Friday, May 23, 2014

Tullian Tchividjian, the GOSPEL Standard, the Sanctification Controversy and What It All Means

It seems there's been a pretty nasty spat between certain leaders of the Gospel Coalition and Tullian Tchividjian. Tullian is both the grandson of Billy Graham and the well-known pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Gospel Coalition has accused Tullian of 'heresy' due to his belief that the "the Law of God" is of no use to Christians in terms of their progressive holiness  (i.e. 'sanctification') and they have removed Tullian from their organization. The Gospel Coalition, in my opinion, has just made a huge mistake. The mistake is not only that they removed Tullian; it's that they seem not to realize this 'sanctification debate' is centuries old and previous Law-oriented men who 'booted' grace men from fellowship found their their organizations died a slow death.

Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced tul-ee-un cha-vi-jin) believes that the Law was never to be the motivation or standard for change in a Christian's life. Tullian teaches that God's Law was designed by God to reveal humankind's defects and to shine a bright spotlight on the beautiful character and work of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, the Law (like the old Greek schoolmaster) leads people to the Teacher (Jesus Christ) where they hear the ultimate good news that God loves defective people and gave His Son to make them completely holy in Him.  Author Brennan Manning,  who died last year, held to the same beliefs of Tullian. Brennan wrote a powerful book he called The Ragamuffin Gospel, where he describes in layman's terms the power of understanding this grace principle.

However, Gospel Coalition leaders believe Tullian is an 'antinomian' (i.e. 'a lawless person'). They have unsuccessfully sought to 'correct' Tullian (as if they are on God's side). After 'great sorrow,' the Gospel Coalition has removed Tullian from their organization. They have called their disagreement with Tullian "the sanctification controversy."

Though I'm tinged with sadness that such a wonderful gospel preacher as Tullian is deemed 'unfit' for the Gospel Coalition, I am touched by the humor that certain Gospel Coalition preachers act as if this sanctification controversy is 'recent.' Disagreement over the use of the Law of God is as old as the New Testament. Further, three hundred years ago, pastors in England and Europe nearly came to physical blows over this exact same disagreement. Some 18th century evangelical pastors wound up publicly calling opponents "Pharisees,' or 'bastards,' or sometimes even worse expletives. It makes the modern controversy between the Gospel Coalition and Tullian look like a Sunday School picnic.

The Issues at Stake

For the record I land squarely on the side of Tullian in this debate. In fact, I don't believe you are really preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ until someone calls you an antinomian. The Apostle Paul himself was accused of being 'lawless' (see Romans 6:1). What' s interesting is that when he defended himself against the charge, he gave more good news in Christ and never even mentioned the Law. Most Christians today, contrary to Paul, would mention the 'balance' between Law and grace. "We Christians must strike the right balance between law and grace to prevent us from falling into either the trap of legalism or the trap of license," they might say.

Nope, says the Apostle. No balance at all is needed. It's the gospel; it's good news. That's what we need, and we need more of it! We are broadcasters (and hearers) of good news. We don't make the good news; we marvel at it. We don't become the good news; we are blessed by it. We who've come to Christ and have been found 'in Him,' will go through dark spells of discouragement and disobedience where we question if we are His children. Invariably, well-meaning people will try to help us with an emphasis on law, or on our promises to reform, or others 'helps' associated with our self-efforts. But  what we need more of is the good news of Jesus Christ when we are struggling.

The good news of Jesus Christ both justifies and sanctifies. The moment that we begin to believe our obedience to Law, that our efforts and striving to conform to Law, somehow makes us more holy, the further we move away from the gospel. Jesus Christ makes us completely holy by His work, not ours. Justification is the declaration of righteousness by God for sinners through His grace in Christ. Sanctification is the application of that justification in the life of the sinner by the work of the Holy Spirit. The sinner is transformed by beholding the glorious grace and beauty of God in loving and saving sinners through the person and work of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3:18).  Note how in this II Cor. 3:18 verse, the transformation of the believer comes from 'beholding Christ,' not by striving hard to obey or promising to do so.

