A Steadfast Lutheran Interview With Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Part 1 of 2)

Tullian-Picsquare-300x300“He must be a Lutheran; he sure sounds like one.”  These were some of the first words out of my mouth when I first read the writings of Pr. Tullian Tchividjian.  However, upon further investigation I discovered that Pr. Tchividjian is not a Lutheran pastor, but the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the church founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy.  Furthermore, I learned that Pr. Tchividjian is the grandson of the evangelist Billy Graham and the visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.  Even though I was able to put together a loose biography of Pr. Tchividjian, I still found myself wondering why a lot of his writings, sermons, and vocabulary sounded so much like my preaching/teaching, my colleagues preaching/teaching, and many of the Lutheran theologians that I had read.

To answer these questions and many more, I approached Pr. Tchividjian several weeks ago about doing an interview for Brothers of John the Steadfast.  I have had the privilege of exchanging several emails with Pr. Tchividjian over the last several years, since I first was exposed to his writings.  Furthermore, about a year ago I had a chance to visit with him briefly while I attended a Reformation Conference in Florida.  However, I have never been able to ask him about this ‘Lutheran connection’ that I and so many others have recognized.

After receiving my request for an interview, Pr. Tchividjian graciously accepted and what follows is part one of the hour long exchange that we had over the phone.  I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.


Pr. Richard:  Tullian, within Lutheran circles I have heard people refer to you as a ‘closet Lutheran.’  This is obviously a tremendous complement from my perspective.  What are your thoughts about this and is it true?

Pr. Tchividjian:  [Laughing] I’ve heard that too. People who know me, however, know that I’m not a closet anything.  I’m pretty outspoken and unashamed about what I believe and why. I wish I had the kind of personality that was subtle, but I don’t. I have some theological differences with my Lutheran friends which is why I am a Presbyterian. But I will joyfully admit that few theologians have helped me more than Lutheran theologians. They tend to be much more down-to-earth and realistic, with little tolerance for theoretical descriptions of the human condition. They are existential realists, rather than idealists. They’ve helped me better understand my sin, God’s grace, and the distinction between the law and the gospel. They’ve guided me through deep and wide pastoral challenges and, I think, made me a better preacher, pastor, and counselor.

Pr. Richard:  In what ways has Lutheranism and these Lutheran theologians helped you?

Pr. Tchividjian:  I have found great benefit from the Lutheran writings on three primary distinctions: law and Gospel, active and passive righteousness, and the theology of cross vs. the theology of glory.  Plus, as I mention above, they understand and diagnose the human condition realistically which makes their riffs on the gospel experientially real. Luther’s famous phrase simul iustus et peccator  gave me language when I was a budding theology student which greatly helped me understand what I was feeling and experiencing as a young Christian. The personal and pastoral payoff here is that it enabled me to affirm (without crossing my fingers) that in Christ—at the level of identity—I was 100% righteous before God while at the same time recognizing the persistence of my sin. If we don’t speak in terms of two total states (100% righteous in Christ and 100% sinful in ourselves) corresponding to the co-existence of two times (the old age and the new creation) then the undeniable reality of ongoing sin leads to the qualification of our identity in Christ: the existence of some sin must mean that one is not totally righteous. This is acid at the very foundation of the peace we have with God on the other side of justification. To say simul iustus et peccator is therefore not to say that “sinner” is our identity; it is to say that while we remain sinful in ourselves we are, in Christ, totally righteous.

Pr. Richard:  Where did you first discover these Lutheran writings?

Pr. Tchividjian:  Believe it or not, I was first captivated by Luther himself by listening to a lecture by R.C. Sproul as a young Christian. But it was through conversations with Michael Horton, the host of The White Horse Inn, that I was introduced to the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel.  Then through Horton I met a plethora of Lutheran individuals, individuals such as Dr. Rod Rosenbladt—who then introduced me to Harold Senkbeil, Robert Kolb, and others.

Pr. Richard:  So, which Lutheran theologians have you delved into?  Which Lutheran pastors and theologians have influenced your theology and practice the most?

