The Sanctification Skirmish


However you wish to weigh in on the skirmish between Tullian Tchividjian and the TGC (or others who have commented on his theological leanings), one thing may not be clear: this is ultimately about theology. While Tullian may not necessary align with the mainstays of The Gospel Coalition, there has been a call for clarity in his theology which has apparently been met with silence. At times one may choose to remain silent and let their previous words speak for themselves. At other times one needs to clarify what previous words mean to the benefit of their hearers. It is becoming more and more apparent that the latter stance is necessary for Tullian’s case.

Regrettably, it doesn’t look like clarification will happen. At issue is the Christian doctrine of sanctification, or how believers are to grow in Christlikeness. Sanctification involves the work of the Spirit flowing from the justifying powers of the cross and embracing the hearts and minds of believers. Holiness is not to be earned, but it is to be desired in the wake of a new creation in Christ. Paul urges the church “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life…and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). This reminder of one’s new creation status naturally leads to a call for moral reformation in light of Christlike thinking and action. This pursuit of holiness is utterly biblical, foundational to the Christian life, and wholly good as the believer thirsts for God. Works flow from a life longing to know and love God and others more. 

To this end, both Rick Phillips and Michael Kruger provide an excellent summary with thoughtful insight regarding the theological stakes of this issue. Christians should be encouraged to grow in godliness, to long after the things which please God, and to recognize the loving embrace of a Father who consoles those who have fallen. Also key to this issue is personal response. According to Kruger, Tchividjian misses the mark on addressing the issue of the “third use of the law.” In so doing, he is guilty of mischaracterization and failing to engage the real theological issues. I think Phillips excellently points out the issue of humility and clarification. To make the best of this situation, simple theological clarification in the form of humility would be helpful. As a general rule, Christian response to controversy should always assume a position of humility regardless of the level or lack of fault. This does not preclude disagreement and debate, but it assumes that which is the most Christlike of virtues: humility.  Citing Christ as the supreme example Paul asserts, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3–4 ESV). May we seek humility in our disagreements as the world looks on and wonders whether or not we display the love in which Christians are called to demonstrate. 

For Rick Phillips helpful insight on this issue, click here.

For Kruger’s analysis on this matter, click here.


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