Lest you think this is just some kind of preacher talk, ask yourself these questions:

(1). Is God 'angry' with the Christian when he or she sins?
(2). Does the pleasure of God abide upon His people because of their spiritual performance?
(3). Does God 'see' sin in His people in terms of His judicial wrath and 'punishment'?
(4). When does the believer enter into 'union with Christ' from God's perspective?
(5). What is the evangelical motivation for doing good works?

I could go on, but the truth is, how you answer each of these questions--and dozens more--will determine which side of the sanctification 'debate' you take. Let me illustrate this from history.

Men of Grace from the 18th Century

Rather than go into specific details and anecdotes of a similar debate between evangelical ministers three hundred years ago (the 1700's), I recommend you read this excellent on-line summary of the conflict. If you don't have the time, I can tell you that the arguments back then were much the same as they are today.

In closing this post, I would like to show you who it was in the 1700's that held to the same positions on Law and grace that Tullian Tchividjian does (as well as I and thousands of others).

(1). William Gadsby (1733-1844) - Gadsby so opposed the use of "the Law" for the sanctification of God's people that he started a magazine, along with his son John Gadsby, to help Christians understand that the GOSPEL is their STANDARD of living (it's called The Gospel Standard Magazine).  My Christian life has been thoroughly enriched from reading William Gadsby's magazine articles, and by memorizing some of the extraordinary Gadsby Hymns, a collection of wonderful songs saturated with the good news of God's grace and love in Jesus Christ. Gadsby understood, as do I, that we will only love other people more when we more fully comprehend God's love for us; we will only forgive others more easily when we comprehend more fully God's forgiveness of us, etc...

By the time of his death, William Gadsby had planted nearly forty churches. He was once called "a preacher made on purpose for the working classes.” Gadsby loved to speak of Christians as "them that are sanctified" (notice the past tense). Without a doubt, Gadsby knew every Christian would enter valley times when doubts about their true spiritual condition would occur, but the solution to such dilemmas is found in one of Gadsby's Hymns, Number 283

         Breathing after Love to Christ 

         1    ’Tis a point I long to know,
            (Oft it causes anxious thought),
            Do I love the Lord, or no?
            Am I his, or am I not?

        2    If I love, why am I thus?
            Why this dull and lifeless frame?
            Hardly, sure, can they be worse
            Who have never heard his name.

        3    Could my heart so hard remain,
            Prayer a task and burden prove,
            Every trifle give me pain,
            If I knew a Saviour’s love?

        4    [When I turn my eyes within,
            All is dark, and vain, and wild;
            Filled with unbelief and sin,
            Can I deem myself a child?

        5    If I pray, or hear, or read,
            Sin is mixed with all I do;
            You that love the Lord indeed,
            Tell me, is it thus with you?

        6    Yet I mourn my stubborn will
            Find my sin a grief and thrall;
            Should I grieve for what I feel,
            If I did not love at all?]

        7    Could I joy his saints to meet,
            Choose the ways I once abhorred,
            Find at times the promise sweet,
            If I did not love the Lord?

        8    Lord, decide the doubtful case;
            Thou who art thy people’s Sun,
            Shine upon thy work of grace,
            If it be indeed begun.

        9    Let me love thee more and more,
            If I love at all, I pray;
            If I have not loved before,
            Help me to begin today.

(2). Robert Robinson (1735-1790) author of the great hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  Robert Robinson had little use for any Christian whose theology led him to be 'intolerant' or 'unloving.' He believed that the grace of God in Christ should teach all men everywhere to "love one another even as Christ loves us" and to be gracious toward all those in error, whether it be behavior or belief. That doesn't mean one does not turn over criminals, abusers or molesters to civil authorities. Quite the contrary, the most loving thing one can do criminals is to turn the 'lawbreakers' over to civil authorities. In the spiritual realm, however, one always move toward believers in Christ caught up in sin with an emphasis on the grace of God in Christ for sinners. In Law oriented churches, Christians desire synods, juries, and judgments against fellow Christians, extracting promises from the sinner that he or she will perform better in the future. Robert Robinson believed that only reminders of the grace and blessings of God in Christ  will truly change people. Listen to his fourth stanza in the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