Pr. Tchividjian:  Well, obviously Martin Luther.  Other than Luther though, probably the best book that I’ve ever read was a book written by Kolb…

Pr. Richard:  Robert Kolb?

Pr. Tchividjian: Yes, ‘Robert’ Kolb.  The title was The Genius of Luther’s Theology.  I have also appreciated the writings of Harold Senkbeil, Gene Veith, Rod Rosenbladt, Oswald Bayer, and a Saskatchewan Lutheran named, William Hordern.  Oh, I cannot forget the book by Bo Giertz titled The Hammer of God.  I just love that book!  Not only was the book by Giertz well written, the theology in it is most excellent.  I promote Giertz’s book to everyone I can.

Pr. Richard:  Let’s back things up a little, if you don’t mind.  When did you first believe the freedom earned by Jesus, in your stead, is for the forgiveness of your sins, life, and salvation even though you don’t deserve it as a sinner?

Pr. Tchividjian:  Hmm, that can be answered two ways.  When did I become a Christian, or, when did I come to realize the awesome implications of God’s grace.  Let me answer it both ways.

Pr. Richard:  Yes, that is fine, please do.

Pr. Tchividjian:  God saved me when I was 21 years old even though I had grown up in a Christian home, gone to church, etc…  As a youth I rejected my family faith pretty explicitly.  It was more of a functional rejection rather than an intellectual one. Christianity just wasn’t functionally real to me growing up.  I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and was kicked out of my home and proceeded to lead a very debaucherous lifestyle. Through a variety of circumstances I came to a point of realizing that there has to be more to life than what I was experiencing. Therefore, I called up to God in my brokenness and He saved me.

Pr. Richard:  What happened from this salvific event?

Pr. Tchividjian:  I was absolutely captivated by grace for the first 8 months.  I realized that I didn’t deserve grace and didn’t deserve salvation.  I kept identifying myself as the prodigal in Jesus’ parable in Luke chapter 15.  I couldn’t hear about grace  without being overwhelmed by the kindness of the Lord that led me to repentance. The fact that God had been patient with me and pursued me in my rebellion swept me off my feet. I wept a lot in those early days—overcome by God’s amazing grace to me.

Pr. Richard:  Is this when you first realized the implications of God’s grace?

Pr. Tchividjian:  Yes and no.  Let me explain.  After 8 months I started to get better.  I went to Bible studies.  I started watching my mouth.  I stopped having sex with my girlfriend.  I started to improve morally speaking.  As I improved, something subtly happened to me.  The narrative in my life slowly changed and it became about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ was doing.  It was a slow shift.  As I improved morally speaking, it became less about what Jesus had done and more about what I was doing.  It was like a trap; I improved yet I began to lose sight of God’s grace.

Pr. Richard:  So, what happened?

Pr. Tchividjian:  [Chuckling] Life happened!  Life, suffering, and failure have a way of transforming you from an idealist to a realist—from thinking that you’re strong to reminding you that you’re weak.

When I was 25, I believed I could change the world. At 41, I have come to the realization that I cannot change my wife, my church, or my kids, to say nothing of the world. Try as I might, I have not been able to manufacture outcomes the way I thought I could, either in my own life or other people’s. Unfulfilled dreams, ongoing relational tension, the loss of friendships, a hard marriage, rebellious teenagers, the death of loved ones, remaining sinful patterns—whatever it is for you—live long enough, lose enough, suffer enough, and the idealism of youth fades, leaving behind the reality of life in a broken world as a broken person. Life has had a way of proving to me that I’m not on the constantly-moving-forward escalator of progress I thought I was on when I was twenty-five.

Instead, my life has looked more like this: Try and fail. Fail then try. Try and succeed. Succeed then fail. Two steps forward. One step back. One step forward. Three steps back. Every year, I get better at some things, worse at others. Some areas remain stubbornly static. To complicate matters even more, when I honestly acknowledge the ways I’ve gotten worse, it’s actually a sign that I may be getting better. And when I become proud of the ways I’ve gotten better, it’s actually a sign that I’ve gotten worse. And ’round and ’round we go.

