That grandson of Billy Graham who decided to have a totally different (and unpronounceable) last name, Tullian Chudzinski, has sparked controversy since he first accepted the call as Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2009. Many people know of the petition from congregants raised against TT in 2009 due to him not wearing a robe (the horror), introducing contemporary hymns (double horror), and not preaching about whether George Washing was a Christian (blasphemy!).
Since that debacle, Tullian has received heavy critique from those in the contemporary Reformed world for his blog and books on gospel and the Christian life. Tullian seems to promote something closer to a “Lutheran” understanding of salvation which sees justification by grace through faith as the center of gospel. The “free grace” of justification, though only forensic and legal, is powerful enough to transform our inner life and obedience so that our sanctification is simply “getting used to our justification.”
Along with TT’s articulation of justification is his presentation of the Law/Gospel dichotomy, which is a major tenet of Lutheran theology. In addition, TT doesn’t speak much about the third use of the law, mortification, or multiple modes of motivation for obedience.
What makes this an awkward scenario is that Tully’s Gospel Coalition blogging colleague, Kevin DeYoung (I really want to see him do an interview with Hughes Oliphant Old and have a generational standoff), places himself on the other side of this debate than Tully. They have gone back and forth a bit over at TGC. DeYoung’s well-received The Hole in Our Holiness seemed to be aimed at Tully Man’s Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In addition, other PCA pastors (e.g. Rick Phillips) have critiqued the Boy Wonder through their own blogging.
So, cue the social media and Facebook evangelical outbursts in light of Tully T’s claim that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is about Jesus being the truer and better Neighbor…and apparently we have ourselves an “antinomian”.
Reformed and PCA folks label Billy G.Son as such, Dr. Mike Ross in Charlotte is trying to tell folks to tone down the charges of “legalist” and “antinomian” since such terms imply that the individual isn’t a Christian.
What do we make of this? Well, I for one disagree with Tullian “I love me some Horton” Tchiendjian’s overall soteriology. It is no secret that Tchividjian is in the Escondido camp when it comes to the relationship between union with Christ and justification. (Shhhh! Don’t tell that guy in Orlando!) I prefer Richard Gaffin, Sinclair Ferguson, and William Evans to Horton, but I still dig white horses. (Wait! Sports analogy! Richard “Sherman” Gaffin swooping in to take down those stallions out west.)
But okay, I won’t label Horton an antinomian. Still, is the Boy Wonder an antinomian?
One thing that confuses me about the charge of “antinomian” is what the accusers mean. Are accusers claiming that the accused explicitly denies the third use of the law or that we should discourage Christians to pursue the imitation of Jesus? Are accusers claiming that the accused gives an implicit denial of obeying God’s law? Or, is the point that the accused in their tendencies and emphases don’t talk much or enough about the role of God’s law or in pursuing holiness?
I see all three “charges” in different contexts based on who is making accusations.
William B. Evans has written a thoughtful piece (as usual) on this controversy of the “Lutheran” Coral Ridge pastor. Yet, if Evans would accuse TT of being an “antinomian” (he doesn’t in this post), it would be of the third kind described above. Evans uses words like “emphasize” and “tendencies”.
In all my reading and listening to Grace-McLovin Tully (though I haven’t read and listened to all his words), I don’t recall any explicit or even implicit denial of the third use of the law, the goodness of God’s commands on some level, or the goodness of believers seeking to imitate Christ. While I would balance out his views on mortification, he doesn’t deny the application of God’s law to the Christian life.
Perhaps someone will show me a (hopefully in context) quote that demonstrates that the Boy Wonder is an antinomian. However, if(!) I was a betting man, I think Reformed folks just find Tully’s act fatiguing.
I remember always reading TT’s TGC blog whenever he would post something. I stopped reading about three years ago (unless something he wrote caused on uproar). His writing seemed to just repeat his main points over and over. I would think, “Okay. I get it. I’ll go read Michael Horton. Law/Gospel, Law/Gospel…Law/Freak’n Gospel!” I don’t deny the Law/Gospel distinction (or is it a dichotomy?) on the most basic level, but it is an overplayed record.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked Billy’s Grandkid, but sometimes you need to take a break even from your favorite pastor/teacher. (Don’t worry, Tim Keller. I’ll never leave you nor forsake you!)
I also think that Tullian could end some of these debates about his “Lutheranism”. Would it be so hard to do a blog post and say, “Hey, I agree with Kevin DeYoung but I just like the way I say it better,” or “I affirm the third use of the law and I think my flock should imitate me as I imitate Christ. Imitation can be a good thing. Really.” Those statements wouldn’t undermine his main gospel-Jesus-centered-everythingness point he tries to make. J.D. Greear has a good chapter on imperatives in his book Gospel. Tim Keller is always giving imperatives in his sermons. I’ve heard Tullian give imperatives in his sermons that didn’t just amount to getting used to your sanctification. (Heck, there is an imperative or two in Jack Miller’s writing. But those were probably an accident, right?)
Maybe John Frame should sit down with Tullian and explain all that smart stuff Vern Poythress came up with on perspectivalism? Maybe Bob Cara, Tullian’s boss in the RTS system, could give him his “be as balanced as the Bible is balanced” speech.
Perhaps the stupidest thing in all of this is that we are ignoring how Tchividjian is actually making disciples at Coral Ridge. Do we know if he is making disciples? What do his disciples look like? Do they look like Jesus? Are they loving their neighbors? Maybe Tullian’s quasi-lame gospel speech works! Maybe his people are following Jesus and are on mission as a result of the ministry of the Word. If so, should Reformed folks back off?
Hear the whole conclusion of it, great or good, whate’er we call, Antinomian or Annoying, Tullian is one of those!
My pick? He is just annoying. However, it must be pointed out that my church plant is already annoyed with my preaching after two years. I love you, Tullian Graham….err….Tchiejbvian. 🙂