(3). William Huntington (1745-1813) is the man who preached to the Queen of England as well as the Prime Minister, and signed his letters William Huntington, S.S. (Saved Sinner). My dear friend Dr. George Ella wrote the definitive biography on the life of Huntington while recuperating in the hospital from a severe head injury. Dr. Ella was a linguist who spoke over two dozen languages, but after his head injury, he could only speak English. He wrote Huntington: Pastor of Providence as a form of rehabilitation, but Ella's book had a profound impact on my life when I read it. I finished it in one sitting, picked up the phone and tracked down George Ella, and from that day until this, I have had not only a friendship with George Ella, but a deep love for Huntington.

William Huntington taught that the moral law was binding on the nonbeliever, but was not a rule of life for the Christian. He put it like this:
"The unbeliever is under the law to Christ. The believer is under grace to Christ”
Huntington believed in a sanctification that comes from the mental and thought life, which ultimately transforms the way a person lives (i.e. 'proper belief leads to appropriate behavior'). Huntington taught that sanctification was the guarantee of God’s promise and this gracious promise was the cause of a believer’s obedience, for as the believer realized the faithfulness of God to do what He says He will do in Christ, the believer is transformed.. Sanctification, he wrote, “Is willed and determined by the secret counsel of God; and as it is written,“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Huntington denied what was commonly called 'progressive' sanctification, preferring instead to always speak of 'complete sanctification' in Christ, but a 'growth in grace and the knowledge thereof' whereby Christians enter into a deeper understanding of what Christ has accomplished for His people. It's like being the child of a King and being told: "Go out, son, and live like who you are!" Ella describes Huntington's views on the Law of God for the believer on page 160 of Huntington: Pastor of Providence:
"For Huntington the only rule of conduct for a Christian is the whole will of God centered in Christ... we must talk of God's everlasting love, blessed redemption, all-conquering grace, mysterious providence, the Spirit's work in our souls and a whole host of other good news themes."
(4). John Gill (1697-1791) the greatest theologian, Hebrew linguist, and biblical commentator Baptists in England have every produced. He was called "Dr. Voluminous" because of his prolific writings. Gill pastored in London for over fifty years (1720-1771), and mostly through his influence, saw a return to orthodox Christianity throughout the city after a season of deism had infiltrated the churches. William Cathcart, the great church historian, said of Gill: "It is within bounds to say that no man in the eighteenth century was so well versed in the literature and customs of the ancient Jews as John Gill.” Augustus Toplady, a contemporary and friend of John Gill as well as the author of the  hymn Rock of Ages, called Gill "the greatest defender of the doctrines of grace since Augustine."
Gill the first person in the history of Christianity to write a verse-by-verse commentary of the entire Bible from the original languages before he ever wrote a systematic theology. Yet, in my estimation, the greatest book ever written by John Gill was actually a lengthy letter that was later published and entitled God's Everlasting Love to His Elect. In it, Gill writes:
"Though God sees sin in his people (in terms of his omniscience) yet He sees no sin in them (in terms of His justice), as they are perfectly justified. In other words, though He sees sin in His people with his eye of omniscience, yet He sees no sin in them with His eye of revenging justice; though He sees in respect of His providence, which reaches all things, yet He sees not sin in His people in respect of justification; though He takes notice of His people's sins so as to chastise them in a fatherly way, for their good; yet He does not see them, take notice of them, and observe them in a judicial way, so as to impute them to them, or require satisfaction for them: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. 5:9): No, He has imputed them to Christ, He has beheld them in him, He has charged them to him, and Christ has made full satisfaction for them; and therefore who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died (Rom. 8:33, 34). God will not require satisfaction at the hands of His people for their sins; He will not punish them on the account of them; they shall never enter into condemnation; for there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). Was God to see sin in His people in this sense, and proceed against them in a forensic way, He must act contrary to His justice and set aside the satisfaction of His Son."
(5). J.C. Philpot (1802-1869) the Oxford educated pastor who became known as “The Seceder' because he resigned from the Church of England in 1835 and became a Baptist pastor. While with the Church of England he was a Fellow of Worchester College, Oxford. After becoming a 'grace man' in the Baptist tradition, he also became the editor of the Gospel Standard. Like other 'grace men' in his day, Philpot believed the law could be used to convict sinners, but it was an entirely inadequate standard for Christian obedience, for it lacked all the spirit and soul of grace and truth. J.C. Philpot wrote of his goal in ministry:
"My desire is to exalt the grace of God; to proclaim salvation alone through Jesus Christ; to declare the sinfulness, helplessness and hopelessness of man in a state of nature; to describe the living experience of the children of God in their trials, temptations, sorrows, consolations and blessings."   - J. C. Philpot
One of the things you will find with all grace men in the 18th century and in the 21st century is the belief that acknowledging failure is a virtue in the Christian life. It is only through failure and sin that the beauty and grace of Jesus Christ is really felt.