If this sounds like a depressing sentiment, it isn’t meant to be one. Quite the opposite. If I am grateful for anything about these past 15 years, it’s for the way God has wrecked my idealism about myself and the world and replaced it with a realism about the extent of His grace and love, which is much bigger than I had ever imagined. Indeed, the smaller you get—the smaller life makes you—the easier it is to see the grandeur of grace. While I am far more incapable than I may have initially thought, God is infinitely more capable than I ever hoped.

Pr. Richard:  Is this the second part of your answer, where you came to understand the implications of God’s grace, could I say, ‘functionally speaking?’

Pr. Tchividjian:  Yes, it is.  About 3 years into a church plant I came to realize that life was simply hard.  Church work was hard, family was hard, marriage was hard, and so forth.  I disappointed a lot of people; people disappointed me; life happened.  Furthermore, I started to realize the fruits of ‘do more – try harder’ preaching.  I was losing idealism and I began to see that a lot of the popular theologies in America were simply unrealistic.  This was when I first encountered Lutheranism and began delving into various Lutheran theologians.  As I mentioned above, I was captivated by just how realistic Lutheran theologians were.


Please check back soon with Brothers of John the Steadfast for Part 2 of the Steadfast Lutheran Interview with Pastor Tullian Tchividjian.

To learn more about Pastor Tullian Tchividjian visit his conference initiative “Liberate,” his blog at “The Gospel Coalition,” or one of his many books.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


A Steadfast Lutheran Interview With Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Part 1 of 2) — 83 Comments

  1. Tell an Evangelical or a Reformed the following and watch/listen to their reaction:

    The differences between Luther and Rome on the Doctrine of Justification have ZERO bearing on the infant being baptized and thereby saved/justified by the Word in the waters of the baptismal font. Whether he is baptized by Rome or Wittenberg is irrelevant. God saves ALL who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.

    So, Luther’s Reformation was never about the moment of Salvation. The issue was Sanctification. Rome had Sanctification and Justification confused. To Rome, Sanctification was part and parcel of Justification. However, this false viewpoint has NOTHING to do with what happens to the converting sinner. Rome’s false theology solely involved the saved. Rome was teaching the saved that they needed to do good works to complete their justification, when they were already fully justified by God’s free gift of faith….IN BAPTISM!

    After you say this to your Protestant friend, his jaw will drop and for a moment he will look at you with a blank stare. He will then say, “You Lutherans don’t understand what Luther really taught.”

  2. @Gary #2
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t Lutherans and Rome have a difference in baptism (something about “ex operate operato”) which is considered a BIG difference, if I recall?

  3. @Pastor Matt Richard #47
    What difference is there? Neither of your examples actually believe or teach Lutheran theology. I would argue that Tullian is actually worse since he takes Lutheran terms and re-defines them to mean nothing of what they originially did. A “cunning sacramentarian” is the term the Formula of Concord uses for such nonsense.
    Please show me where and how Tullian is NOT versed in church growth theology. Didn’t he introduce CoWo services? Doesn’t he endorse and participate in numerous events with all the CoWo church growth big shot names? Rick Warren anybody? Hello?
    My negative reaction is this: Lutheran terms are just the new “fad” in Evangelicalism. They have moved from altar calls, to emotional driven praise music, and now to “Lutheran” sounding terms. (I too have had the opportunity to sit down with a mega-church pastor and that’s exactly what he said) Whatever gives them the next thrill up their leg. Just count the number of times “feeling” or “experiencing” or other emotional driven language is used in this interview alone. Some are so excited to hear the words “Law and Gospel” that they don’t even bother to ask, “What do you mean by Law and Gospel? Salvation through faith alone? And what do you mean by faith?” Ahhh, but if that had been done it would have exposed Tullian and his theology for what it really is, and that would have ruined the whole guise of him being just as “Lutheran” as the authors you read on a regular basis.

  4. @Rev. McCall #5
    That never even occurred to me – that this might just be another one of those fads that will change everything forever – for a couple of years – until forever runs out, and something new comes along and changes everything forever for a while.

