too much on grace is what gets one booted? This is not setting well with the reformed laypeople who REFUSE to say “I am after Apollos, I am after Paul, etc…” and who are wondering why so much grace and yes – it looks like cover to CJ – is being given yet none is being shown to TT – unless implying he is a false teacher of another gospel is considered grace intentioned for correction. For me the issue is the double standard in dealing with brothers in Christ. TT is a big boy and he can handle this however he sees fit (besides I’m not a presby so let their structure deal with that) – it makes no difference to me as my concern is why a respected (my Pastor was just at T4G!) group has decided to vilify one person about not being specific enough often enough about the law, yet when a sex crime issue is afoot it’s all ‘silence & touch not God’s anointed” like attitude over there. For crying out loud, it APPEARS that TT would have been far better off to have been a charismatic apostle over an organization covering up sex crimes – you know how disgusting that looks to people? I hope TT (and all Christians) believes as he/we should – but still for me that is not the big issue over at TGC…but it has certainly been very (conveniently) instrumental in keeping the focus off of SGM. As one who has counseled women who have been abused, this really is blowing my mind in regards to what these men are all up in arms about and in what they have continuously ignored. Don’t get me wrong – if we get the gospel wrong we’re toast and nothing else matters. But is that what’s going on at TGC – are they just so concerned they have a false hell damning gospel teacher in their ranks and they care only for the souls of men that the cover up at SGM under CJ’s leadership is just a ‘side issue of no real importance’ considering the bigger issue of TT not being clear & specific enough about the 3rd use of the law? God saves people – He gives us a new heart and whether or not anyone preaches the obedience of the 10 commandments as thankfulness often & specifically enough as some would want will thwart Gods plan for an individuals life. We do believe in a Sovereign God, Yes? Yes! So if indeed TT is a false gospel teacher – well much more than the left boot of fellowship should be done. But since that has been done – what to do about CJ? Oh yeah, nothing, conveniently, because they waited so long that he has graciously been allowed to step down so he can concentrate on ‘ministry & other issues’ (as they worded it). Does anyone even care what kind of a message this is sending out to those who are and have been abused in the churches? It definitely makes our job in healing harder I guarantee you that. That is shameful. Absolutely shameful.

  14. Shauna Bryant says:

    mbwoodside, Balanced comments & I am glad I wasn’t totally missing something in that interview! Thank you. I have listened to plenty of preachers online name names and left some only named as ‘the others’ and plenty of times where they were only addressed as ‘false teachers in the greater evangelical world’ and what to watch out for. And that was not their big beef with TT at TGC at all. Article after article has almost exclusively (not all) harped on him for not enough specificity regarding the 3rd use of the law & not law often enough. Too much grace, not enough law. Which is odd considering they weren’t & aren’t even interested in applying any biblical principles we are commanded to do regarding CJ. That situation seems like it’s ‘nothing but grace’ is allowed not even a peep about integrity & elder qualifications & the appearance of evil. So, yes, I am sure it has been abundantly clear what I am disturbed about. No one will address it either.

  15. Ken says:

    Regardless of Dr. Keller’s somewhat foggy statement of explanation, this sad affair has ended up appearing not as correspondent to the MLJ vs Stott debate of the 1960’s, but more of the “men from James” vs Paul and Barnabas of AD 50-Acts 15.

  16. Shauna Bryant says:

    Chris R did do a good job in that interview. He does a good job here too:

  17. mbwoodside says:

    This quote from Jordan’s article is the key piece:

    For my part, Tchividjian seems to have been evolving in his theology and if not in substance, at least in rhetoric. Chris Rosebrough, host of the aforementioned program is certainly no antinomian (and lengthy conversations with him about Law-Gospel distinctions have proven this to me), but this is a charge that I would apply to certain Lutherans that at least sound antinomian in their outrage over sanctification – as they recently demonstrated in their criticism of Steve Lawson’s message at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference. I pray that Rosebrough can explain why we’re all wrong and we can chock this up as one big misunderstanding. And yet, I’m unsure that much of Tchividjian’s written words can be explained away as simple misunderstanding. Clearly, there is a doctrinal difference that has become more profound over the years. Perhaps Tchividjian is providing an apologetic on Rosebrough’s program because his is the fastest growing and most listened-to web-based religious radio network in the country, or more telling, perhaps because Tchividjian’s view is more akin to the Lutheran position on Sanctification than the majority of those contributing for the Gospel Coalition.

  18. mbwoodside says:

    J. D. and others, let me get your feedback on this

    After listening to Chris R’s interview Tullian and Jordan Cooper, Mark Jones speak with Ian Clary, and Lawson’s Shepherd’s Conference message here are some observations:

    1. The Young Restless and Reformed Movement brought together many people who really don’t understand what it means to be Reformed and don’t understand that Reformed is a very broad term that extends beyond just the five points of Calvinism. Lutherans are not Calvinists although Luther is extremely influential on Calvinist theology, there are some fundamental differences surfacing in this debate. Lutherans, Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists share much in common regarding the Solas but there are some crucial distinctions on baptism and communion and how those relate. A Lutheran would say, look to Christ in your baptism for your sanctification . . . which Tullian would say “look to your justification . . .but not in your baptism but in your resting in Christ’s work . . .but a Presbyterian or a Reformed Baptist would argue with regard to sanctification . . .we see the evidence of Christ’s justification and we are growing in sanctification as we display a renewed love toward God and obedience to His commands (law). These are major differences. These are matters worthy of serious consideration. This is why we have different denominations. This is why we have confessions and statements of belief. We (Lutherans/Presbyterians/Reformed Baptists) may all be products of the Protestant Reformation and affirm the Solas . . .but we have profound differences on some crucial matters. This dustup has illustrated this.