Philpot understood, and communicates in his writings, that law oriented churches and people cover. They hide. Law oriented churches, pastors and people so heavily concentrate on 'striving to allegedly rid themselves of sin,' that they are either driven to pride because they think they have succeeded, or they are driven to hiding because they can't let others know they have not actually succeeded in dying to sin.

Grace oriented people who love the gospel understand that grace is only for sinners. Therefore, transparency, honesty and openness are irreplaceable virtues in the kingdom of God. It is only when a sinner feels, acknowledges and owns his (or her) sin, that the good news of Jesus Christ and all the promises that are "yes" in Him come to life! And yet, the more sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!


I have never met Tullian Tchividjian. One of these days I hope to be able to fellowship with him. I know some of the Gospel Coalition men by reputation and am friends on Facebook with a few of them. I do hope that they understand by kicking Tullian out of their fellowship they have gone down the same path some Law-oriented evangelicals went in the 1700's when they booted from fellowship some amazing 'grace' men (see above). The 'downgrade' of the gospel began occurring about that very same time in those Law-oriented churches in England and Europe.

It is only God's grace in Christ, the truly good news, that safeguards the church.

Tullian, you are definitely welcome in my ekklesia in Oklahoma.


Wade Burleson said...

I just read (10 minutes ago) the Christian Post link where Tullian points out that the Gospel Coalition "flat out lied" about his removal from the Gospel Coalition.


My post takes the Gospel Coalition at their word - it was a doctrinal issue. If indeed, they are lying about that, then the only other alternative is that Tullian's removal was for something else.

Maybe his outspoken criticism of the Gospel Coalition's support of men who defended men who seem to have covered up a horrific sexual abuse case?

If they have lied, I've lost all respect for the Gospel Coalition. All of it.

Aussie John said...


It's far easier to stick the boot into another than to think through the issues, especially when it comes to pejorative terms such as "antinomian".

It would seem that those who act this way have two gospels, the one they preach, and the one they believe. The latter have quite a few codicils (a testamentary instrument intended to alter an already executed will).

Wade Burleson said...

Aussie John,

Yep! Spot on.

raswhiting said...

That TGC leaders never met with TT and discussed, and never called him directly, speaks volumes. They are at fault. And it is incredible to read the claim, in this week of all weeks, that it has no connection to the Morales conviction and no relation to the words and actions of Tullian and his brother Boz.

Michael said...

My theology has morphed since my Southwestern days to the precise position of Tullian (and evidently you and so many other wonderful believers). So sad that something is so amiss in the GC that they would boot a man like this! Sheeesh!

Bob Cleveland said...

Oswald Chambers said in "My Utmost For His Highest" that the beatitudes were not behaviors were were to demonstrate to others. They are, rather, roadsigns which tell us whether the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.

Seems to be the case here: not that we have to consult a book to tell if we're living an abundant life ... which we're not smart enough to define ... or settling for something else; something less.

Tom Kelley said...

While I suspect that there is more to the story than just their theological differences, this article does a fair job of outlining some of the issues in the doctrinal debate. Would be interested in how you would answer the questions in the second section, Wade. Perhaps another blog post?