    I guess we shall have to wait and see. I myself am not won over yet. A lot of questions remain unanswered, even after the second part of the interview. I still might not be sufficiently thrilled about this whole thing to study the Westminster Confession. Or i might just be too lazy. But more fundamentally, I am still not convinced that the Westminster Confession is really the answer to what this Tchividjian is all about. After all, it has been around for quite some time. So if this thing is really the key – what’s the news, then? That Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is a Presbyterian church? Somehow that does not strike me as sensational…

  5. @Rev. McCall #5

    Rev. McCall,

    Very interesting observations. Help me out a bit more, if you will. How did you come to believe that Lutheran terms are just the new “fad” in Evangelicalism. Is this from your one visit with a mega-church pastor? Are you positive and certain that it is a fad? How do you know that some American Evangelicals are receiving tenets of Lutheranism in order to have their ears tickled? Is it possible to have Lutheranism tickle ears? 😉


    Pr. Richard

  6. @Rev. McCall #5
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Pastor Richards’ whole point simply that Tullian is embracing the Lutheran distinction between law and gospel, and nothing more?

    I don’t recall Tullian stating that he was converting to Lutheranism, and not a single person has asserted that. What has been asserted is that Tullian is understanding in a Lutheran sense the distinction between law and gospel.

    And btw, Tullian has received a LOT of flak from other Reformed people for this “crypto-Lutheran” approach.

    Tullian may not be a Lutheran, but you give credit where credit is due, right?

    Put it this way: if a Roman Catholic priest came out and said he was embracing Luther’s understanding of justification by faith alone, would you applaud it or condemn it? Yes, this doctrine is not the only issue with Rome (see relics, indulgences, Mariolotry and other prayers to saints, etc.), but you would give credit to the priest for at least “seeing the light” on this one issue, wouldn’t you?

  7. @J. Dean #3

    Theologically, yes. Practically, no. The theology behind the Doctrine of Baptism is irrelevant for the infant being baptized at that moment. God alone saves. He does not save only if you believe the correct theology.

  8. @Pastor Matt Richard #8

    Pastor Matt,

    You know how much I admire you and appreciate your outreach to ex-evangelical Lutherans.

    I think a lot of the “ire” you are encountering from orthodox Lutherans is that you lobbed Pastor T a lot of softballs. Essentially it was a polite, chatty interview with little “meat”. But maybe that was as far as Pastor T was willing to go.

    I have found that a lot of evangelicals (Arminian AND Calvinist) don’t like discussing doctrine. “Let’s not argue doctrine. Faith in Jesus is what really matters.” I have a suggestion: Send a note to Pastor T and let him know that there was a lot of interest among orthodox Lutherans regarding his interview with you. However, also let him know that you received considerable flak for not asking “tough” questions, and would he be interested in doing another interview; specifically, would he be willing to go into how he agrees with Lutheranism, and, why if he is such an admirer of Luther and other Lutheran theologians, why has he not adopted their positions on the most crucial of Christian doctrines: Justification by faith alone…in Baptism (Baptismal Regeneration) and the True Bodily Presence in the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?

    If you don’t accept the above two core tenets of the apostolic, orthodox/catholic Christian faith…you obviously have learned nothing from your “discovery” of Lutheran Law and Gospel.

  9. @J. Dean #9
    I think you may be missing the point. He has come out and said he is embracing Law and Gospel, but what does he define that as? There is the key. I can come out and say, “I’m influenced by the Calvinist view of Baptism, if by Baptism you mean that it is not merely a seal or sign of the Holy Spirit but that it is actually God’s Word and promise.” Well, duh! I just redefined the Calvinist view of Baptism to be a Lutheran one. So it’s not really true if I go around trumpeting how “Calvinist” or influenced by Calvinists I am. From reading the links to Tullians other writings and blogs this is exactly what he is doing. So if we allow anyone to define Law and Gospel however they would like then sure, Tullian is influenced by “Lutherans”. This was the whole point in the Formula of Concord when they mention the cunning sacramentarians. They use Lutheran vocabulary and claim to be just like the Lutherans, but they’ve changed the definitions. To quote from one of the greatest movies ever (The Princess Bride), “I do not think that word means what you think.”

