I’ve tried very hard to be diplomatic and restrained in my criticisms of Tullian Tchividjian’s writing (here and here). I’ve tried to communicate genuine appreciation for his books while also expressing my deep concerns. I’ve watched others  gently and wisely caution him about the theological trajectory he is on, and yet he seems to just keep on digging deeper and going further. I’ve watched with growing anxiety as his imbalanced and confusing theology gains popularity. But there comes a time when we have to move from concern to alarm.

Yesterday’s blog post God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does pushed me over that edge.

Using truth to eliminate truth
The headline, like much of the blog post contains truth. However Tullian uses that truth to eliminate another truth, a vitally important one. Of course God doesn’t need our good works. But Tullian uses that truth to argue that God is not interested in them, pleased by them, and nor does he respond to them.

Let’s start with this statement:

Forever freed from our need to pay God back or secure God’s love and acceptance, we are now free to love and serve others.

Yes we are freed from our need to pay God back or secure God’s love and acceptance. But please don’t use that truth as a proof that the Christian has no concern to show his love for God by worshipful and grateful service, or to deny that God’s revelation of His love to us, and our experience of it, can and does change depending on our love-stoked obedience (John 14:21, 23).

In a similar vein, he says:

Passive righteousness tells us that God does not need our good works. Active righteousness tells us that our neighbor does. The aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical.

Again I don’t know who Tullian’s arguing with in the first two sentences here. But the third sentence certainly does not follow logically or biblically.

By God’s grace we can do good works of Christian service to others which ALSO please God as sweet-smelling sacrifices:

I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God (Phil. 4:16).

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Heb. 13:16).

Now may the God of peace…make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:21).

In other words our works on a horizontal level also impact our vertical relationship with God. Our creature to creature relationships influence our creature-Creator relationship.

Worrying pattern
Here’s the worrying pattern I see in Tullian’s theology.

In Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian worked hard to remove any moral or ethical link between our obedience and God’s blessing.

In Glorious Ruin, Tullian labored to sever any moral or ethical link between our sin and our suffering.

In this latest blog post, Tullian is endeavoring to sever any moral or ethical link between our works for others and our relationship with God.

I keep hoping it’s simply confusion, that he’s unwittingly confusing our unchangeable legal standing with God and our changeable spiritual experience of God’s loving fellowship. But he’s a clever guy with a really sharp mind, and it’s hard to understand that after all he’s read from his concerned friends, that he still won’t accept the difference between:

(i) the believer’s unchangeable and unconditional status as God’s adopted son through justification, and

(ii) the believer’s conditional and therefore changeable experience and enjoyment of God’s fatherly love (see more on that subject here).

His confusion or conflation is really summed up in this paragraph:

Any talk of sanctification which gives the impression that our efforts secure more of God’s love, itself needs to be mortified. We must always remind Christian’s that the good works which necessarily flow from faith are not part of a transaction with God–they are for others.

Again, using words like “secure” and “transaction” create a distracting and plausible cover for the (unintentional) undermining of John 14:21 and 23, which clearly state that love-motivated obedience does result in greater revelations and experiences of God’s love. Maybe Tullian could help me see if I (and many others) have misunderstood these verses.

Brotherly correction
If I was in Tullian’s shoes, I hope by now I’d have stopped digging any deeper and say: “Look guys, you know that I’ve been motivated by a desire to exalt Christ, liberate sinners, and benefit the church. But in my passion for these great aims, I’ve sometimes allowed myself to conflate distinct truths, ignore important truths, and portray an imbalanced Christian ethic.”

And I think I know enough of Tullian’s concerned friends to be confident that they would respond: “Brother Tullian, we’ve all made mistakes in our ministries and we’ll make many more. We appreciate how you’ve helped us to get much greater passion and precision in certain areas of Gospel truth. We’re glad we’ve been able to help you in a similar way. Now let’s move forwards together, striving for biblical accuracy and balance, and serve our glorious God of grace for the eternal benefit of many, many souls.”

  • Joshua

    Tullian has fallen victim to the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. The picture of the marriage covenant from Scripture describes the salvific theme of Scripture. We don’t EARN our marriage but we must be FAITHFUL to KEEP our marriage. The same is true of our justification gained by grace through faith.

  • http://rockedbygrace.blogspot.com/ Mike

    “Gained by grace through faith” but secured by adherence to the law?

  • Eric

    Thanks for giving us an example of gracious, yet firm correction. I kept waiting for the “A” word to come down, but it never came (antinomianism).

  • http://saet-online.org/category/blog jason b. hood


    Enriched, proved.

  • http://tbc-muncie.org Tim

    Dr. Murray,

    Thank you for your post. I too have been disconcerted by Tullian’s trajectory. Something I’ve wondered, however, is whether these emphases are coming from his appropriating of Lutheran theology. Tullian has said before that he’s benefited much from the insights of Lutherans such as Gerhard Forde and CFW Walther, theologians who seem to say things very similar to what Tullian now is saying (e.g., Forde’s chapter on Lutheran sanctification in 4 Views of Sanctification). Do you think there’s any connection here, or is this barking up the wrong tree?

    Grace and peace,


    • Johan Mortensen

      Though I am not Dr. Murray and though I haven’t read Tullian I would answer in the affirmative. It is inspired by lutheran theology – but it comes in an american(“positive”) package. I come from Denmark – a lutheran country. And here you see similar kind of theology all over the evangelical lutheran scene.It sound something like this:
      - It is works-rightousness to think and talk about sanctification.
      - We recieve everything by faith – (initially in infant-baptism). Thus it is wrong to believe that there exists such a thing as “good works” in the christian life. Good works(so goes the logic) exists only in the life of the self-rightous.

      • Drew Koss

        Having been raised Lutheran by a Lutheran pastor, I could not say it any better. Even having assurance of salvation can be considered “works”. After all, even if faith is a gift from God, isn’t our exercising it then a “work”? That is the logic and hence the logical passivity of infant baptism as salvation. What can follow next is that justification is assumed and everything is geared toward sanctification in the form of “be good” sermons.

    • Drew Koss

      Tim, I think you are spot-on. I have thought for months now that Tullian was becomming Lutheran.I listen to his sermons almost every week and more than once, I’ve said to myself: “I think he is turning ino a Lutheran.”

    • Walker

      Of course there is a connection. He’s reacting to hearing grace unmixed with command. That’s more than enough reason for joy, excitement, and wanting to share that same great news with as many as possible.

  • Pingback: Questions for you! | Under the Tree

  • Cliff

    Also passages such as Colossians1:9-10 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 connect the idea of *pleasing God* to our walk before Him as His people in Jesus Christ. Indeed 1 Thessalonians 4:2 connects the believer’s pleasing God to *commandment keeping*, which is very much a part of the sanctification process (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3, where Paul is writing specifically about the commandment to abstain from fornication). Surely these texts in no way deny God’s enabling grace to keep His word or diminish the greatness of the fundamental work of Christ in saving us and setting us apart to God.

    • Foppe VanderZwaag

      Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

  • SomeGuy

    Confusing sanctification and justification is a new problem I’ve seen over the past year.

    Here’s a three-part discussion:




    This is getting widespread.

  • Tullian

    Hi David!