    2. One charge Cooper and Rosebrough are bringing against Jones is that he is a legalist, teaching that good works are necessary FOR salvation. The question remains, what does FOR salvation mean? Are good works necessary for justification? If you believe that, you would side with Rome. But, if you believe good works are necessary for sanctification then that’s another issue. Both Lutherans and Presbyterians would argue that we are simul justus et peccator (just and a sinner . . but are we still totally depraved), so no issue there. But the question would be how are we both a sinner and justified at the same time. And if we are declared righteous in Christ and now made holy, how do we grow in holiness? As Sproul pointed out in Lawson’s message: regeneration/justification is monergistic but sanctification is synergistic. I think that pivotal question needs to be posed to Tullian by his PCA counterpoints. Maybe that is what Jones means when he says necessary FOR salvation (sanctification).

    3. As you read the blogs and facebook comments many theologians are being quoted and referenced: Luther, Calvin, Owen, Bavinck, Machen, Berkhof. A sermon was posted by Martin Lloyd Jones by FFF . . which is a wonderful sermon and I have great admiration for ML Jones ( as does almost everybody in the Reformed world). It features Jones oft quoted statement, “that if no one accuses of you of being an antinomian, then you are not preaching the gospel correctly.” I would argue from the body of ML Jones’ work that he is obviously not saying be an antinomian, but that could be a possible charge someone could levy. All these quotes and quips thrown around have been used by Tullian’s supporters and opponents to buttress their positions.

    4. Luther: This is where Trueman is very crucial to the debate. It is not so much on the pastoral side, but in this academic side. In his offer to Tullian he said he wanted to put TT straight on the “Grand Old Man.” I suggested to Trueman to let Jones and Tullian take care of the PCA debated issues, while Trueman and Jono Linebaugh addressed Luther. Trueman gave me a thumbs up and indicated that he appreciated the support on that endeavor. I will be blunt here….TT is a wonderful communicator, great story teller…BUT I don’t think he knows enough about the developing ideas within Luther’s works to selectively quote him to backup his positions in some his sermons and blog posts. It’s here that Trueman is helpful. Trueman would even argue that Luther would not be comfortable with the term sanctification . . . which is a whole new ballgame. We might even be dealing with terms that are being forced on the argument.

    Outside of Trueman’s articles on Ref 21 his thoughts on this are revealed here:

    5. Terms: As a Reformed Baptist, the whole concept of the three uses of law is not something mentioned much in my circle nor is the law/gospel distinction These are especially not considered in the larger SBC world. So unless one is steeped in Lutheran and Presbyterian traditions, then those may not mean much. Sometimes terms get in the way and this may be one of those times. The term “commands” is more readily used outside of the L and P circles, as within larger evangelical circles, because law has such as negative connotation. Biblically, law and commands/commandments are synonymous, but when we discuss obedience to Christ in the NT, the term commands comes up and as JD. pointed out above, 1 John is the optimal place to go to see this usage. So as Lawson and Mark Jones point out, even as Christians the commands of God warn us and threaten us.

    6. Gospel: Can the gospel threaten? Can the gospel warn? Is the good news of Jesus Christ all good news . . or is there an element of it that is a warning? Is that element in the message the law? I think those are valid questions. Some clarification needs to be offered on what do you by gospel? Is it a simple 1 Cor. 15 definition, or is it the gospel and its implications? I think Presbyterians and Lutherans would have different definitions here. And if TT sticks to the “done’ and “do” paradigm, that rings true with Confessional Lutheranism. . . and quite frankly the let go and let God pietistic movement that I saw as a kid.

    7. Tullian’s preaching: As I mentioned earlier, TT is very gifted communicator and says many good things. But, I think in an effort to emphasize matters and move as far away from legalism as possible, he has overstated things. TT tells many stories when he preaches, and several having to do with his upbringing, his experiences as father, and the painful merging of two churches following the death of D. James Kennedy. Without knowing his background and his fight, be it real or perceived, versus legalism, this whole last week will not make any sense. This is autobiographical and intensely personal.


    • JD Hall says:

      Matthew, you had some good words. In that I’m in the middle of sermon prep, forgive the brevity. What particularly struck me is your admission about the YRR bringing together lots that are not traditionally “Reformed” and that don’t have a grasp on the subject at hand (including Reformed Southern Baptists like you and me) and so all we hear in this debate is the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher honking at us.

  19. mbwoodside says:

    Another thing to consider is that the quote from Steve Lawson from McCheyene “the greatest need for my congregation is my personal holiness,” is the same quote Tullian took apart in a blog post, not to my knowledge aimed at Lawson, but aimed at those who would contend for personal holiness. Tullian says the greatest need for his congregation is “his desperation.”