    @Gary #11
    Great idea! That is perhaps part of my ire. If you are going to make a statement about how Lutheran someone sounds, then ask them the tough questions that either support or refute that statement. “Pastor Tullian, you say that you have been influenced by Lutheran teaching. What do you mean when you use those Lutheran terms? Is faith a gift from God? Do you acknowledge the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper? Does the Gospel still include some action on man’s part towards God? (i.e. “Therefore, I called up to God in my brokenness and He saved me.” sounds awful semi-Pelagian to me)”

    @Pastor Matt Richard #8
    Anybody can be tickled. And I have talked with numerous Evangelical pastors, although not all mega-church ones. It doesn’t mean my suggestion that “Evangelicals using Lutheran language is just a fad” is wrong. In fact, given that Tullian has seemingly no desire to use those Lutheran terms with their proper definition seems as though my suggestion may just be right. One might ask why he would want to do such a thing.
    Jais is right. What is the news here? “A Presbyterian with Baptist worship practices and leanings has adopted and redefined Lutheran terms for use in his church?” You had the opportunity to ask some actual meaty questions. Instead you opted to let a cunning sacramentarian go on pretending he means the same thing Lutherans mean when he uses certain terms.
    FWIW I have nothing against Pr. Tullian. I hope he keeps reading Luther and I pray he comes to actually understand true Law and Gospel, two kinds of righteousness, etc. and actually teaches and preaches them properly to his flock.
    Perhaps since you have been encouraging us to read the Westminister Confession it may not be so bad to encourage Tullian to read the Book of Concord as well. 😉 I’ll even pay for his copy if you’d like. 🙂

  10. Some question why we would praise a non-Lutheran who likes some Lutheran stuff but rejects other Lutheran stuff but we criticize a Lutheran who likes some Lutheran stuff but rejects other Lutheran stuff.

    Is not the difference obvious?

    A non-Lutheran would be expected to be 100% non-Lutheran. That is the base standard. Any variance from that, a change from being non-Lutheran, is a good thing.

    A Lutheran would be expected to be 100% Lutheran. That is the base standard. Any variance from that, a change from being Lutheran, is a bad thing.

    In the immortal words of every twelve year old ever, “duhhhhhhh”. =)

  11. @Pastor Jason Harris #13
    So a pastor has Baptist worship practices, Pentecostal emotionalism, and decision theology mixed with some “Lutheran” theological terms.
    If he’s a Lutheran this is bad, but if he is non-Lutheran this is good? Sorry I can’t buy that. A crap sandwich is still a crap sandwich no matter who is serving it up. 🙂

  12. David Murray is spot on re the problems with TT’s take on the gospel. TT’s gospel appeals to broad evangelicalism AND liberalism. Quite a feat, really, when you think about it. Episcopalians are quite comfortable with the man. 😉

    I surely would not consider David Murray as ‘the other side’, btw. He’s a Christian brother, and full of pastoral wisdom and kindness.

    Or do you, TR, consider Pastor Murray not of the Faith? I know you’d consider him heterodox(as he would consider you, btw), but is he of ‘the other side’ as in not being a Christian brother?

  13. This is what Coral Ridge has to say about Baptism:

    “Baptism is the outward sign of inward faith and the blessings of salvation (1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor.
    12:13; Rom. 6:1-4). Does baptism save us? NO! In Romans 4 Paul refutes the idea that the
    sign of salvation can save us. It is a sign of faith and salvation. What does baptism accomplish
    then? It brings us into a covenant with God—for we are baptized “into the name” of Christ.
    Baptism binds us to the church; it is not merely a personal inward testimony, but a
    commitment to holy living and work with the church. See Acts 2:41 – to be “baptized” was to be
    “added to their number.” To be baptized is to commit to a holy life (Gal. 3:27). It brought into a
    legal accountability relationship. It bound you to a) obey the word and b) worship and work
    with God’s people”

    10% Lutheran? 25% Lutheran?

