In light of Tullian’s post this morning, announcing his departure from the Gospel Coalition based on their disapproval of his particular way of articulating the gospel.
Dear Gospel Coalition (and Mark Jones and anyone else in a tizzy about Tullian),
You represent the strong. Just to be clear here, those are the sides you are marking off. You have the influence and the strength, and you knew that Tullian isn’t prominent among his PCA brothers (probably because he isn’t old and bald enough). You knew that you were his lifeline to influence. You are trying to nip his message in the bud before he gets too “big.” You know that Liberate is not near the platform of TGC. And you also know that Tullian’s message appeals to those gross people that we don’t really want in our churches.
In my post last week defending Tullian, I tell the story of why I thought he was going to eventually be exiled. The way he talks about grace is indeed scandalous – it shocked the literal hell out of my baptist/Acts 29/Gospel Coalition-loving bones. (The way you talk about grace, Kevin DeYoung, is NOT any kind of stumbling block for anyone. It’s exactly what every non-Christian would assent to. It so appeals to the flesh in its emphasis on our glorious contributions that it does not make people want to love God or others more. It only amplifies hearers disgust with themselves, as they hide in the bushes with Adam and Eve, threading fig leaves together.)
Am I merely framing this debate as strong versus weak for Tullian’s sake? Maybe, but I doubt it. I honestly think you are exiling him so that his influence doesn’t grow. You probably failed here and exacerbated his influence. The liberating message of Christ crucified for actual sinners has taken root, and the seed will grow. You will spend the rest of your lives trying to focus on your ministries and forget this moment, trying to forget the sweeping condemnation of Tullian’s invitation to all non-hypothetical sinners, but it won’t do any good. This is the heart of the matter. And you just chose your side.
Jen’s article was a shot at Tullian. Tullian defended himself. Then your deceptive crew pled plausible deniability (“I don’t know why Tullian even went after her! How rude.”). This is what sickens me about you. You have been drawing Tullian out since you realized his gospel was being preached to the weary and downtrodden. You wanted the gospel that attracted the strong and influential and those who have it together.
This is such a nuanced point, and I know that you will plead your confessions, which are nice, but I can see your actions here. Tullian is right to push people to distinguish law and gospel. Frankly, most of you aren’t doing it and have illustrated (Kevin DeYoung) that you have no clue how it is even done. Kevin DeYoung has clarified that he would rather die than see the sincerity of his good works brought under scrutiny. In fact, Kevin, it is only in your death that you will be free from their chokehold. You don’t know your motivation. If you had an ounce of self-awareness, I would hope you could admit your mixed motivations without theologizing them away. But you hide behind your theology and experience with college students whose guilt-riddled motivations lead them to you in droves, only to be confused about the worth of their performance until 20 years later when their mid-life crisis levels them, exposes the bankruptcy of their hard work that you pointed them to (and they perceived as salvation). I can only hope they stumble on someone who preaches like Tullian, so that they actually understand the gospel and repent of placing hope in their good works. Christ and him crucified (unconditional grace with no “buts”) is your congregant’s only hope. And as long as you keep preaching how you are, it is only an accidental or future hope.
It’s all going to work out, and yes my thoughts are hasty. And maybe I’m over-reacting out of loyalty. And this time I didn’t send this article to Tullian for pre-approval. I don’t like you guys anymore. And I really wanted to. And Tullian really wanted to. And I am convinced you don’t like people who are actual sinners. I’m convinced the grace that you preach is reserved for those with gas in the tank, who come to Christ not only with faith but with at least an ounce of nervous energy. You want the response.
The Reformed Pubcast guys, I am told, distanced themselves yesterday from Tullian as well (“Just because we had him on here doesn’t mean we agree with everything” – paraphrase. Nobody accused you of agreeing with everything, but we can all see this is a self-protective maneuver to protect your show. I hope it worked for you guys). Only a few weeks ago they were affirming Tullian (“So basically you are just saying what the Reformers said!” – paraphrase). Well, guys, you are also missing the significance of this. Your whole “theology of Calvin, taste of Luther” thing was confusing to begin with (I wondered how much of Luther you actually interacted with). Luther had more than a taste for beer, if that is what you are playing on. Luther had a taste to see weary-sinners, those pathetic ragamuffins that most pastors roll their eyes at, those downtrodden annoying old women who – even if they did have the energy to contribute – are not wanted by the church, Luther wanted to see them set free from the bondage of sin by the grace poured out in Christ’s death and resurrection. You guys have missed the point.
This is a post that I wrote after a day of frustration and pacing around wondering what had happened, after Mark Jones douchey and condescending indictment. I feel the weight of this thing. I don’t know if anyone else’s concern has risen to the same level of frustration as mine has. Perhaps some can nod along with some of what I am saying. Perhaps others will write me off as a bit too grace-heavy, a bit unbalanced, and a bit vulgar. It seems like those were the same concerns leveled at Pastor Tullian, and Luther before him, and Paul before him, and Jesus before him.
I’ll take it.
Update: The Reformed Pubcast Army (a good lot) has informed me that I caricatured their position. Bless those guys. I reacted to a brief remark on their show yesterday that seemed to indicate they weren’t as “on board” with Tullian as they seemed to be when he was on the show.