Christiane said...

in my faith, sometimes we say 'the Gospel of the Beatitudes'

On another theme, I came across something to share written by Tullian Tchividjian, this:

I was very moved when I read it, because he has an understanding of how the people of my own faith see God's love . . . as the love of a father for a prodigal son.
In the article, Tullian gives this magnificent quote from Steve Brown:

"Children will run from law and they’ll run from grace. The ones who run from law rarely come back. But the ones who run from grace always come back. Grace draws its own back home."

This article tells how Tullian's father taught him about the God Who Is Love . . . there could not be a more beautiful tribute to his father's memory.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I support Tullian in his speaking out on both his doctrine and the Mahaney debacle. I think both may have had a part in the Coalition dropping him, but my gut says it is more the latter. I read and commented on the supportive statement that appeared on Facebook at the worst possible time. It was a slap in the face of the victims, worse, it was further abusing them. I believe Tullian 100% on the facts and I lost respect for the Coalition the night they published that awful statement supporting CJ.

One point that was brought out in the interviews and one which I think we all thought at the time Tullian came out on the sex abuse scandal, why would Tullian be so against the way Sovereign and Mahaney handled this if he were antinomian?

Austin Al said...

While I admire you for not participating with CJ's YRR cheerleaders, I am really surprised that you chose to use Brennan Manning as an authority. While Father Manning was certainly a powerful communicator with a wide audience, that does not make his universalist leanings any more palatable. I am concerned that in our western culture, people with very powerful powers of communication are seemingly assumed to be biblically sound in what they communicate and you and I know that is very far from the truth. I find Father Mannings books to be very, very interesting reading; I also believe he is/was a universalist. Do you disagree?

Wade Burleson said...


Brennan may have been a 'hopeful universalist' - I honestly don't know. What I do know is I have far more in common with anyone who believes that God, in His love for sinners, actually saves sinners through Jesus Christ. The 'extent' of that redemption (i.e. either the elect or universalism) is not so much the issue to me as is the belief that a sovereign, loving God actually saves through Christ.

I don't know much about Manning - I do know his understanding of the power of God's love is similar to mine, regardless if he believes differently than I on the extent of God's love.

Austin Al said...

Wow! you are up late! Your reply is well taken, thanks! Al

Tom Kelley said...

Just some thoughts and background that may be helpful in this discussion...

The function of Law (and our obedience to it) in our sanctification has been discussed and debated by theologians of most theological stripes (Calvinist, Arminian, Lutheran, Catholic, Anabaptist, etc.) The term “antinomian” basically means someone who believes and teaches that Law (God’s commands) has no place at all in the life of a believer — not as a standard, or as guide, or in any other way. True antinomians are those who teach a very cheap form of grace, in which all that is expected is for a person to profess faith in Christ (e.g., walk an aisle, pray a prayer, maybe get dunked), and then those professed believers can live their lives with zero change or evidence of the Holy Spirit being in their lives. But often people who do actually believe that God expects obedience to His commands get falsely labeled antinomian just because they aren’t as legalistic as the one calling them that, or when they have a different view of the function of Law in the life of a believer.

Christian theologians (again of most theological stripes, not just Calvinists) have defined three primary use of Law. One is to curb the sinful behavior of mankind in general (i.e., to keep unbelievers in check by warning them of the consequences of disobedience to God’s commands). Another is to function as a mirror, to show us our unrighteousness when we disobey and our need for forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness. And the “third use” (sometimes debated or denied by some groups) is to guide or teach believers how they should live.

In the case of TT, he has very clearly stated that he believes that human effort is involved in growth in holiness (progressive sanctification). So the term antinomian does not apply. He also affirms the “third use” of Law by stating that Law is useful as part of that growth. So his views in that matter are in line with most theologians in church history. Where TT places great emphasis, and where TGC guys tend to differ from him, is in the “means” by which Law aids in sanctification. Simply put, what TT says is that God’s commandments carry with them no power of any kind to obey those commandments. His focus is on the inner working of the Holy Spirit to empower believers to obey God’s commands. He also teaches that it is only through focusing on God’s grace as demonstrated in the gospel that the Holy Spirit creates within us that inner motivation and ability to obey. This appears to be the biggest beef that TGC guys have with him. They typically teach that preaching and teaching God’s commands can be a means of motivation for believers to obey those commands.

