This past Sunday I preached at a local church in Minneapolis with a lot of 20-30 year olds. Preaching on Psalm 1, I mentioned how obedience and grace are inextricably linked, and one need only to look at the recent The Gospel Coalition events surrounding Tullian to highlight its importance.
After corporate worship, a young man approached me and expressed concern, even disillusionment, over TGC’s situation. “I love Keller and Tullian,” he said. “It makes me hesitant to commit to these groups when these sort of things happen.”
My encouragement to this young man was simple: hold on loosely to these affiliations, glean what you can, dismiss the dismissable. But remember: you’re not under these groups’ or men’s authority (unless one of these men serve as your local pastor). What’s primary is the local church. Ensure you’re committed to it and are someone who’s under their authority (i.e. biblical, loving, serving, protecting vs. domineering, abusing, unbiblical, etc.)
In the end, ministries like The Gospel Coalition can be very good things. But they should never replace or eclipse the local church as the primary means of grace, influence, honor and love.
The local church is where our priorities should ultimately lie.
There’s a serious and worthwhile discussion unfolding among notable Reformed folk regarding the Law and Gospel. Here’s a chronological summation:
- May 2: Jen Wilkins wrote a blog post, “Failure Is Not a Virtue” for The Gospel Coalition, introducing (and dismissing) “celebratory failurism,” which (says Wilkins) effectively truncates Law and obedience and inflates grace. Jen asserts this is an unbiblical and misguided understanding of the relationship and between Law, Gospel, obedience and grace.
- May 9: Tullian Tchividjian was asked (apparently by TGC blog’s editors), to respond to Jen’s initial post. In his post “Acknowledging Failure IS a Virtue: A Response to Jen Wilkin,” Tullian sharply draws a distinction between Law and Gospel, making some accusations regarding Wilkins (see below).
- May 9: Mike Kruger quickly responds to Tullian, who, he says, “accuses her of ‘theological muddiness,’ of having ‘deep theological confusion,’ and of mixing law and gospel in a way which ‘prevents the reader from hearing (and being relieved by) the real good news.'” Kruger then defends Wilkins while raising pointed questions regarding Tullian’s response to her initial post.
- May 10: Mark Jones proposes a debate between him and Tullian regarding the Law and Gospel.
- May 12: Carl Trueman weighs in, heightening concerns about Tullian, defending Wilkins, and throwing his name in the hat to debate Tullian.
Some may view this brouhaha over Law and Gospel as damning evidence of unnecessary theological in-fighting over minor issues.
Except these aren’t minor issues.
Instead, these discussions have significant implications for how today’s church understands Law, Gospel, grace and obedience.
In other words, they have everything to do with how the church understands and lives the Christian life.