Mark Jones on Tullian

Mark Jones freaks me out. No, not because he’s scary looking, however that may be the case, but because the guy is proving himself to be a prolific writer. Not a hack, mind you, his works are serious. Take for instance his doctoral dissertation on Thomas Goodwin from the University of Leiden (I love the look of terror in his eyes in the above picture of his thesis defense), or the work he co-edited on Reformed controversies with Michael Haykin published by the venerable Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. This is not to mention the beast of a book co-authored with Joel Beeke: A Puritan Theology. Generally when Dr. Jones writes something, I try and pay attention–even if he’s writing on paedobaptism or some other such Pelagianism…I mean Presbyterianism.

Recently Mark wrote a review of Tullian Tchividjian’s Jesus + Nothing = Everything at the Meet the Puritans blog that he contributes to. In it he draws a comparison between the book and seventeenth-century antinomianism–not that Mark would call Tullian an outright antinomian, but that there are some dangers in Tullian’s approach that would fit in that general category. One of the key problems with the book, according to Jones, is Tullian’s version of the law/gospel distinction. He says: “The section on the law and the gospel in the book evinces a problem with certain versions of the law-gospel antithesis, especially when this antithesis is read into the Christian life and not just simply justification…In essence, my concern has to do with the fact that a number of biblical passages are read in a manner where people automatically assume that the text is driving us to Christ for justification when in fact the text is saying nothing of the sort.” The whole review, though long, is well-worth digesting.

The substance of the review is picked up in an interview that Mark did with the guys at Reformed Forum. I like the interview primarily for the opening bit where one of Mark’s kids is acting out in the background, and Mark is doing his darndest to get him to pipe down–even Presbyterians have to deal with kids disobeying it seems, we Baptists aren’t alone! Aside from that, however, Mark helps with the historical problems of antinomianism, and again points to related problems in Tullian’s book. Sadly, Christians today are imbibing the tendencies evident in the book under review, and so Mark brings us back to a healthy model of gospel-grounded obedience. We are free, yes indeed; but we are free to obey Christ. Hopefully the Reformed and Puritan vision of justification and sanctification can be grasped and grappled with for the sake of the holiness of Christ’s people. I think ole Jonesy does a good job at bringing us back to that grounding.

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5 Comments

Filed under justification, mark jones, sanctification, reformed forum, tullian tchividjian, antinomianism

5 responses to “Mark Jones on Tullian

  1. Pingback: Tullian Tchividjian’s Latest Book » All Things Expounded

  2. Ken Davis

    Very interesting Ian. When I click on the word “review” above I get the Meet the Puritans website with the review you refer to. However, when I click on the word “review” from my Google Reader I get an online drug store pushing viagara, cialis etc. The comments that occur to me are many and varied but I have been convicted of late by Trueman’s comments regarding Ephesians 5:12, so I will keep silent.

  3. mark j

    Ian, you’re too nice. This explains why at our church we welcome Baptists to the Lord’s table. How could I not eat and drink with you? I’ll dedicate my next work on paedobaptism to you.

  4. With all due respect to Dr. Jones, perhaps the reason why Tullian sounds the way he does is because at times the Reformed camp sounds a little too much like Arminians or Romanists when it comes to works.

    Having spent a good deal of time in the Reformed camp, I don’t see too much Antinomianism. I do, however, see a LOT of flirtation with legalism that puts the cross of Christ on the back burner and turns far too much attention to our own good works for our assurance, with Jesus referred to as a moral example rather than a Savior. That’s more like Wesleyanism than Calvinism.

    Last time I read the Westminster Confession concerning good works, the Confession is quite clear that good works do not in any way, shape, or form add any sort of merit to our salvation, period. Same with Scripture itself, concerning passages such as Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9 (Yes, I realize what verse 10 says, but it must be kept in context with the preceding two verses), and so on.

    And if you were to ask Tullian directly, I’m pretty sure that he would maintain that a Christian by virtue of the regenerative work of the Holy Sprit will have a new and changed disposition that brings us a desire to good works. We need to keep that in mind, rather than divorcing the Holy Spirit from our Christian walk, as if God is sitting there wringing His hands in hopes that we do the right thing (again, like Arminianism).

    Now, if you ever hear Tullian assert that Christians can live their lives with no change whatsoever and wallow in sin that grace may abound, then fine, feel free to assert Antinomianism; I’ll be right there with you. But preaching grace as free and without need of our merit is not the same thing as Antinomianism. That’s what the Roman Catholic church charged Luther and Calvin with, and I would certainly hope that Dr. Jones is not flirting with the papacy.

  5. Todd

    Ditto the above ProTullian remarks

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