    Here’s is the quote from Tullian:

    ” I regularly confess to our church that I’m a desperate man. In fact, I heartily disagree with Robert Murray McCheyne who said, “The greatest gift I can give my church is my personal holiness.” I have the utmost respect for McCheyne, but that is ridiculous. The greatest gift I can give my church is the good news that Jesus has done for train-wrecks like me what I could never do for myself. The second most important gift I can give my church is my desperation. Don’t listen to a preacher who isn’t desperate.”

    That sounds very similar to the quote Cooper gave on the Pulpit and Pen podcast when he critiqued Lawson.

    • JD Hall says:

      I emailed your last comment to Chris. I thought it summarized my own views really well and highlighted the “we honestly have no frame of reference because we are ignorant Baptists that don’t get the lingo” part (my summation :). Kudos on that.

  20. mbwoodside says:

    Thanks JD. Curious what he says. . This is a funny week for me because all my podcasts are colliding in this necessary controversy. The three podcasts that I listen to with regularity are Mortification of Spin, Fighting for the Faith, and Pulpit and Pen.

  21. Brady Bush says:

    Is anyone else highly disturbed by some of Tullian’s sentences, like “Your good works are not for God,” and now the one above?

    “I regularly confess to our church that I’m a desperate man. In fact, I heartily disagree with Robert Murray McCheyne who said, “The greatest gift I can give my church is my personal holiness.” I have the utmost respect for McCheyne, but that is ridiculous. The greatest gift I can give my church is the good news that Jesus has done for train-wrecks like me what I could never do for myself. The second most important gift I can give my church is my desperation. Don’t listen to a preacher who isn’t desperate.”

    I find that to be a slap in the face to the apostle Paul, who wrote such extensive exhortations to holiness and Godly conduct, and urged the believers to follow his example. Further, it rewrites the Biblical requirements for elders with “desperation” taking precedence over (if not replacing) “above reproach.”

    This is how heresy starts – a little twist.

    • mbwoodside says:

      Yes, anytime a minister, whether implied, directly, or by means of unclear communication counsels anyone away from pursuing holiness it is a cause for concern.

  22. Shauna Bryant says:

    Thought this article was interesting regarding Reformed folk & Lutherans.

    Dear mbwoodside: I am answering your questions as a Reformed Baptist homeschooling housewife, i.e. I am considering myself one of the ‘others’ you invited to respond, forgive me if that is incorrect! I (and many other networked lay people in the Reformed Baptist arena) have been following this and understand it has been ongoing for some time. We have been perplexed by plenty of issues which surface over at TGC and I suppose that is to be expected since it is a hodge podge of Christians. What many of us ‘lay folk’ have trouble understanding is why it appears people are going after TT with both barrels and why they have ignored the issues surrounding CJ. Much of grace is spoken, little seems to be being shown to TT while an over abundance is being shown to CJ. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that these issues converged and the appearance of covering for CJ is so awful. Yet that they summarily dismissed a man who was already leaving (and wasn’t that a better way – for him to leave and not cause anymore perceived/actual problems for TGC?) is bothersome. If they considered him a brother In Christ it seems they could have handled the entire thing much more graciously & biblically. Unfortunately, that they didn’t speak with him & just booted him out makes them all appear incredibly petty. I found your observations extremely helpful by the way and it made me realize that I may not be understanding what the real issue is on why they kicked him out as if he was a false teacher they wanted to disassociate with immediately. Whatever the real issues though it would have been much better had they all sat down with him behind the scenes and hashed this out brother to brother – I think that’s the most problematic thing. It has been heavily implied TT is antinomian leaning at best, flat out antinomian at worst. That he seems not antinomian makes it look strange that the vitriol against him continues. It’s almost as if “Well, lets assume (for a moment) that TT is not antinomian, but we still need to investigate his every word now more thoroughly to see if we can find a smoking gun.” Perhaps they will, I’m not familiar with him enough to know what all he has written & thinks – but I do know that even men like John MacArthur have grown in their understanding & have changed their teachings to conform more biblically through the Spirit (i.e. incarnational sonship to eternal sonship) & plenty of people even called him a false teacher way back then & disassociated with him, yet plenty showed grace & knew he was a true man of God, being grown like us all & came alongside him. For them to disassociate like that seems like they don’t consider him a brother In Christ and perhaps even a false teacher. One in error you come alongside & encourage and admonish – one in heresy waters you disassociate from and behave as they are, so what gives? Unless they believe him to be a false teacher (which is the conclusion of a lot of lay people) then they have NOT handled this biblically at all. There is a lot of controversy about some of them (as a Reformed Baptist that would be my opinion) and their writing, stances, beliefs, associations they have, which would warrant the same inspection if that is the standard over there. Basically what I am saying is that the perception of the average ‘viewer’ about what’s going on over there is not good. Please take my comments graciously – I know I have a tendency to write straightforward (& lengthy), but they are heartfelt. Besides, I have been called an antinomian before (but it was at the same Connecticut Baptist church-no reformed Baptist churches there for sure! who deemed-from the pulpit- half of us, without talking to any of us personally, as heretics for being a 5 pointers! So glad The Lord moved us back home to where we could find a solid Reformed Baptist church! That experience taught me even more to be grateful for Gods provision in my church with like minded believers with whom we could fellowship!) and was also strangled by “Christian legalism” as a kid (and once as an adult), so perhaps that colors my whole take on this thing. ‘Reformed’ people at large claim as a RB that I am not ‘really’ reformed (believing the 5 points Is not enough for them) in all it’s nuances & Baptists (non Reformed) will claim “You’re a deceived at best reformed person (for holding to the 5 points)”. A Reformed Baptist cannot win on either side it seems. Oh, and we practice church discipline too and plenty of Christian churches at large wouldn’t dare do that! So they’d call us unloving to boot!