  14. @Miguel #16
    I know that unlike Dr. Kennedy, Tullian has done away with the liturgical vestments and opted for the “unique” casual wear that so many Baptist influenced preachers wear to help them “relate” to people. They also have blended worship which includes praise music (which I would consider to be at least a slight Baptist influence. IMHO “blended” typically means “contemporary lite”) I think his old church, the one that merged with Coral Ridge, is a better indicator of his worship practices. There he was able to start and build the worship style from scratch. At Coral Ridge he has to tread a little more carefully since Dr. Kennedy’s practices and legacy are still fresh in most members minds. But it seems to me he is still moving them slowly in a Baptist/contemporary direction as far as worship style is concerned.

  15. Also from the alleged “semi-Lutheran” Coral Ridge website:

    “Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.”

    The denial of objective justification is the epitome of failing to properly distinguish between law and gospel.

  16. Dave Schumacher :Also from the alleged “semi-Lutheran” Coral Ridge website:
    “Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.”
    The denial of objective justification is the epitome of failing to properly distinguish between law and gospel.

    I guess I’m a little lost here. How does that statement differ from Lutheranism?
    -salvation based solely on the person and work of Christ: check
    -imputed righteousness: check
    -only those born again are saved: check

    So unless you’re suggesting universalism, I don’t see the problem in that regard.

  17. @J. Dean #22
    “God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight.”

    Objective justification: Uncheck

  18. @J. Dean #22
    The problem Dave Schumacher points to is with objective justification, which is not mentioned in the passage from the web site cited by him.

    I understood that.

    And although, on the other hand, not specifically mentioning objective justification is not the same as specifically denying it, I would be surprised if Pastor Tchividjian actually teaches objective justification.

    I gather the Westminster Confession is where one would have to go to see if he does.

  19. @Jais H. Tinglund #24
    The citation most certainly does mention the denial of objective justification.
    “God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight.”
    This is a denial of objective justification. It says that God justifies the sinner after they have faith.
    All have been justified through Christ whether they believe it or not.

  20. Dave Schumacher :
    All have been justified through Christ whether they believe it or not.

    You could say that.
    The problem is that you could also not say that – and still not deny it.

    I sometimes say it; and sometimes I do not.

    I always believe it, though.

    My point is that to speak of justification by faith, or of the righteousness of Christ being credited to those who believe, or righteousness being credited to sinners when they believe – neither of these is necessarily a denial of objective justification.

    Our Lutheran Confessions speak in those terms – see for example Article IV of the Augsburg Confession – whereas particularly (as I recall it off the top of my head) the Formula Concord in Article III hammers it in that exactly such justification by faith is a consequence of and presupposes objective justification.

  21. @Jais H. Tinglund #26
    You are right. The Confessions do presuppose objective justification; and for that reason it is correct for a confessional Lutheran to speak of justification by faith.
    A Calvinist (The Westminster Confession in this case) presupposes limited atonement; and for that reason it is a denial of objective justification for a Calvinist to speak of justification by faith.

  22. Dave Schumacher :@J. Dean #22 “God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight.”
    Objective justification: Uncheck

    I admit to not being fully familiar with objective justification, being fairly new to Lutheranism, but are you saying those who do not have faith are saved as well? Because that sounds like universalism.

  23. @J. Dean #28
    Very briefly, and anything but comprehensively:
    Objective justification means that what Christ has done in His life and His death He has done in the stead of and on behalf of all Mankind, and thus all fallen Mankind is now righteous and right in Him before the judgement of God.

    Thus, what authentic Gospel preaching proclaims to the sinner is not the proposition that if the sinner will only do his part and believe, he will receive forgiveness for his sins, and salvation and eternal life. Rather, authentic Gospel preaching proclaims God’s promise to the sinner that all this is his already, given to him with the promise of God.

    Those who hear this promise, and whose response is to believe it, have all that is promised – and are thus righteous and right with God, on account of what God has done for them and declared to be theirs and given to them. This is what is called subjective justification.

    Those who will not know of this promise will have no benefit from what is promised. This is not universalism.

    One precious perspective on this teaching of objective justification is that it makes it clear that faith is not the good work by which the sinner makes himself right with God – as it so easily comes to seem in modern so-called Evangelical preaching and teaching – but rather the response of the sinner overcome by the love of God, presented to him in a salvation that is already full and complete and given to the sinner with the promise of God in His Word which, by the power of His living love, works faith in the sinner.