Rex Ray said...


With time running out, how does this post fit in with “Wake Up, Southern Baptists! Baltimore's Coming?

I mean are we going back to sleep while Rome burns?

Rex Ray said...

Our Church Constitution states:

“This Church is affiliated with the SBC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

The BGCT is the ‘old’ convention of Texas and does NOT accept the BFM 2000 but abides by the BFM 1963.

Does that mean we “operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000” and will be removed by the Executive Committee’s recommendation if it is adopted?

Does anyone know the answer?

I'd really like to know.inedcyedse

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
raswhiting said...

An interesting observation on this matter by a man who knows CJM well, Brent Detwiler.
A quote:"I've been in Tullian's shoes. It seems like countless times. You can't believe well known men, who write great books and preach great sermons, would lie to you or about you. Here’s the stark reality. Too many Christian leaders are obsessed with their reputation. That is the source of their deceit."

Rex Ray said...

How did the words to prove I’m not a robot end my comment???

Maybe Obama? :)

Debbie Kaufman said...

Tullian said something in his interview with Janet Mefferd I believe, that resonated with me. Tullian said something like, my congregation had not heard a message like this before. So many had commented to him, 'this is the first time I have ever heard this.' It freed them for the first time.

I and so many other people had come to Emmanuel years ago and also had never heard this message. I took notes and came home to study them with Bible open every day during the week to see if what you were preaching was true. When the light came on inside of me, it changed everything. How I saw God, Christ, how I read and studied the Bible, everything. I was pretty battered up at the time with legalistic rules that I couldn't keep and frustration that I couldn't keep them. This brought so much daylight into my life so many years ago, and still does, although I still fail. This is also the testimony of so many people. When I was teaching Sunday School, I heard so many women tell me the same thing. :)

Tullian, you and a handful of others get it and now we get it. Unfortunately Grace is a rare message and the Law a common one even today. Just wanted to share how the message of Grace when properly and Biblically understood changes everything. The hymns when sung still bring tears to my eyes these many years later. It is anything but being antinomian. I think it causes us to hate sin even more, but it also causes Praise to God, Christ, that when we fail His love never does.

Wade Burleson said...


Fair questions.

Here's a response. I called and spoke to a representative of the Executive Committee in Nashville. He said that people 'opposed' to the new, more narrow definition of 'friendly cooperation' should send an email to the Executive Committee at and register their objections.

According to this representative (and he should know) a number of people have done so, and it was his feeling (though no guarantees) that the Executive Committee would NOT bring the motion with the BFM provision to the floor.

We'll see.

Send your email, Rex.

Anonymous said...

Tullian is Biblical so why bother even discussing the other non-Biblical views. Its a waste of time and noone in the pews even cares. Its a preacher thing.

Rex Ray said...



This is what I sent them:

Dear Sirs,
I was named after my uncle, Rex Ray, who was a SB missionary to China 30 years. His son and grandson retired as SB missionaries. My son was a SB missionary until the BFM 2000.

I’ve received many “Certificate of Appreciations on behalf of the SBC for volunteering for 18 mission trips to foreign countries; Japan, Israel, and Kyrgyzstan.

Our Church Constitution states:

“This Church is affiliated with the SBC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

The BGCT is the ‘old’ convention of Texas and does NOT accept the BFM 2000 but abides by the BFM 1963.

Does that mean we “operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000” and our messengers will not be allowed to represent our church at SBC meetings if the Executive Committee’s recommendation is adopted?

In my opinion, if pride and ego had weight the Executive Committee’s love for their ‘paper god’ would require a wheel barrow to carry theirs since they’re willing to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Wade Burleson said...

Excellent Rex!


Anonymous said...

I think you will find that very few Presbyterians would subscribe to your view.
Why will Tullian not debate Mark Jones or Carl Trueman?
I thought you didnt like Creedalists...but Tullian is a Creedalist and he holds to the third use of the law!(or so he says!)
There is a reason they call them the Westminister Standards!