    1.) The first 3 sentences are spot on! The rest cover more history than I want to get into and some of that is covered in the above link, by someone much more qualified than I!
    2.) You asked: What does Jones really mean when he uses the word FOR? Sounds kind of like “what the definition of IS, is” that we had to listen to in politics under Clinton. He wrote for salvation – if he meant sanctification then he should have said so & been clear. He muddied those waters. I say that because I don’t see people trying to make assumptions in a favorable sense for any of TT’s words about not being antinomian-just negative conclusions in large part. My question would be “But what about the man on the cross next to Jesus?” How much of the 10 commandments were necessary for him to obey? None. Christ did it all. Obviously, for myself, this is paramount because I know me and I need all of Him! Do we then say – “Well sure for him (man on the cross next to Jesus) he had not to obey the 10 commandments because he died right away, but you who live longer upon your conversion, well yes, you all do have to obey the 10 commandments”? I know the law is righteous and just and I am made righteous and just through Christ and what He has done – he kept the Law perfectly for me. Now I am not eschewing the law – I am eschewing the letter of the 10 commandments, because I am under the Law of Christ and His commands are not grievous. The Spirit works in me (not in the charismatic way!) to convict me, to correct me, to always point me to Christ. I do not have to tick off 10 things constantly and see that I am obeying them as there is much more to consider than just the letter of the law for the Christian (I know this is not the issue at hand, but the 10 commandments themselves are, as a list of sorts, being used as an issue). He nailed it to the cross! I have a higher law to gloriously behold – The Law of Christ and the Spirit works in me to obey Him as I focus on Him. I read in Romans how the Christian does not even pray correctly so thankfully the Spirit makes intercession for us to make our prayers aright before God. And it is the Spirit which accomplishes even that, not me. It seems we don’t even pray right without the Spirit ‘correcting’ our prayers! I am sanctified and being sanctified by the Spirit. A Christian (who lives past conversion) WILL have good works because Christ has already prepared them for us that we would walk in them and He will accomplish all His will for us, which is to do His works. I just don’t ever see how Christ will not accomplish in me that which He has purposed to do – despite me you see. There is nothing I can do to thwart Gods plan for my life – so I always seek Him and He works in me to do His will. I may be chastised & learn the lessons He has for me, but I will learn & obey. And every time I fail in the flesh or even in my mind – He upholds me. I grew up in legalistic Baptist churches. No thank you. It drove me deeper into my own self righteousness & further from God. It seemed I could never do anything right enough. Make no mistake, Baptists can spin law like you wouldn’t believe-heck far too many of them could make the Pharisees green with envy. And there were many Baptist churches we attended all over the country, as my dad was a fighter pilot in the Navy so we moved around. They were all the same. Law, a smidgen of Grace & back to law, law, law (grace was over at that point). The Lord did not save me until I was 30. I was taught the Sovereignty of God & His Grace and I assure you I was on my face repenting. But then…I was later taught “OK, now that you are saved… you can do the law”. Trust me, I learned exactly what Paul meant when he writes “Oh wretched man that I am!” towards the end of Romans Chapter 7! I was in quite the straights spiritually and God had mercy on me (He is always faithful) and sent some good teachers my way and I really came to understand how free In Christ I am. It’s interesting when you think about it – all my efforts to ‘Obey the 10 commandments’ as a Christian produced nothing but pathetic self-righteousness and I was becoming judgmental towards others. Once I understood Grace better, all that left me and I truly did walk freely, as an unchained slave to Christ, in newness of the Spirit with much more understanding. Grace IS radically transforming! And I now pray for those who would re-chain themselves after being set free. But I know how easy it is, I liken my flirtation with legalism, once actually a Christian, to a bird cage analogy – Look at this pretty gold cage we have here, isn’t it nice, the legalist said? (See in our Baptist church everyone dresses modestly as Christ would have us do – meaning with men in all 3 piece suits & women in long dresses/skirts & we all look and act perfectly at church as do all our perfect little children) Yes, very pretty I replied. Come on in they said, sit upon the perch and swing freely. So I did. And as soon as I did they slammed the door and we was given the ‘real super holy list of things all good Christians will do if indeed they be ‘real’ Christians!’