    Unless I’m reading this wrong, I think your central concern regarding my post yesterday on Martin Luther’s distinction between passive righteousness and active righteousness is summed up in this sentence:

    “Of course God doesn’t need our good works. But Tullian uses that truth to argue that God is not interested in them, pleased by them, and nor does he respond to them.”

    That’s completely false. I never use the idea that it is our neighbor and not God who needs our good works to argue that God is not interested in our works, or that he is indifferent toward them. You infer from my post that because it is our neighbor who needs our works and that the direction of good works is horizontal that I am suggesting God doesn’t care about our love and service. I never say this. Of course God cares about our love for others, because he cares about others. Of course he cares about our life in the world, because he cares for us and our world. In fact, life on the horizontal plane (vocation) is God’s normal way of running his world: feeding people through farmers and bakers, healing people through doctors, saving people through the appointed means of grace, etc… What I’ve clarified as active righteousness is a wide open space.

    Your strong desire to make the divine/human relationship changeable is bizarre to me and you don’t even pull it off. You only talk about our “experience” of that relationship. You infer that any change in my “experience” of God’s love is an actual change in God’s love to me. This is simply untrue. You have to categorically ignore Romans 8:38-39 to conclude that. While it is true that my sin blocks my love for God experientially, my sin does not block God’s love for me actually.

    David, I’m happy to have conversations about things we both care deeply for. But this kind of “sound the alarm” critique reveals great ignorance of the strategic Reformational conversations and disagreements that have existed among orthodox pastors and theologians for over 500 years.


    • KB

      P. Tullian,
      If you’re not saying what others are thinking you’re saying, then what are you saying to make them confused about what you’re saying?


      • Stephen

        Actually, I heard Tullian saying exactly what he said he was saying. And I was going to make a very similar response to David.

        So maybe some of it has to do with how we’re reading him also?

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Thanks for offering some clarification, Tullian. If I may, the key phrase in your piece is not the one you prefer to highlight but rather: “The aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical.” NOT VERTICAL. I don’t believe that can stand in the light of the verses I quoted and some others mentioned in the comments.

      I do not “infer that any change in my experience of God’s love is an actual change in God’s love for me.” In fact I state in this post, and especially the post on this subject that I linked to, that our status as justified, adopted, and loved sons is unchangeable.

      I do not “only talk about our experience of that relationship.” I refer to John 14:21 & 23 and say that “love-motivated obedience does result in greater revelations and experiences of God’s love.” REVELATIONS and experiences.

      I’m glad to see you affirm that our sin does block our love for God experientially. That’s not a note I’ve heard in your writing thus far. However, the passages in John 14:21 & 23 indicate that there is also a decision on the part of God as to how much of His love He will reveal to us at any given time. That in no way changes God’s actual love for us.

      As John Piper explains John 14: “Jesus says that he and his Father in heaven will love us in response to our obedience. Similarly, in verse 23 Jesus answers a question, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Again Jesus promises that he and his Father will respond to our obedience with love. So the least we can say is that there is a love from God the Father and a love from God the Son that is a response to our keeping the word of Jesus.”

      I don’t think John Piper or I are categorically ignoring Romans 8:38-39. Nor are we ignorant of Reformation history.

      I am saying that: (1) God loves His people with an everlasting and unchangeable love; (2) God’s revelation of that love (His shedding it abroad in our hearts, if you will) does fluctuate, partly in response to our love-motivated obedience; and (3) Our experience of that love is, as you say, sometimes blocked by our sin.

      Tullian, can I say that I think some of your emphasis is desperately needed and, as I’ve said before, has done me and my ministry much good. However, I am afraid that you are risking your greater usefulness by overemphasizing your distinct message to the extent that you are ignoring or denying key Gospel truths. I know that logically it seems that what I’m asking you to add would seem to undermine grace, and if handled wrongly, it can do. However, I don’t think the answer is to jettison what some people may misunderstand or misuse.

      • http://www.drbobgonzales.com Bob Gonzales

        Well said, Dr Murray. I think D. A. Carson’s The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God supports the point you are making, and it would help others who are watching this debate.

        • Ray

          J.C. Ryle’s classic book: Holiness, is really the best treatment that I have every seen on the subject.

        • Steve

          Bob I don’t think this is a debate? Was Tullian contacted and invited to this debate?

      • Steve

        I am really saddened by the fact that David could not have contacted Tullian privately and discussed these matters. Was it really his duty to publicly critisize and accuse our brother Tullian of false teaching. I was under charismatic theology for years before I embrace Reformed Theology. Now there is a place to sound the alarm. I am tired of seeing men in the Reformed camp who are passionate for the Gospel publicly critizing one another instead of addressing your concerns face to face. David if you are really that concenred did you sit down face to face with Tullian?

        • http://mikeleake.net Mike Leake


          Did you sit down privately with David?
          No. That’s okay though, you didn’t have to. David’s comments were public. As is your concern. As were Tullian’s. When someone hits publish on a blog post it then becomes public material. If there is sin in that post then it is a public sin. If there is error in that post then it is public error. Therefore, it is more times than not deserving of, and completely okay, for a public rebuke, questionining, etc.

          • Steve

            Mike, did you sit down with me? See even I can make foolish comments like you.

            The point is I am nobody and neither are you. Please correct me if I am wrong Mike but don’t recognize you as being a public figure. Tullian is well known so instead of accusing him of false teaching and trying to sound spiritual while doing it, and If he is REALLY that concerned then he should have spoken to him face to face. I doubt David would give me his number or take my calls. But I am sure that Tullian would take his since he already said that he would.

          • Drew Koss

            Right on Mike.

        • Gary S

          If you think David is wrong and you’re that concerned, did you sit down with him face to face?

          • Steve

            Gary, last time I checked the article was not about Steve. Your question is really stupid.

        • Drew Koss

          This is not a Matthew 18 matter. Personal sin against one another. This is publicly debated ideas that are put forth in public. I see this line of reasoning used all the time when one is theologically boxed in. It sounds “biblical” but is literally beside the point.

          • Steve

            “I’ve tried hard to be diplomatic and restrained in my criticisms of Tullian Tchividjian’s writing”

            Thanks Drew, since this is not a Matthew 18 matter I think David needs to grow up and leave behind his childish impulses to criticize some else publicly because he misunderstands and misrepresents the persons meanings. Maybe he should stick to teaching Seminary and leave blogging behind since in his own admission he does not have the self-control to resist criticizing. Just my Public opinion.

        • ScottW

          David Murray is dealing with a publicly available set of published works by Tullian. Why is it concerning that the dialogue on the theology and theological emphases of the books would be conducted in a public way?

          It seems that there is a sense that Tullian was privately contacted by those known to David Murray (“I’ve watched others gently and wisely caution him about the theological trajectory he is on…”) and he is concerned that Tullian is not hearing these voices.

          At what point is it okay to publicly address someone’s writing? Is that what reviews tend to do?

      • Drew Koss

        This phrase sums it up for me: “overemphasizing your distinct message”. As I listen to Tullian almost every week, I keep saying: “It’s the same sermon every Sunday”. It is over correction. It is not “the whole counsel of God.” And I love Tullian. I’ve tried to discuss this with my wife and a couple of friends who love Tullian’s preaching, but to no avail. They seem to “dig in” too. Knowing them personally, I know there is a deeply emotional attachment to Tullian’s emphasis. But in the case of Tullian himself, I am mystified.

