Category Archives: sanctification

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

Living the Gospel

Two good friends of mine had a brief interchange on their blogs about the cyclone-in-a-teacup “debate” going on in some Reformed circles about the phrase, “living the gospel.” Mark Nenadov, at All Things Expounded, posted his thoughts on the issue after hearing Al Martin use the phrase. He is right in his evaluation that the debate has brought a good warning (about precision in language) to “near absurdity.” Matt Fenn, at Pondering Christ, replies to Mark giving, what appears to me, further clarification of what Mark has said. Then the two of them have some friendly dialog at Matt’s blog about how clear we can really be with our language.

While both are in general agreement with each other, the nuances each brings offer food for thought. Mark is right: nobody actually thinks that the gospel has complete correspondence with life. But it is also true, and both would agree, that we don’t want to lend confusion to a clearly revealed truth. Matt’s final word, though intended for their interchange, concurs with what Mark said about the absurdity of the larger debate: it’s a silly discussion. Maybe the discussion is worth having, but the depths that this larger debate has come to is indeed silly.

Thanks guys!

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Filed under debate, gospel, mark nenadov, matt fenn, sanctification

Christianity, Conscience and Conviction

At the Imperial Diet of Worms the sixteenth-century German Reformer, Martin Luther, famously stood against calls to recant his writings. He had published a number of works criticising the Roman Catholic Church for its excesses, both moral and theological. Thinking himself a loyal son to the Church, the call to recant seriously affected him. We often think of Luther as a firebrand seeking to topple Rome from the outset, however history proves this is not the case. Evidence for this can be seen in the simple fact that when Luther was initially called to recant he requested a night to think about it. Off to his room, Luther spent the night in travail, his inner-most soul crying out to God for direction. As we know, Luther eventually came to the conclusion that he must not recant because Scripture, reason and conscience prevented him from doing so. The next day, before the Diet, Luther boldly uttered the commonly quoted phrase, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Continue reading

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Filed under martin luther, sanctification