. And I saw their homes and their children for the sad imprisoned good-on-the-outside appearance, but a total devastated spiritual wreck on the inside that they were. We ran…right back to Christ and all He had done for us. Funny thing is though…without focusing on the 10 commandments and instead in walking by the Spirit, I am so incredibly happy and thankful for Christ and His accomplishments that I do indeed obediently and joyously so, follow ever after Him. But I am still not ticking off 10 things! (which my Sabbath keeping friends tsk tsk me for, because as they say – we can do law now In Christ and that includes the Sabbath). Christ is my Sabbath rest (but you’ll be hard pressed to argue with legalists about where in the bible it says we don’t keep that Sabbath that way if we are commanded to keep all the law-they’ll always claim that you are a law breaker, redefining the law – a lawless one!) I love Him, I love His Word and I love the Law of Christ. Two things: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself ! This Law I love! The 10 commandments prove our depravity & I love them for it else I wouldn’t know my (continual) need for Christ. They prove it in our flesh even now as The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 7. It’s like a sermon I read of Spurgeons, when he spoke of that ocean of Grace. Oh how delightful it is to swim long and deep in it and how awesome it is to know it is forever! It’s like an unquenchable thirst for more, yet my thirst is also quenched at the same time! But I guess that means I am thinking as a Reformed Baptist and maybe not as the Presby’s are supposed to believe? Or am I considered antinomian by Reformed Baptists too – do I have something wrong in my understanding? I’m starting to feel like some Reformed Baptists would consider me an antinomian when I read some of their back to the law posts regarding this issue! And I am not. I don’t go back under the 10 commandments to determine my Christian living. I’m still under the law of Christ – it makes me nervous when people say you must go back to the 10 commandments and be yoked ‘gratefully’ to them to live rightly before God. I’m nervous posting this, but I believe it. If I need scriptural correction – then no problem! My in laws are Presby (PCA) but would agree with what I wrote about Grace & Law, so maybe they don’t agree with their own denomination and that is why I am so confused. If so, does TGC then think Reformed Baptists are antinomian if they aren’t teaching going back under the 10 commandments in some 3rd use of the law? I’ve gone on far too long already but I feel that I must continually qualify what I mean (and I have barely skimmed the surface so more is being left unwritten) so that I am not charged with being an antinomian. Does that make Reformed Baptists like me antinomian to those at TGC? I know lots of Reformed Baptists who read over there & go to T4G. Because if it makes us antinomian to them (regardless of the Presby issues that seem to be at play) then my Pastor needs to know – he was just at T4G! And we are not taught to go back under the 10 commandments – but to walk in the Law of Christ in newness of the Spirit.
    3.) I posted that MLJs sermon as well and no one I know thought he was saying ‘be antinomian’ – I think he did a good job of making sure it was understood that he was saying that the charge of being antinomian could be (incorrectly) leveled if you actually preached grace properly. I am familiar with his work anyway, but even if I wasn’t, he still makes it clear I thought.
    4.) I defer on this first part but will add I have enjoyed Carl Truemans writings (and appreciated that he left TGC when he did)…I did agree though with CR’s assessment of the article where CT used all the explicit examples (which as a mom I found disturbing – I wished he had just handled it differently) – it did appear to be insinuating things, not merely asking questions. However, if that was not what Carl Trueman had as his intent, then I believe him as he is a brother In Christ and I am not to think otherwise of his actual intent than what he himself says.