    • http://hierodulia.wordpress.com/ pduggan

      It seems to me we have to distinguish ebwrteen two kinds of love. yes. One love is never removed utterly.


      “True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grievth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light”

      “they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance ”

      God seems to be changing his relation to us in that confessional quote, not just our experience is changing.

    • http://oliverodesign.com Mark Olivero

      Pastor Tullian’s fervent and I believe careful explanations of the differences between saving grace and sanctifying grace have been very helpful to me. I continue to be strengthened his thots.

      I see no theological error or slippage in what he is teaching. It seems to me that – from where I sit – what is “throwing the experts” like David M. off their chairs is Pastor Tullian’s wild enthusiasm about Grace.

      His critics are doing too much, way too much, reading between his lines. What is alarming is that there are not more evangelical leaders trumpeting these beauties of God’s grace, but rather are offering “advice” in the name of balance. Grace is not balanced.

      There is a clear distinction between the doctrines of justification and sanctification. Thank you Pastor Tullian for reminding us how these are different and how the way see looking at one will greatly affect (or downgrade the other) the other.

      It’s that simple and it’s that grand.

      thank you, thank you Pastor Tullian.

      • Steve

        Mark I agree with you completely. MUCH WAY TO MUCH READING INTO THE TEXT. I am amazed at the “alarmist” mentality of some of these bloggers. It’s ridiculous!!!!

        Sadly it is true that we all have legalistic tendencies and RADICAL GRACE even amongst Reformed people can still set some people on a journey back to Rome. The sinful heart loves to DO what Jesus already did.

      • JeffB

        I don’t think it’s so much reading between the lines as wondering why some lines are left out. Tullian, in emphasizing certain truths, tends to leave out others. When people call him on this, he insists that they should have inferred them. Why doesn’t he just simply include them?

        In this case, he emphasizes that “the aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical,” and that God doesn’t need our good works. Why not add one sentence to affirm that God cares about or is interested in our good works? Is it just sloppy writing? Or does he leave it out because it might seem to contradict what appears to be his overall project: To so emphasize grace that works are made to seem almost worthless?

        When pressed on it, he writes, in effect: OF COURSE God is pleased with our works. Why would you think I don’t believe this? The article under discussion is saying: OF COURSE works are important. They are for the sake of our neighbors. Just because I almost never mention this, do you think I don’t believe it?

        I have been inspired by much of what Tullian has written about grace, but I think he may be so relentless in celebrating it that he sometimes wants to give the impression that, in our daily lives, it is all we need to know.

    • Will

      Perhaps it is semantics that separate the two of you. It seems to be that every spiritual truth is held in a paradox. It is true that God does not require our good works in order to love us, but it is also true that our good works can indicate our acceptance of His love for us.

      • Tom Hardy

        If I understand what you are saying, I think that fits nicely with James 2:18 “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works,” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” NKJV
        Faith that works!

        Another thought occurred to me when thinking on this topic that I think has huge relevance to this topic.
        I am referring to the following: http://www.spurgeon.org/catechis.htm#Q1
        1. Q. What is the chief end of man?
        A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31), and to enjoy him for ever (Ps. 73:25-26).
        2. Q. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify him?
        A. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:16) is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy him (1 Jn. 1:3).
        Why I mention this is because although it is true that we should help others because of our love for them. Our ultimate goal is to glorify God as directed by Scripture.

    • http://welivethegivenlife.blogspot.com Laura

      I thought Tullian was saying just what he said (here) that he is saying too. He doesn’t address our experience of God’s love or his pleasure in our good works in the blog post. But this critique seems to take him to task for teaching something untrue about our experience and God’s pleasure.

      I understand Tullian’s point to be: Our position before God (justification) is not jeopardized by our (perceived) progress in sanctification. So stop worrying about it and get on with striving and working to love others in real ways. Which is the very act of working out your sanctification.

    • http://paulspassingthoughts.com Paul Dohse


      When are you going to start calling like it is? You understand the Reformed gospel A-Z. I don’t agree with it, but nevertheless, you are merely teaching what the Reformers taught, and doing an excellent job.

      The controversy emerges because many don’t really understand what the Reformation was about. Evangelical concepts have been integrated with what they taught over the years.

      You are teaching Reformed orthodoxy–stop sitting on the fence and defending yourself somewhere in between. An example:

      “Of course God doesn’t need our good works. But Tullian uses that truth to argue that God is not interested in them, pleased by them, and nor does he respond to them.”

      Uh, has anybody here read the Heidelberg Disputation? Our good works in sanctification was anathema to Luther.


    • Rachel


  • Pingback: Browse Worthy: Good Work’s Relationship to God | Gentle Reformation

  • Adam B.

    The biblical understanding of law and gospel was clearly taught by our theological ancestors, and is codified in the Westminster Confession of Faith, versions of which are agreed to by Drs. Murray and Tully.

    Anthony Burgess, one of the divines on the third committee of the Assembly (that authored the chapter on the Law), wrote a book vindicating the moral law and covenants.

    Some of the confusion around these issues stems from our unfamiliarity with the sound doctrines of our confession. I’d suggest getting Burgess’ book, and reading it in depth. It’s FREE here:


    A brief quotation:

    “Take heed therefore of such phrases, ‘An Old-testament spirit,’ and ‘His sermon is nothing but an explication of the law.’ For it ought to give you much joy to hear that pure and excellent image of God’s holiness opened. How may you delight to have that purity enjoined which will make you loathe yourself, prize Christ and grace more, and be a quick goad to all holiness? And if you say, ‘Here is nothing of Christ all this while,’ I answer, this is false, as is to be proved, if the law be not taken very strictly. And besides, the law and the gospel are not to be severed, but they mutually put a fresh relish and taste upon each other. And shall no mercy be esteemed but what is the gospel? You are thankful for temporal mercies, and yet they are not the gospel; but this is a spiritual mercy.”

  • http://www.rockedbygrace.blogspot.com Mike

    R. Martin wrote to Tullian: “Just look at the spiritual health of our Churches, Nation, and your own life.”

    In Tullian’s defense, I think he has, and that has led him (and others) to observe that even Christians are depraved and in need of God’s grace. Even Christians need the gospel.

    By citing the ills of the church and society, you are proving Tullian’s thesis, of a low anthropology and a high view of grace, to be accurate.

    • http://www.rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/ R. Martin Snyder


      The truncated view of the Christian and saying that Christians are depraved and in need of God’s grace is a mute point. No one is denying the need for the Gospel or God’s grace. How can we obey if we are not abiding in the vine? But we are grafted into the vine whereas we weren’t before. That is a big difference and shows the difference between depravity and what we have. A low anthropology of the Christian and a neglect of what he has been given has led some to give up when they should have resisted. After all, they are only depraved…. It has given an excuse for sin.

      I would admonish you to read the scriptures and note if the Christian is still depraved…. Or are we complete in Christ and equipped for every good work. Read Hebrews and consider if you are still depraved….

      Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
      Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
      Heb 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
      Heb 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
      Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
      Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

      • Drew Koss

        Excellent reply. Especially vs. 1. I mean, what’s the point if this verse if we are still depraved? You might as well expect actual words when telling one’s dog to “speak.”