Wade Burleson said...


He may hold 'to the third use of the law,' but he sure sounds as if he doesn't.

I agree with you that most Presbyterians would not hold to what I wrote.

That's why I will never be a Presbyterian.

Too much law fused with the New Covenant - "preachers are the new priests, buildings are the new Temple, infant baptism is the new circumcision, Sunday is the new Sabbath, and the Law is given a Christian, western, cultural and religious baptism" - thanks, but no thanks.

Christiane said...


with those words, I think Pope Benedict expressed an insight into how all Christians come to be united within the Body of Christ.
here is the quote it is taken from:

” To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.
That is why Luther’s expression “sola fide” is true IF faith is not opposed to charity, to love.
Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. ”

Tom Kelley said...

Tullian has clearly and directly stated that he holds to the third use of the law. He says that he differs only in his view of HOW the Law aids a believer in sanctification. He believes that the Law serves as a guide or standard for Christian behavior -- after all, "Love your neighbor" and "Love to Lord" are commands (Law) that God desires people to obey. But he does not believe that preaching or teaching God's commands carries with it any power to enable or motivate people to obey those commands. The power and desire to obey God's commands comes from the Holy Spirit working on us from the inside, and He uses the preaching / teaching the gospel of grace as a means of that transformation. I don't know if you would say that is exactly the same as what you teach or not. But even if not exactly the same, you both very much focus on grace over Law.

Here's a podcast where Tullian responds to the charge that he in antinomian and where he affirms his belief in the third use of the Law:

Wade Burleson said...


I believe the "Law" of Christ also guides a believer. It is called the "Royal Law" and is NOT the 10 Commandments.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you." This is the law of love.

Of course, if you love, you won't steal, you won't lie, you won't commit adultery, etc...

The only thing NOT encompassed in the Royal Law is the Sabbath Day - so in the New Covenant we are to see REST every day - in Him! :)

Beth Duncan said...

Here's something that's off topic, but is an interesting statement on demographics. Wade, I had gotten the impression that Emmanuel Enid is larger than the church I'm a member of, Emmanuel Tucson. I didn't realize how much larger until I saw a list of SBC churches of over 1000 members; Emmanuel Enid is on it with 1,348 members. Enid's metro area is about 60,000 so that works out to 2.2 percent of the population are part of Emmanuel Enid.
On the other hand, Emmanuel Tucson has about 500 members, and an average attendance of about 250 - and we're considered one of the major SBC churches of the Tucson metro area of close to 1,000,000 people. We have one church of over 2,000 people and a total of about 5 churches in the size range of EBC Tucson or a little larger. Less than 3% of the population of the Tucson Metro area claim to be Southern Baptist - close to the percentage of the Enid area that are part of Emmanuel alone! :-)

Christiane said...

please remember our fallen troops today, and pray for all of our people in the military and especially those in harm's way

Amazing Grace . . .

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I beg to differ. TT is wrong doctrinally and it matters. TGC may be wrong on some things but here they are correct. I know the whole history of the controversy. It won't end any time soon. TT is entitled to his view but he need not throw a fit about it. Man up, TT.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade:

Would you consider addressing this article?

L. Lee

Anonymous said...

You actually do not believe the same things concerning the law as Tullian !
That issue aside I believe that the the spirit of antinomianism is the biggest issue facing Southern Baptist Churches today.Ed Stetzer is probably the biggest cheerleader for this movement.

Wade Burleson said...


I'm not sure where you are getting your numbers regarding membership. It's no big deal, but we have more than 1300. I know we have 9,000 on our "Think Ministry" data base where we keep pictures and make pastoral contacts - not all of them are members - many just attend. I think we have close to 3,000 members.

Rex Ray said...


You wrote: “The moment that we begin to believe our obedience to the Law, that our efforts and striving to conform to Law, somehow makes us more holy, the further we move away from the gospel.”

“Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians?” (Galatians 3:3 Living)

Many believed that James’ judgment (Acts 15:19) were Jewish laws (Acts 15:20) for Gentiles to obey in order to be saved. But the laws he gave were to be obeyed in order to be accepted by Jews.