    5.) As a Reformed Baptist myself, I agree.
    6.) I actually don’t get what you mean by ‘done and do’ in that sense, so no comment there. But I would say the gospel also warns – for ‘if we neglect so great a salvation how much more will we be judged’! Which shows that we, who are not under the law, are indeed warned by the penalty of those who were under the law and by those who would still place themselves under the law.
    7.) Comment speaks well for itself.
    Yes, defining terms is obviously a major problem – especially when so many people define the same terms differently!
    You have very good points.

  23. mbwoodside says:

    If anyone is still struggling to grasp what the real theological issue is, this sermon and where he is preaching it, sums it up.

  24. Shauna Bryant says:

    Thank You I will go listen & share!

  25. mbwoodside says:

    Shauna, the key thing to listen for is the conflation between justification and sanctification. Is he talking about justification all through this message? Or, is there a mix of the two? If he is also talking about sanctification, his understanding is not encompassing the third use of the law nor is that message in keeping with what Presbyterians or Reformed Baptists believe.

  26. Shauna Bryant says:

    mbwoodside: I took notes during the sermon and included them for context and offer my observations at the end as a person listening from ‘the pew’ if you will. A theologian may have a different take, but sometimes another view is helpful – I pray it is so. I am aware of my limitations ☺
    Tullians first words: “How annoying.” Referencing whatever was going on and from what I can gather from what research I did on the church (and all the shiny cars parked on stage-I guess I should be grateful it wasn’t a marriage sermon with beds about!), I think he was speaking truth while trying to also be funny. There was no laughter though so he stumbles for a sec. The Pastor of this mega plex multi site campuses received his degree at SBTS. Pastor Dave may be good, may not be – but it does appear he took the ‘how to be a CEO instead of ‘just a Pastor’ course (obviously I’m not a fan of this set up of churches. I do not believe they are biblically structured.) My observations are off of some sites where ex members complained the Pastor was never available to counsel/talk/minister, that the whole thing was just too big and entertained goats too much in worship music & light preaching style & observations from visitors commenting, watching a few ‘shows’ (major groan here), etc. One elderly couple even commented “We were visiting our kids/grandkids so we came here with them and endured a ridiculous rock show/concert so we were surprised the Pastor actually had biblically sound things to say from the pulpit”. So that’s the set up. Obviously not a church I’d attend – but I will reserve judgment on a Pastor going there to preach as long as he preaches the gospel. We shall see.
    But seriously – OK so to me, he seems nervous (maybe because no one laughed at his annoying comment & perhaps tired somewhat I think) & he is repeating himself. A lot. I get it. You live in South Florida. By the water. We heard it the first time, the second, the third….but maybe he forgot how many times he said it since it appeared from his comments (I had to backtrack to write this since he comments on it later, so you then know how many times he preached already that day) he’d already preached three times there in the same day. A few legalism quips makes one think he has had some issues with it (it’s not like I don’t though) & that he is also addressing legalism from a salvation standpoint. Around 9 minutes he goes into the performance treadmill and well…I’ve been in churches like that – it is a problem. He says “long on law short on grace”. Experienced that too. He’s talking about lifes demands wearing us out (and in legalist, works righteousness churches too), so far this seems to be the context he intends to address in some scripture (hopefully soon although he did read Luke 4:16-21 as a set up of Christ coming to set the captives free) He then says the 2 questions he wants to address in light of that scripture are 1.) What’s the cause of our exhaustion & 2.) What’s the cure for our exhaustion – so this seems to be his goal/context. His context therefore is clearly Salvation (and what salvation should mean to the Christian – stops works righteousness -performance based obedience). I may not agree with the way he is addressing this at all (and I obviously don’t) but it was clear to me he is talking about Salvation. The scripture reference points to it as do the examples. Exhaustion seems to be his word employed to speak of self works/self righteousness. In fact, I’d say due to a few of his ‘kinda trying to be funny’ comments, that he seems aware, at least peripherally, that he is probably speaking to a lot of unsaved people and also a lot of people who may be works oriented.
    Root cause of the Human Condition (he quotes some man) “the greatest temptation to think that by firmer, better & more aggressive living we can have life” & says ‘we are trying to save ourselves’. (I’m paraphrasing a lot here) His experience was that ‘people outside the church need the gospel but after that they often move beyond it….instead of more deeply in it’. That the Christian never outgrows the need to hear the gospel – it is what fuels the Christian life…yet people in the church working for it not understanding they have been, past tense, saved) as those outside the church need to hear the same gospel’. (quite frankly, I think that observation is unarguable) God does for us what we cannot do. Humans are addicted to ‘self improvement’ this mindset happens. He defines his new word for this attitude‘performance-ism’: the mindset that equates our identity & our self worth with what we can perform – our success. Success=life, failure=death. Even in the church. Goes into a self-story about how we are valued/value ourselves – in being good/doing good. Performance/works driven mentality. As in not looking towards Christ, but to self. Story of him playing Tennis as a kid he thought: Every time he’d lose (at a game) he felt he didn’t count – uses that to address any other area in our life. If your kid is good, you did good, if not, you failed etc, kind of thing. We are anchored in who we are as a parent, a spouse, a worker, etc…whatever our thing is. The force of performance-ism is felt as we become aware of an expectation we can’t meet, etc. that we aren’t measuring up. Lots of story time, then he goes into the wrong direction of life he was going down. So now it’s 5 years into their marriage as new Christians and they’ve been miserable & they begin being with more mature Christians and he felt like a failure since he/they didn’t feel like they could measure up to these people and while the people didn’t judge them, they internally felt judged by not measuring up to what they perceived as those Christians who had it together while they didn’t. For some reason he/they felt like they had to “make it happen”-they were still focused on self, not Christ. He sees a sign on the street and realizes the sign intended to get across: ‘live life without any regrets’. Sounds inspirational – yet he felt it was a booming voice of law – don’t mess up, you better get it right the first time. What sinner doesn’t live with regrets/mistakes/failures he asks. ‘Our hope & focus of the Christian faith is Christs substitution, not our own work of transformation. The good news, the focus is Christ & what he has done. Not us.’ So he goes back to the sign how it condemned & was not inspirational as intended likening it to the law which condemns. We cannot do it (and well, we can’t). The first step to being really free is giving up (trying to do it ourselves). Then reads a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. So what people need to do is be perfect as your Father in Heaven in perfect. Then he says: Jesus + Nothing = Everything. (From the title of his book. I’ve read that) Talks about how Paul (the Apostle) said of himself towards the end of his life that he was least of all sinners. Get focus off self even once saved like Paul did. Jesus performed it all. Focus on Him** OK, so I am going to type exactly what he says next, so I had to go back – I don’t want to get this wrong. Tullian says: “…(Pauls) willingness to admit how unsanctified he was in the flesh demonstrates how sanctified he was (obviously then in the Spirit as they are juxtaposed here), when you stop fixating on what you need to do to get better that’s when you get better (because then it’s the Spirit working in us to will, not us willing things ourselves)….so now, you don’t have to think about what you can do for (God) you are free to think about how to serve your neighbor without getting anything in return because everything you need has been accomplished In Christ. “ He says it in context of ‘justifying ourselves’. So, in his context, though he uses sanctification when talking about Paul & justification right here – it appears (it really does) he is talking about self justification in the sense of self –works-based in the flesh (improvement). In other words, I took it that he was using sanctification in the biblical sense that regarding Pauls life –that Paul didn’t see himself as ‘having arrived’ at any time in even his life (again, I took this to mean that since even Paul hadn’t been perfected in the flesh we ought not to think we will be perfect in this flesh. And quite honestly we won’t be-Christ will give us a new body) and justification in the human sense of self -justifying what we do/have done, re: our own works (performance-ism). Talks about people being image makers/keepers, our drive to win approval, get respect, etc. if we can just get people to think a certain way of us to be approved in all aspects of society-to impress, to earn, to succeed. He says that’s the cause – our drive to ‘save ourselves’ continually (be nice if he used the terms born sinners!). Now the cure: The hope is what Jesus gives us (and now he takes it back to scripture, finally, to Luke 4) goes on to talk about how man completely blew it (love to hear some total depravity here, but I guess not) –and takes the gospel back to Genesis regarding the promise that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent. He (Jesus), this promised one, came to set the captives free. Free from what? Sunday School answer: Free from sin & death – yes true, but what does this feel like/mean experientially. It feels like this: He came to set us free from fixing ourselves & other people (that’s a synopsis). He cannot change his kids, his spouse, his church so Thank God for Jesus – because He has done it all. (I don’t see how this fits…unless, and I am speculating – I go back to his book, from memory, wherein he did mention that he kept trying to fix the mess it was in and it wasn’t until he realized God knew about this He had it all under control and once he rested in that then things came to a conclusion). Back to football analogies. Maybe I just don’t like the Dolphins or Cowboys…I’m a Hockey fan, but I digress. He came to set us free from, well about every aspect of ourselves we try to do in our flesh to save ourselves (again a synopsis). The Gospel of Grace announces that Jesus came to satisfy the deep judgment against us-the judgment of God, others & even ourselves (I would disagree here – the wrath of God is what’s in view scripturally – not our own judgment or that of others, but to be gracious maybe he meant how we look to self & others instead of God). He then goes on to say he wishes he was, in essence, ‘the perfect Christian’ in the flesh, but he isn’t, he continually fails, but what he can say is that the blood of Jesus covered even his efforts to glorify himself /be perfect in a legalist sense– that Jesus fully satisfied God for me/us. That because of the finished work of Christ we have everything we long for and look for in a thousand things, in other things/people (but we don’t look to God) – the Gospel announces that because Jesus ‘won’ for us we are free to lose, that He was strong for us, we are free to be weak, that He was someone so we are free to be no one, that He was extraordinary we are free to be ordinary. The context here of being free is that we do not have to strive to be perfect, strong, extraordinary – that Christ accomplished all for us, now go live in His accomplishments, not yours kind of thing. Because you will fail. He contextualizes his comments at a conference – when a man says “You just encouraged 2,000 people to fail” he says “1.) All these people were failing just fine before I arrived and 2.) Because Jesus accomplished for failures like me, God does not count our sins against us. He counted them against Christ and that is not an encouragement ‘to fail’, it is an acknowledgement ‘of our failure’ so that ‘when we fail’ there is therefore now no condemnation for those In Christ Jesus so the banner for the Christian to live under is: It is finished. And as a result of living under this banner (It is finished) we are free. Who you really are has nothing to do with you or what you do…your identity is firmly anchored in Jesus’ anchor not yours, His strength, not yours, His victory, His performance – not yours…etc the world philosophical view is: the idea that you are what you do – you are what you can become. No, for the Christian it is you are what Jesus has done for you. So it’s not us working, it’s not dotting your I’s crossing your T’s – that’s nothing but law, burden, crushing blows. The cure is the announcement of God to us, in the person of Jesus Christ. that the internal (self) voice of ‘do this/that and live’ is only silenced by the external (voice of Christ) that perpetually says “It is finished. I came to do for you and secure for you what you could never do for yourselves. It is finished.” You are free. (Now Tullians prayer): “God this seems almost too good to be true, this news seems too good to be true, so I pray you would overpower our unbelief and cause us to believe this good news that it is no longer riding on us that the pressure is off, help us to believe it & live freely in light of it thank you for this unspeakable gift of sending your Son to do for us what we could never do for ourselves and it’s in His name we pray amen.”