  • Pingback: Good Works: Vertical and Horizontal » All Things Expounded

  • Daniel Silveira

    There are two things that Pr. Tullian is overlooking in his discussion about Law and Gospel:

    (1) THE LAW IS ALSO GRACIOUS, and the power to keep it comes from God Himself, not from us. We work, because God works in us. And that is also grace. So in good works, that is not much room to talk about MY efforts, but it is all about God is doing in and through us.

    (2) THE LAW IS ALSO VERTICAL. The Law does not only regulate my relationship with my neighbor, but first of all, my relationship with God. There are TWO tables of the law. Even if I lived in a desert island with no “neighbors” around, I would still have to strive to keep the law. To love God is the first most important commandment. To love our neighbor comes after that.

    In Christ,
    Daniel Silveira

  • http://samuelketcham.wordpress.com Samuel Ketcham

    Dr. Murray,

    Thank you for speaking honestly and graciously about this topic. I pray for Tullian and wish him God’s blessing, but I am afraid your blog is correctly painting the picture. Please continue to seek clarity in Pastor Tullian’s teaching. I am sure that if you seek God’s glory that we will all benefit, including Pastor Tullian.

    Samuel Ketcham

  • Mark J.


    I can assure you that your view has far greater historical pedigree than Tullian’s. It seems to me that the one with ignorance of the past 500 years is not you, but Tullian.

    Keep up the “alarm”!


  • http://heidelblog.net R Scott Clark


    When Tullian says, “Any talk of sanctification which gives the impression that our efforts secure more of God’s love, itself needs to be mortified. We must always remind Christian’s that the good works which necessarily flow from faith are not part of a transaction with God–they are for others.”

    I cannot see what’s wrong with that. My subjective experience of God’s love does ebb and flow. The confession speaks directly to that problem. WCF 18.3-4

    “3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

    4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.”

    The love of God is immutable. The promises of God are likewise, immutable. My apprehension of them, my experience of them, varies. Tullian is dead on when he says that it’s wrong to say that our sanctification secures more of God’s love. God loved me in Christ from all eternity. Christ secured God’s favor for me on the cross. Those things are objective. Tullian is speaking to the objective and the danger of confusing my subjective experience of God’s love with the objective truth and reality of God’s unchanging love for me.

    When Tullian says “transaction” he’s assuming that we know that he’s talking about our acceptance with God. He’s denying justification through sanctification. Surely that can’t be controversial cannot?

    Sanctification is an essential fruit of justification. It’s necessary but we cannot put our standing with God on the back of our sanctification or we lose the very thing that frees us to pursue sanctity.

    • KB

      Dr. Clark,
      I’ve always respected your thoughts. In your estimation is Tullian “dead on” in everything he propounds regarding law/gospel and justification/sanctification?

    • http://saet-online.org/category/blog jason b. hood

      Scott, I think the weightier part of David’s comments here and in other posts are related more to WCF 18.1:

      “such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace.”

      We all seem to be presbyterians here, so I’m sure we all know that the Confession contrasts these folks with hypocrites.

      There’s certainly some reluctance these days to stress this aspect of reformed assurance, to say nothing of the biblical passages beneath it.

      • http://heidelblog.net R Scott Clark


        I don’t understand your point. 18.1 is speaking about hypocrites, i.e., those who have an external relation to the covenant of grace but who lack the internal relation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Those people do delude themselves but we’re not really talking about hypocrites but about believers.

        If God’s approval and love are conditioned upon my obedience then I have no idea what chapter 11 is about unless it’s just theory. I don’t think that’s the case.

        I think chapter 11 intends to combat what I fear is being suggested, that my standing with God isn’t really assured but rather fluctuates according to my obedience. That’s not what you’re suggesting is it?

    • http://calvary-amwell.org Jim Cassidy

      Scott, it seems to me that when WCF 18.4 speaks about “God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance,” it is speaking about an objective reality. Am I wrong to think that the WCF teaches that God is not a static thing, but a living person with whom we have a dynamic relationship? It seems, according to the confession, while we cannot and will not ever lose our salvation, our sin does affect our relationship with God, and how he relates to us.

      • http://heidelblog.net R Scott Clark


        I quite disagree. In 17th-century usage of that language was their way of describing our experience of God’s presence. The objective, as I said in reply to Jason, is settled in chapter 11. We’re well beyond that now and we can’t use the doctrine sanctification to renegotiate justificatio or acceptance with God.

    • Steve

      Great response Dr. Clark.

      In no way do I see Tullian’s writings as promiting as one person seemed to suggest on this blog as “antinomianism”.

      • http://rockedbygrace.blogspot.com/ Mike

        You are right. That charge against him is outrageous. To be an antinomian is to be against the law. Tullian talks about the importance and use of the law nearly every time he speaks.

  • http://fierylogic.wordpress.com Douglas K. Adu-Boahen

    Dr Murray,

    A thousand hearty thanks for nailing an issue which has continued to cause me great and deep sadness as I look at the Reformed blogosphere. We’ve latched on (rightly) to Ephesians 2:8-9 and the glorious truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone and either ignored or downplayed the reality that the faith which saves leads to faith that works (Ephesians 2:10)…

  • reformed brother

    Whenever I come across the old “The church is filled with Antinomians! QUICK, GET THE LAW!” I always wonder where these antinomians are exactly.

    I surely haven’t met any in my church or in any other confessional church I’ve been to, none.

    To the contrary, I’ve come across men who treat sanctification as if it were justification, or as if justification was upheld by conformity to the moral law of God.

    All this is to say: If professing Christians do not see that there is a legalistic tendency in the hearts of all men, and in the churches in America, then that professing Christian is likely contributing to that problem.

    • Allen

      RB, thats only true of you rigidly define antinomians as only those who will outright admit that the law has no place in the lives of believers. No, you will probably never meet a believer that says that. However, there are different types of antinomianism.

      Treating Sanctification like Justification is exactly the objection that many have to Tullians theology. Do you find that many of these believers you are coming up with believe that they are being saved by their own actions? Do they actually believe that they are justified in part by their own works, or are you choosing to interpret their love of, and desire to obey the moral law as legalism? You object so strongly to anyone suggesting that a person is antinomian unless they come right out and say that they don’t believe that the law of God is for the believer in any way, yet you have no problem pointing out that so many are legalists.

      If you’re going to throw out the legalism label so easily, and I think that label is often valid, then you should be just as honest with the label of antinomian.

  • Nancy Green

    Hello David and Hello Tullian – I love both you guys. I wish you would get together and talk to each other face to face for an extended period of time rather than engage in argument via blogging. Set a time and place and get some prayer support, and seek to understand one another. Tullian – the point made above (if these people are getting alarmed by what you’re saying, you need to pay attention, or words to that effect) is a good one. I for one will be praying that God gives clarity and charity. ANOTHER SUGGESTION: bring along one or two other theologians you respect and admire, and see if this cannot be resolved. I bet it can.

  • Gil Garcia

    There is a BIG confusion going around, we need to put matters in their proper perspective, especially in the realm of Historical Theology.

    Rev. Tchividjian is following Martin Luther when Luther was quarreling with the Roman Catholics who wanted to be saved by doing works to please God.

