What’s Missing In the Gospel Coalition/Tullian Tchividjian Dustup

William Graham Tullian Tchividjian
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian

A debate has been raging in Reformed/Lutheran quarters about “sanctification”—our growth in holiness. Tullian Tchividjian of Liberate argues that the most important thing is “by grace you are saved.” Unless we are absolutely clear and certain about this, he says, we’ll never be properly motivated for a sustained Christian life. Tullian sees much legalism and spiritual oppression in church and society, and he’s anxious to announce this message of gospel freedom.

Various members of The Gospel Coalition don’t disagree; they just put the emphasis on another gospel syllable. They highlight that part of the gospel is the promise of the power to become holy. They see many lazy and lethargic Christians failing to strive for the holiness the Bible tells us to seek. They want people to realize—meaning, making it real in their lives—what we are saved for: “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph. 1:4, NRSV).

The Gospel Coalition and Tullian have, unfortunately, come to metaphorical blows over this, and Tullian has been knocked out of The Gospel Coalition ring. As with any dispute, personality plays a role. But theology also plays a role, and what I’ve summarized above seems to be at least one large part of the theology in dispute.

Each side in the dispute has made what seems to me to be tactical missteps in resolving this (I am personally acquainted with making many tactical blunders in my life). And I’ve been led to believe there are other finer points of theology in dispute. Still, one would hope that everyone can see that the gospel is not a narrow stream but a wide river, with many eddies and currents. And one would hope that those who highlight the call to holiness (made possible by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives) and those who highlight the grace of forgiveness (which is the only ground for holy living) could swim in the same river.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Mark Galli

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