    OK, so I did as you suggested above (here quoted again): “..the key thing to listen for is the conflation between justification and sanctification. Is he talking about justification all through this message? Or, is there a mix of the two? If he is also talking about sanctification, his understanding is not encompassing the third use of the law nor is that message in keeping with what Presbyterians or Reformed Baptists believe.

    This is just my ‘take away’ from what I heard. I am no theologian for sure, but I do read my Bible and study daily. I am also VERY open to correction, so if necessary please, please do so. Again, this is my understanding. Firstly, this was a sermon given on Salvation over against works/performance based righteousness – whether for the unsaved person hearing it or the person in church who may be saved yet who likens their salvation to THEIR works (performance based) & their continual working for it (performance based). It was a sermon given in a worldly cozy church (my opinion) as well. It was a sermon given to lay people who are on ‘milk’ (again in my opinion) & no doubt goats. I am keeping that context all in mind because if he had been reading a book he wrote on the doctrines of Justification & Sanctification obviously then we’d have a completely different discussion going on. But that is not the context. He established it was on Salvation (with less emphasis on justification and on sanctification, though he was addressing both – in a biblical sense & in the worldly philosophical sense). Therefore, what can we do for Salvation? Nothing. Jesus + (our) Nothing = Everything (Salvation, Eternal Life before God). Trite perhaps, but sound nonetheless. As I understand the debate now, it is regarding his use of sanctification & justification. So I copied the definitions of both from the Westminster shorter catechism (for clarity’s sake that we are defining terms), since this is a one time sermon (not a series) and not a direct teaching on either doctrine – the larger context of his sermon being ‘how we are saved’.
    Q. 33. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. ***This fits with what TT said in context.
    Q. 35. What is sanctification?
    A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. ***TT’s sermon addresses the first 8 words here only.
    Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
    A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. *** TT’s sermon addresses this in the “It is finished (as in complete)” comments and actually only peripherally & vaguely. You couldn’t make a charge against him I don’t believe here, but one would certainly desire some meat to chew on!
    So while light on both I don’t see how one can make the charge he was saying anything contrary to either – he just didn’t go into enough depth certainly. Perhaps less story telling would have left time. Although – I still get the feeling there were more people there needing to be saved than who were already saved needing further instruction.
    The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory. Excerpt from Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul © (Tyndale 1992)
    Ok, so next is where I can see some issues & controversy come in to play. What follows is what TT said about law & ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. I recognized it instantly as I also believe this. You may also think I have some issues (this is where I can see the biggest problem may lie). I would agree with that statement by R.C. Sproul…but I would offer up a BIG caveat to it. I would say that how we fulfill the law in our walk in grateful obedience to Christ by the empowering work of the Spirit in us, is found in this verse and not in the 10 commandments as they are often thought of:
    Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
    Now, some people have said to me: well then Shauna if that’s how you see it then you are an antinomian. Yet that is how the scripture says I fulfill the law in my walk, in my life. Through love. And how can I even love? Because He first loved me & gave me the Holy Spirit so that I can walk in Him and obey His command to do so.
    In conclusion, while I don’t personally care for that style of preaching at all , I fail to see how anyone can claim he is an antinomian by it. I love my Pastor – we exegetically go through the scriptures and we are fed some serious meat every time. Additionally, we have gone through the London Baptist Confession of Faith – we know exactly what our church doctrinally believes. We understand theological terms & nuanced uses. In short – almost all our members are meat eaters and we consume a lot, so obviously I cringed through most of this. Also – and this was a biggie for me – I heard not a peep regarding repentance, so I’d call his whole purpose (Salvation message) an EPIC FAIL and I would actually be far, far more concerned about that, than anything else. But the charge of TT being an antinomian and/or not understanding the third use of the law? That should be done carefully and considering what the scriptures say, with much prayer.

  27. Shauna Bryant says:

    mbwoodside, I just wanted to clarify what I said at the end about his stated intent being an ‘epic failure’. His intent, as he expressed it, was a salvation message. Repentance was not the only thing he completely left out and using the phrase ‘exhaustion’ is hardly a sufficient term to cover our total depravity – we aren’t just extremely tired from self improvement efforts….we are dead in trespasses and sins. We need to be born again by the Spirit of God. Therefore, I do not believe even the Gospel message was given in that sermon. I am not saying he doesn’t know it – just that he didn’t give it.

  28. mbwoodside says:

    Shauna, I’ll leave a concluding comment and then exit from the thread. Thanks for your comments and thoughts and for interacting with the message. The point of preaching and communicating in general is clarity. If we are not clear, then we have failed to communicate. My continual criticism of TT is that he is not clear when he is calling lost sinners to repentance in Christ, and then when he is exhorting those who are believers to live lives of obedience. In this sermon he is unclear in this crucial distinction. I also wonder what his understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work is in the transformed life of a believer. Once we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and enabling us to obey Christ and grow in holiness.

    Here is the question TT asks on FFF:

    “Does sanctification happen by telling people what to do or telling them what Jesus has done?”

    Tullian would say it’s by telling them what Jesus has done.

    Jones, Phillips, Trueman , , , , and I believe Paul, James, John and the consistent of teaching of the Bible is both; we tell them what Jesus has done on their behalf and call them to repent, believe, and obey, And, therein lies the rub.

    Here’s something of note I stumbled across at Liberate this morning. Liberate is expanding its influence and now has like-minded churches in their network. They are listed on the site . . . and a good percentage of them are Lutheran. I had to laugh.

    Grace and Peace,


  29. Shauna Bryant says:

    Dear Matthew, Thank you for your interaction. That he is not clear is without question I believe & that is sad, because his job, as you mentioned, is to be clear. The more i thought about it after I posted the more I hated it – I thought it was reminiscent of Osteen type psychology. I think his ‘sermon’ I listened to is a good example of how people have watered down the gospel in order to be ‘relevant’ and in the process people aren’t getting the truth they so desperately need. I wish more Pastors were concerned with being faithful to Gods Word and preaching it in full (For that is the Power of God unto Salvation) and I agree completely with your assessment-it is indeed both as Gods word clearly commands. I would say this type of message is also part of the downgrade. Thanks again! Shauna

  1. June 23, 2015

    […] many a blog post about Tullian’s theology that might have played a roll in this sin. Although we’ve also asked whether Tullian’s theology is of “hyper-grace” or “an… we think a little more mediation should be had before opining on that particular aspect of the […]

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