    Prof. David P. Murray and Rev. Richard Phillips are following and thinking more towards the direction of the Westminster Divines (for example Anthony Burgess) who were going against the Antinomians (those who were going against third used of the Law).

    We have two different periods of time and two different theological situations. The first occurred during the Protestant Reformation between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church. The other during the Westminster Assembly in England, between some of the Westminster theologians and those who wanted to reject God’s law entirely, hence Anti-nomians.

    • Drew Koss

      Historical context and pespective always helpful.

  • Beau J. Weber

    “14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ (TO GOD)[emphasis mine] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

    2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (ESV)


    “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable (TO GOD),[emphasis mine] which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

    3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,…”

    Romans 12:1-3 (ESV)

  • Pingback: Is God’s Love For Me Dependent Upon My Obedience? My Amatuer Answer to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and His Critics | Gospel Grace

  • Obed Salais

    Good debate of a very interesting theme.
    Where I first encounter some teaching about the relationship between God´s love and our obedience similar to Tullian´s in Jerry Bridges´ books like “The Discipline of Grace” and also in Brian Chapell´s book (Holiness by grace). I could be mistaken though.
    I think that if brother David is going to address this issue with brother Tullian he must also address those books and teachings of these important instruments of God, Jerry Bridges and Brian Chapell.

    Please, brother David, could you elaborate about the great similarity (at least for me)? Thanks in advance.

  • Betsy Markman

    So much gets lost when we forget that Jesus died not only to save us from God’s wrath, but to save us from SIN. Calvary was not God’s overreaction to a minor problem. Sin, whether expressed in acts of omission or commission, is something so destructive and horrible that Jesus was willing to go to Calvary to save us from it. Just because God doesn’t NEED our good works, doesn’t mean He doesn’t desire and command them; in fact, it’s what He gave us His Spirit to enable us to do. Good works are what He saved us to do (Eph 2:10). It’s a big deal to Him, so it ought to be a big deal to us because we love Him.

  • Rick Wade

    A fried pointed me to your comments here about Tullian Tchividjian’s writings about sanctification and justification. I then found my way to your blog “Does Jesus + Nothing = Everything?” It was good to read your comments.

    I heard Tullian at the Village Church a year or two ago. I’d visited there before because my son attended the church, and I was immediately impressed by two things: the large number of twenty-somethings gathered for worship at the Dallas campus (I could feel my grey beard glowing in that sea of youth), and the confessions of changed lives at baptisms. Because of such testimonies, which were received warmly, I was stunned to hear this guest speaker telling these young people they didn’t need to concern themselves with change! Using his marriage as an illustration, Tchividjian said, “We’re really not getting that much better, but that’s what it means to get better. . . . Your marriage isn’t going to get that much better. I’ve been married for seventeen years. It’s not that it gets better; it’s just that you stop being so critical.” I wondered what Matt Chandler thought about this. All these young people there to find Christ, to grow in Him, and to *change*, and Tullian’s telling them they can’t, they won’t, they shouldn’t worry about it. I was stunned.

    Here are two more comments of his (these may be in his books, so I won’t bore you with repetition; I got these from the sermon transcript): “Part of what it means to get better is you don’t worry or not about whether or not you’re getting better. That is what it means to get better.” “Sanctification is simply getting used to your justification. Sanctification is receiving Christ’s words ‘It is finished’ into our rebellious regions of unbelief.”

    My impression was that this was another example of Reformed theology run amok. Tullian said that he had found himself depending upon his own good works and was worn out from trying. But is the answer such a lop-sided view of sanctification? I see at least one reason why Catholic theologians shake their heads in amazement at things they hear Calvinists say! I fully agree that it’s only faith in the work of Christ that saves, and it’s only the power of the Spirit working in us that enables us to change. But I also believe salvation has a purpose in addition to creating a family united to God through the God-man Jesus. It’s to make us like Him in reality, not just “on the books”, so to speak. It’s true that one can easily slip into the frame of mind of needing to earn God’s love. But to pull out of that ditch and over-steer in the opposite direction and run off the other side of the road isn’t the answer.

    Studies show that evangelical Christians aren’t looking a whole lot different morally from our non-Christian neighbors. We need to keep Eph. 2:10 joined with verses 8 and 9, and to take the cautions of James 2 very seriously. The last thing we need is to have influential people telling us that we needn’t worry about becoming more Christ-like.

  • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

    Sorry, I’ve been away from my computer most of the day and returned to find some of the comments a bit out of control. I”ve unapproved a number of them for one or more of the following reasons:

    1. Personal attacks on Tullian.
    2. Using the comments to address other topics not directly connected to this one.
    3. Other comments responding to 1&2.

    Some of the comments I removed made excellent points but also wandered into 1&2 territory. Please feel free to re-submit your comments bearing in mind these criteria.

    If I’ve missed any I should have caught, please let me know.

    • Steve

      David you should have thought about these things before you posted this blog about Tullian. What did you expect?

  • Rob

    Where does Sonship theology come into play? Tullian’s theology seems to reflect much of Jack Miller’s language. Is this debate simply going back to the old “Sonship” controversy?

  • David

    First of all thank you to the gospel coalition and all the pastor’s here who have faithfully provided free resources and interesting discussions like this. I have had the joy and extreme challenge of being moderator in a church as it went through a time when our Elders were leading the congregation from a non biblical perspective and the four most notable teachers that helped me calmly and clearly ask the right questions and continue to persevere and lead through this difficult time were Piper, DeYoung, Chandler and Tchividijian. Through this period God opened my eyes to His unconditional grace and the promise that Christ will perfect me and work in me. It has caused my heart to respond to Him as I have never experienced. Since I have had my eyes open to the message that “it is finished” I have seen more fruit in my life and more idols knocked down then in the previous decades that I have been a Christian (I also have come to grips with the fact that I am much more sinful then I could have dreamed). What a gift that God would provide a trial of intense fire to open my eyes to his unconditional love!
    For more then 18 months our congregation was bombarded by the seemingly scriptural message that we all needed to shape up, obey better, submit more and more completely surrender to Jesus so that our church could move forward with a vision and possibly hire a pastor but until we were acceptable or clean enough or somehow obedient enough then we were to wait and not move forward. They were emphasizing Mr Murray’s second point “the believer’s conditional and therefore changeable experience and enjoyment of God’s fatherly love” is dependent on their obedience and actions. Most of the congregation was uncomfortable with this but had respect for the position of Elder. It is a long story but I personally saw that many people were either oblivious to their inner sin and pridefully focussed on other peoples short comings or they were honest with themselves and began to despair and move away from the church and the beatings that they were receiving weekly from the Elders (who had what they considered to be godly motives throughout this time). Those who understood their sinful nature were thinking I keep messing up and sinning and if I am responsible for the church waiting then maybe I am not “good” enough to be part of this body. God was gracious and has brought the church through this time and those who were teaching these false doctrines who rather then discuss their ideas openly in view of scripture with the congregation through a leadership retreat and other opportunities chose to leave our(in their eyes) “disobedient” congregation.
    As a result of these experiences I know how dangerous it is to the church when the idea comes in that our obedience and good works are necessary for our status or experiences or even our eligibility or qualification for God to work in and through us. It is so prevalent in the evangelical world and so binding. Just like in our church the focus becomes ourselves instead of Jesus and either pride or a honest despair that we are more broken then we ever could dream results. If God could work in and through Samson he can work through and in all of us regardless of where we are in our walk. Yes we may be disciplined or go through trials but I truly believe His love for us and His work in us is according to His will not our measuring up. My best moment of obedience is laced with enough sin to condemn me to hell forever. Thanks be to God for His Son!
    Having said all of this I tend to think that the authors are closer together in their beliefs then they may realize and that their arguments seem to overlap and attack straw men for the most part rather then the core of the teachings. I definitely am not a theologian so I can only observe the results of these teachings in the church. I understand that Mr Murray wants to encourage the church to good deeds but when people flip Mr Murrays argument around and say if God is pleased when we obey and do good then He is not as pleased when we fall short and disobey and teach this to others; then those with an honest view of their sin nature and continuing failure to be perfect and righteous can only believe that God is not as pleased with them as others. Of course like any son or daughter the pleasure of a father is a strong driver of behaviour and so our focus gets misplaced and we wallow in the mud of cleaning ourselves up or doing things to bring the Father pleasure. An impossible task as the more self focus we have the less our eyes are on Jesus. I will continue to follow with interest these discussions and teachings but if we are to be accused of emphasizing a teaching too much then we can’t go wrong if we trumpet receiving God’s unconditional and free grace. Anyone who has understood and received God’s gift of grace and repented of their unbelief will be grafted into the vine and will produce fruit. An overemphasis on exerting effort to please God has no such assurance in scripture and can sometimes lead to extremely dangerous teachings.