It’s easy to see how Gentiles got confused because the First Church Counsel was to determine how Gentiles were saved and James’ judgment was the only answer they received.

Wonder why their letter omitted the true answer: “…we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11 NLT)

Beth Duncan said...

I was just reading your blog entries from when you first started blogging 8 1/2 years ago. At that time, you said you were concerned about the narrowing of perameters in the Southern Baptist convention. You also said that the conservatives fought a war against liberals, won, but some didn't stop fighting and are now fighting other conservatives. Hasn't changed much, has it?

Curious Thinker said...

Not too long ago I posted topic on my blog discussing legalism, law and grace and I agree. Rather than law,we are blessed by grace as long as we embrace and receive Jesus Christ. I'm also ready a book by Pastor Joseph Prince "The Power of Right Believing" which discusses law and grace and which comes to similar conclusions.

Wade Burleson said...

Beth Duncan,

Hasn't changed much, at all.

The outcomes, however, may be different this time.

Johnny D. said...

Wade, your blogs always bless me. Thanks.

Rex Ray said...

Beth Duncan,

You quoted Wade’s blog as saying, “…the conservatives fought a war against liberals, won, but some didn't stop fighting and are now fighting other conservatives.”

I think time, blood, and tears have proven the correct statement should have been:

Liberals stole the name ‘conservatives', fought a war with ‘true conservatives’ slandered as ‘liberals’, won, and are still fighting to prove they’re conservatives.

Wade Burleson said...


Intriguing indeed.

David Morgan said...


This dust-up between Tullian & the TGC is my first exposure to 3rd use of the Law. So I'm wading through this slowly. Your article rings true to my heart.

If you have time, please help me understand something. In Acts 5, the Holy Spirit kills Ananias & Sapphira for lying. Obviously this ins't normative, but it still happened, & reveals something about the character of God. So I know God doesn't see sin in us (no judgment, no condemnation), but how do we square the story in Acts? It's something I've wondered a long time, & wondering now if it has any application to this discussion.

Thank you!

Wade Burleson said...


Sorry, just now seeing your question.

I am of the conviction (100%) that Ananias and Sapphira were 'graceless' persons. The judgment of God on reprobates, as Moses said, comes 'like a foot sliding in due time' - suddenly, swiftly, and surely. Edwards described it as 'a spider hanging by a thread over an open flame.'

Rather than take my word for it, the most solid reasoning for why nobody should ever assign true Christianity to Ananias and Sapphira is given by John Gill in his commentary on Acts 5.

God can take the life of the wicked at whatever time, using whatever means, He chooses.

It should cause the world to shake.

Anonymous said...

I guess Tom Schreiner would be released as well if you they have read his book, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said... (correction)
I guess Tom Schreiner would be released as well if they had read his book, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law .

Anonymous said...

I have a real problem with the "antinomian" charge that seems to be tossed about so freely. If he were advocating that practicing, unrepentent, known adulterers and the like were to be welcomed into the fellowship I could understand, but his view has been a common view for centuries. Basically, if Gill held this view how can it be called heresy?

Anonymous said...

What does Tullian Tchividjian know about progressive holiness?? The evidence shows that he is an unrepentant serial adulterer and liar:
In my opinion, his repeated actions prove that his declaration, "The Law of God is of no use to Christians in terms of their progressive holiness (sanctification)" is - in practical terms - false. He could seriously use a liberal dose of Law in his life, as well as a good dose of the fear of God. When deposed by the Presbyterian Church in America as unfit for Christian ministry, Tullian told Christianity Today that being forced to leave the public eye would undermine the message of grace that he preached. He said, "But, believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. It is, rather, good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. The message of the Christian faith is that because Jesus was strong for us, we are free to be weak. The gospel of grace, in other words, frees us to let people see us at our worst so that they can see God at his most gracious best." Did you hear repentance and sorrow over sin in that, or permission to wallow in the mire? I heard - verbatim - the words of his 'mentor' Steve Brown in that quotation, another ministry leader who misunderstands and misuses the grace of God.