  • Philippe

    Dr. Murray: instead of going to Piper for John 14 perhaps you should look to Luther who is a much better guide. You and Piper have taken a passage of beautiful comfort and Gospel and turned it into Law. Here are Luther’s comments on John 14:21:

    “Why does He say now that He will love them and manifest Himself to them? Has He not already done both? Yes, Christ has already begun and has laid the first stone. He suffered for me; He has His Gospel preached and has me baptized before I have asked for it or have known about Him, as St. Paul says in Eph. 1:4. And in 1 John 4:19 we read: “He first loved us.” Then what does Christ mean here when He says that He will love those who love Him? This sounds as though He did not love them before this. What does He mean when He says that He will manifest Himself to them now? Earlier (v. 12) He stated that they should proclaim Him, but this would be impossible if He had not revealed Himself to them before this and they had not believed in Him.
    This is the answer: When a Christian has made the beginning and is now in Christ, believes in Him, and loves Him; when he begins to proclaim Him, to confess Him, and to do what a Christian must do for the sake of the Lord—then the devil attacks. He pounces on him with such vehemence—inwardly with fear and anxiety and outwardly by means of all sorts of perils and misfortunes—that he is without comfort. And it seems to the Christian that God is up there in His heaven, not with us but entirely oblivious of us. For God conceals Himself so thoroughly that all seems to be lost for us, and that there is no more help from Him. And if God did not manifest Himself and let us sense His love, we would drown in despair. Thus God gives the Christians two things, as I have explained in my commentary on Ps. 118, where He says: “I shall not die, but I shall live” (Ps. 118:17). These two things are consolation and help. He instills His consolation into the heart so that it clings to His grace and thus supports itself in distress and suffering.”

    Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 14:21). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006M68MNI Maurice Smith

    I am a new-comer to this blog and this discussion. I discovered it via Tim Challies’ “A La Carte” to which I subscribe. While I am familiar with Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s ministry at Coral Ridge, I am not up to speed on his writings on the subject under discussion here, namely, good deeds. Even so, after reviewing these posts, it seems to me that we are making this issue far more theologically abstruse than necessary. Allow me to summarize: our “horizontal” good deeds represent the practical outward manifestation of our “vertical” relationship with God by faith in our Savior. The absence of good deeds on the horizontal level of our lives rightfully calls into question the genuineness of our professed vertical relationship with God, because a good tree will produce good fruit. As children of God we have been created for good works, commanded to engage in good works and are expected to perform good works. God does not love us more for engaging in them, nor does He love us less for not engaging in them. But engaging in them is an act of obedience which testifies to our relation with God Whose commands we obey, and failing to engage in them calls into question our obedience and ultimately our relationship.

    The New Testament has much to say about the issue of good deeds. I have written a book on this topic entitled “The Least of These: The Role of Good Deeds In A Jesus-Shaped Spirituality” which is available via our Amazon Author’s page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006M68MNI

    Thanks for an interesting discussion. Maurice Smith

  • Stephen Shead

    Wow … there seems to be an awful lot of very ungenerous reading of Tullian – i.e. “he says X, therefore he must be denying Y”, when he does no such thing. Seems to me he’s just, well, writing Reformation theology. And perhaps he’s more nuanced than some are allowing, and doesn’t always say everything.

    Oh, and he REALLY wants to guard against incipient merit-gaining in our understanding of sanctification. Amen to that!

    In terms of John 14:21, 23: David, your exegetical argument seems tenuous to me. You say those verses “clearly state that love-motivated obedience [of genuine believers, I take it] does result in greater revelations and experiences of God’s love”. I don’t think they do.

    First, in the context of the passage, especially vv.15-24, I don’t see how you can stop your interpretation from going way beyond that. That would mean that love-motivated obedience also determines whether we have the Spirit, whether Christ is in us and we in him, whether he has revealed himself to us or not, and whether he and the Father have made their home with us. That is, whether we are saved.

    More importantly, you have changed Jesus’ words. He says nothing about our “experience” of God’s love nor of “revelations” of God’s love (both human-side events). He simply says “he will be loved by my Father” (v.21), and “My Father will love him” (v.23). The language indicates the objective divine love and favour towards the sinner, not our changeable experience of his love.

    That is – and I think this fits with John’s theology, both in Jesus’ final discourse and in 1 John – Jesus is speaking of one of the distinguishing marks of those who know him and have come to the Father through him (vv.6-7): they obey his commands and keep his word. Every branch that does not do so is cut off (15:2) – i.e. it is shown to be false. Those who remain in the vine are those in whom his word remains, who keep his commands and thus remain in his love (15:7-10). See also 1 John 4:7-8 (well, 4:7-21 really).

    In short: John 13:34-35. Faith produces fruit (obedience to Jesus’ command to love), and by that fruit we will be known.

  • Arline
  • Shisya

    Earlier this morning I read a wonderful post by Dr R Scott Clark where he made 7 points on the difference between the covenant of law and the covenant of grace. But now I can’t find it. Can the webmaster have the comment re-posted.I’ll be grateful
    One of the points Dr Scott Clark made was that the covenant of law is known from nature and the covenant of grace is above nature.( I’m recalling this from memory.So forgive me if I’ve misquoted) Can Romans 1:19-20 & 2:15 be used to support the claim that the covenant of law is known from nature. Also can Dr Scott please clarify the statement he wrote ” no one at Westminster Seminary denies that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace”. Is there a sense in which the mosaic covenant was is a covenant of grace?


  • Pingback: Around the Horn: 12.13.12 | Treading Grain

  • Steve

    I find your reference to John 14 troubling, because it seems you reference it out of context.

    In that passage Jesus is not giving a ‘requirement’ for becoming or remaining loved by Him or the Father. He is explaining *how* HE will reveal himself to His beloved but not to the world, and *what* that will look like.

    This is completely in line with the Promise given by the Father as revealed in Ezekial 36 and elsewhere in the OT.
    “I will put MY Spirit within you and *cause* you to walk in my rightous ways”

    This is *how* he reveals himself to the elect. He causes them to love him and walk in his ways.

    And just in case anyone questions why believers are not *more* like him than they are since it is HIS work rather than theirs, context again is key.
    The Spirit he gives to achieve this *causing* is only the first-installment (Down Payment) of this described union, given to serve as our assurance (guarantee) that we are the recipients who will undergo full transformation in the future.

  • Dan J.

    With respect and love, I worry that David Murray is unintentionally playing the part of Paul’s accusers in the letter to the Romans.

    • Dan J.

      I want to clarify–David Murray’s responses seem to be grounded in an anxiety that a biblical understanding of our justification might undermine our desire to pursue sanctification. In fact, it is just the opposite. The glorious “it is finished”-ness of Christ’s completed work on my behalf is what drives us towards love-sprung obedience today.

      In his review of J+N=E, David wrote that “by confusing justification with sanctification, we not only risk losing the fulness (sic) of sanctification, in the long run I’m afraid that we may lose the doctrine of justification too.”

      Tullian is not confusing these, but I believe David runs the risk of doing so.

      I think David’s comments demonstrate an unfortunate, Christian-centered view of the Christ-Christian relationship. If we focus our teaching about sanctification on our work, we risk turning from the entirely Christ-done work in justification. In teaching that God’s love towards us is dependent on our obedience towards him, we risk turning away from the sufficient Christ!

      David runs the risk of teaching those who have been circumcised in the hearts that they need to begin circumcising themselves in the flesh lest they lose the love of the Father. Rather than obedience from love, we begin to obey from fear. Rather than entering into his rest (See Heb 4), we prefer to toil away.

      Our hearts are naturally legalistic, naturally inclined towards self-justification, naturally self-idolatrous. We need not feed those inclinations–they feed themselves every moment we are awake. Rather, in pursuing Christ-likeness and sanctification, we need to fill our heads and hearts and hands with the “it is done” of the Gospel. This–and only this–puts our flesh to death. (See Rom 7-8)

      In resting our sanctification on the completed work of Christ on the cross, we will not lose a notion of the entirely Christ-done work of justification. In fact, we will continue to magnify and praise Christ for his absolute sufficiency as our only Savior. Our relationship is centered on Christ, preserved in Christ, authored and perfected by Christ.

      To my brother, David Murray–please, reconsider your comments. You risk leading many naturally legalistic people right back to Egypt.

      • michael p


      • HeartofLOVE

        A second AMEN!!!!

        Please keep your legalism to yourself David. You aren’t doing the world any favors by placing grace in a neat little box.

  • Clubbeaux

    Boy, I sure hope it wasn’t Rev. Tchividjian who abused the apostrophe in the cited passage, “We must always remind Christian’s that the good works.”

  • Nancy Green

    Tossing in a bit of Blaise Pascal, in discussing the Gospel and the believer’s nature: “For it [the Gospel] teaches the righteous that they still bear the source of all corruption which exposes them throughout their lives to error, misery, death, and sin; and [yet] it cries out to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of the Redeemer. Thus, making those whom it justifies to tremble, yet consoling those whom it condemns, it so nicely tempers fear with hope through this dual capacity. . . .Grace and sin! It causes infinitely more dejection than mere reason—but without despair, and infinitely more exaltation than natural pride—but without puffing us up!” (Pensées 208) Quoted by Tim Keller in his Foreword to J. D. Greear’s THE GOSPEL.

  • http://www.saintsandsceptics.org GV

    A good response, and a reasonable interpretation of Tchividijian. I do worry that his soteriology is one dimensional, and that this could have dangerous consequences for faith and practice in many Churches.


  • http://www.trytop.com/modules.php?name=Your_Account&op=userinfo&username=JamikaWil Leroy Csizmadia

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  • https://twitter.com/pteranodo Greg M. Johnson

    The answer is found in the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. God’s riches do in fact “demand my life, my soul, my all.” The divide in this forum is between those who believe this is literally true, and those who believe that God will be satisfied when we’ve completed the required (i.e., their own) level of devotion.

  • Pingback: Book Review: Who Will Deliver Us? | For the Sake of the Name

  • http://www.donbryant.wordpress.com Donald Bryant

    I read this when you first posted and found it most timely. Tullian is at the edge of the Reformed moving dangerously close to antinomianism. I, for one, think he is no longer close but “in.” Scot McKnight has just brought attention to an interview of Tullian by Merritt with the words, “If Tullian’s right, Jesus preached the wrong way.” See the interview here. http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/

  • http://ielts.com.sg Jonathan (IELTS)

    If what you say is correct (I haven’t read all his books), I’d like to hear what say Michael Horton’s take is on it. Horton and gang believe in I guess a very similar grace-based message that has been criticized by other Reformed believers too.

  • Pingback: Online Fight Club – David vs. Golividjan | LOW CHURCH

  • Pingback: Online Fight Club – David vs. Golividjan | LOW CHURCH

  • Grace is free

    This sounds like another rant from someone whose flesh is desperately fighting to balance God’s deliverance with our performance. There is no balancing act here man, your words enslave me because they are a heavily sugarcoated version of “do more, try harder.”

    If you want to spend your life believing that you have to go the extra 1% to get God’s acceptance, then please keep it to yourself.

  • http://Utah-Lutheran.blogspot.com/ Bror Erickson

    I don’t see how there is of necessity any dichotomy between John 14 and what Tullian is preaching. Good works flow from love to neighbor. I bet if anyone asked Tullian if love for God would result in these good works he’d say yes. On the other hand it is God’s love that makes any and all good works possible. Apart from faith they are all dead, and there are no good works. and there is a very real sense that it is not the new man that wants to establish his relationship with God by his works, but the old Adam, and turning one to his works telling them that they will grow closer to God through them in one way or another is a very dangerous thing, it quickens the Old Adam in us.

  • Chris

    I’ve heard and read just about everything Tullian has ever said or written and never gotten the impression you claim he is putting out. Worry about the board in your own eye.

  • https://www.facebook.com/geranioj11 Joe Geranio

    I came out of legalism. It’s funny how people say there saved by Grace. But, they live in overwhelming works. while we were yet sinners Christ loved us, check out Ephesians 1. But sanctification? We have to handle it? If I have anything to do with either I’m lost. Rest in Him

  • Bill

    Not sure what Tullian did wrong. His emphasis is that God’s love for me will not change regardless whether I obey him or disobey him. Now this may sound really bizarre to the old Adam, but truly we have no righteousness of our own. God sees us through Christ’s righteousness, and no amount of our obedience can please neither can any amount of our disobedience displease him. God’s love is unconditional. With that said there is no doubt that out of love God disciplines his children, so our disobedience will bring God’s discipline on us, but it will at no point diminish his love for us. Did God love David less because of his sin with Bathsheba ? I don’t think so. Did God discipline David as a result of his sin with Bathsheba ? You better believe it. But this discipline was an expression of God’s love for David as Hebrews speaks when God disciplines his children.

    • Bill

      And let me add to my post above, this is a classic example of God hates sin but loves the sinner. I stated “no amount of our obedience can please neither can any amount of our disobedience displease him” and then gave David’s example. Now it is clear that God gets angry at sin, so he obviously was very angry at what David did with Bathsheba. But God loved David, he was not displeased with David, his love for David not diminished. Yet, no doubt God hated the sin of David, and out of love for David and hate for David’s sin he disciplined David. I think God loves the sinner and hates the sin is the most appropriate way of putting it.

  • Bill

    And frankly Tullian doesn’t come close to Luther as far as preaching proper grace. i.e. works don’t matter one iota as far as God’s love for us. Here’s Luther’s 1921 letter to Melanchthon, yes grace is scandalous to the old Adam, and I can see how people couldn’t stand Paul in his time, Luther, and now Tullian. And I am not defending Tullian, I don’t know him well enough, but the criticisms that I hear about Tullian do not seem to be right. Even if Tullian is wrong, the critics ought to affirm the freedom of a christian from all condemnation and the simul justis et peccator doctrine of sanctification (not only in justification). Here is Luther, he surely is much bolder than Tullian Quoted from http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Luther-Sin-Boldly.html :


    13.”If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . . Pray boldly-you too are a mighty sinner.” (Weimar ed. vol. 2, p. 371; Letters I, “Luther’s Works,” American Ed., Vol 48. p. 281- 282)

    13. If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

    On the day of the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle, 1521

    • Bill

      Now the lutheran confessions also affirm Luther’s teaching that those that commit grievous sins as David did with Bathsheba, they will lose the holy ghost (the spirit that witnesses with our spirit that we are Sons of God. the spirit that cries abba father) and can fall into final apostacy unless God in his sovereign grace and mercy renews their faith. But God in his sovereign justice can leave them in unbelief as Romans 1 teaches how God gives sinners to the desires of their flesh. So lutheranism has a strong doctrine on the perils for christians that fall into sin.

  • Karen Seay

    If we have to “do more and try harder” could someone please tell me how I will know when I’ve “done” enough that God will accept me and keep me out of hell? I know I can never repay God for what He has done for me, but if I have to “do” good works to stay in His good graces, how will I ever know if I’ve arrived by doing enough? Herein is the problem I have with legalism. Yes, I do try to do the things that God approves of, but if I do those things because, “if I don’t I’m going to hell” how will I ever know when I”ve reached that place of salvation? In other words, how can I ever rest in Jesus’ sacrifice if it’s up to me?

  • Jeffery Smith

    Dr. Clark,

    I appreciate your comments i.e. covenant of works, covenant grace, law gospel distinction… Much agree that our reformed and puritan forefathers maintained the law gospel distinction. I wonder though if you could clarify something for me and everyone following the thread. You made the statement at the beginning that no one at Westminster Seminary denies that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace. Then in the affirmations following one might get the impression that you were taking back what you had given and are arguing that the Mosaic covenant is the covenant of works or a republication of the covenant of works. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying but would you clarify. Are you following Owen’s or Goodwin’s position that the Mosaic administration contains both in some sense or the position that Moses divorced from the gospel is a covenant of works or the distinction some made between covenant and testament…please clarify if you have time.

  • http://hierodulia.wordpress.com/ pduggan

    Perkins seems to equivocate law of Moses and covenant of works that its hard to see how he believes the mosaic covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace.

    He IDENTIFIES the “law” with the CoW in (1), but then says that this law is “dedicated by the blood of beasts”, when the sacrificial system that prefigures Christ is typically pointed to as that which distinguishes the mosaic covenant as one of grace (since, in fact, you could offer sacrifice for sin WHEN you didn’t perfectly obey)

    Point 4 is also odd, since the Jeremiah text speaks of writing the LAW on the heart. Is Perkins saying that the CoW is written on the heart in the gospel? How is that coherent? Where then does he get the concept that the ‘gospel’ is written on the heart?

    And if we’re comparing the SUBSTANCE of both covenants (mosaic and new), the MEDIUM of the covenant [stone vs flesh] shouldn’t distinguish them severely when the content (law) in both cases is the same.

  • http://heidelblog.net R Scott Clark


    The notion that the Mosaic covenant was a republication of the covenant of works arguably taught in the Westminster Confession ch. 19.2. In 19.1 the confession re-states virtually verbatim the doctrine of ch. 7 on the pre-lapsarian covenant of works:

    “1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.”

    Then in the next section it says:

    “2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

    To what does the demonstrative pronoun “this” refer, when it says “this law”? Logically, grammatically it refers to the the foregoing, which was a re-affirmation of the pre-lapsarian covenant of works.

    In other words, as Thomas Boston said, it’s quite difficult to see how anyone can take 19.2 as anything other than the doctrine of republication.

    As a matter of history versions of the doctrine of republication were common in the late 16th and through the 17th and into the 18th centuries. We lost it in 20th century because we forgot the covenant of works but in the classic period one of the first arguments our forefathers made for the covenant of works was that it had been re-stated or republished at Sinai under Moses–not for salvation but in a typological way to point to Christ.

    Our theologians frequently, routinely talked about the “legal aspect” or “legal character” of the Mosaic covenant while AT THE SAME TIME affirming that it was also an administration of the covenant of grace for salvation. It’s never been an either/or question.

    Unfortunately, a great lot of our theology remains untranslated and so classic Reformed theology is taken as some sort of radical novelty when it really isn’t.

  • http://heidelblog.net R Scott Clark

    Whatever we make of his theology it’s pretty hard to question Perkins’ Reformed credentials, don’t you think? What he (and others like him) wrote wasn’t regarded as odd. Why is it considered odd and novel now? Don’t you think that says more about us and less about Perkins and the others in the classical period who taught republication?

  • Kyle

    Dr. Clark,
    In advance, if I’m reading you incorrectly, forgive me. The law, we would say, is the same in substance in both the CoW and the CoG, but it’s framed differently. In the former it’s: law and live, and the latter live and law. So when the WCF uses the demonstrative pronoun “this,” might it be referring to the law which was a part of the CoW, which law is republished but in terms of the CoG? That would make Sinai, not a republication of the CoW, but a republication of the same law, but now that law is given to us enclosed in the golden ark of Jesus Christ. Don’t ask me for a citation, but if I remember correctly E. Fisher and Boston made comments similar to this in The Marrow of Modern Divinity.
    Every Blessing in Christ,

  • Cameron Cole

    I think healthy dialogue on the tension between Law v. Gospel and the relationship between justification and sanctification are valuable, especially when done gently and thoughtfully.

    Frankly, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I thought about sanctification and its relationship to my neighbor at all. A theologian made the comment at a conference workshop that my desire for sanctification should consider my neighbor as well. My entire life before, I had only thought about sanctification in terms of me pleasing God (in a legalistic way) and mainly in terms of me- never my neighbor.

    I do think some of you crying “anti-nomian” would be helped to take a look at this quote from the article (better yet, to read Tullian’s original article itself instead of just a few quotes):

    There’s so much more that can be said, but I hope this serves to clarify that my understanding of the Christian life is not “let go and let God” but “trust God and get going”–trust that, in Christ, God has settled all accounts between him and you and then “get going” in sacrificial service to your wife, your husband, your children, your friends, your enemies, your co-workers, your city, the world.

    Thanks to both sides for valuable dialogue.