    There were a couple of threads dedicated to the theme of objective justification here on BJS a couple of months ago, where the issue was dealt with more comprehensively. You might want to look them up.

  24. Gary your point on “Tell an Evangelical or a Reformed the following and watch/listen to their reaction:” is spot on, that they do not get, they really don’t get the reformation ala Luther. Gary I’d like to expand on that. Gary you have NAILED THE ISSUE that binds. I mean it is THE ISSUE that prevents the final conversion over to the Lutheran confessions. It’s really not directly the sacraments although related. It all boils down to where is assurance AS a Christian. I came from it, so did my wife and I know it’s a fact.

    Gary you are spot on. The Calvinistic (and arminian for that matter) dividing line of saved on one side, not saved on the other and once truly saved cannot be crossed actually perpetuates Rome’s theology just in new garb. This is inherent in Luther’s HD when he’s discussing the state of being of the confessor of mortal Vs. venial sin. In short the protestant/evangelical/Calvinistic/baptistic sharp dividing line does not allow a Christian to exist as a Christian post conversion. Here’s what I mean. What’s the issue? Ask the question, post conversion do you sin? Yes any Christian would say because John says if you say no, “the truth is not in you”. That’s the Christian’s state of being sinner in reality saint in hope and not a ‘calculus percentage’ of the two. Ok, you, I and every Christian Monday through Sunday 24/7 accumulate sin, damnable sin for that’s the only kind of forgivable sin said Luther, pretend sin is for pretend christs. What do we do with it? Remember we are speaking of the ‘state of being’ of the baptized, i.e. the realm of sanctification. Why do we say with Luther “I AM baptized” as opposed to “I WAS baptized” and repentance is a daily return to this, and absolution and the LS on Sunday? To wash those sins away. What Christian wishes to still have sins on them, even though they do accumulate?

    An analogy may help and it may help evangelicals/reformed ‘see this’. Because believe me having been there and done that the hold back is really not the sacraments per se but the clinging to the “P” in the TULIP. Or the more crass version of “once saved always saved”. Why? Because you are asking them to give away what is in reality their sole assurance in spite of EVERY other conversation. Let us say you find a stinking dirty filthy man and he agrees to a bath with soap. Get’s all cleaned up, etc… The next day he starts to look dirty and filthy again and by the fifth day he’s basically back to where he started. You say he should return to the shower with some soap to get clean because dirty and stink have been accumulating on him. He agrees that he hats being dirty and filthy but instead of cleaning himself that way, he grabs a hand full of ‘other mud and filth’ and tries to scrub the accumulated mud and filth off of himself. In reality he’s just getting worse. He says he loves being clean but from your observation clearly he loves the opposite. He is indeed a dog returning to his evacuation. No matter how much he says he loves cleanness its clear he does not and the ‘new mud’ he thinks cleans is only making himself more dirty, and his refusal to return to the soap and water beget that in reality he despises the real “cleaning way”.

    What’s the connection if it’s not already obvious? Well the state of being of the Christian is one of desire to be washed of sins, but we accumulate in reality in this life said sins like the mud and dirt, even after our first bath (baptism). This is not about “God didn’t see that sin coming” and needing re-forgiveness but as Jesus washed their feet, “you are clean, you need only your feet washed.” Why would a clean person loving cleanliness wish to have a speck of dirt on them, likewise the sinner who accumulates sin in this life, the Christian’s state of being? So how do evangelicals, reformed, arminian, Baptist and all in between think they rid themselves of said accumulations? Well they either redefine post conversion sin in a way that its equivalent to Rome’s “venial sin”, which Luther says is in reality damnable or mortal sin, or (more likely) they reach down for new “mud” they think is cleanser in the forms of so called sanctification and growth or post conversion improvements fruits via the Law and tried to basically wash mud with mud or immoral sins with moral sins. The key is to know what sin, especially original sin (go to Luther on this) really is, otherwise one will not know one is washing mud with mud or sin with sin (the dog returning to his evacuated bowel).

    Now if they keep refusing to then wash truly, one must conclude that the state of being of such a persons actually despises soap and water and hence true cleanness. Similarly, if refusing to receive the washing of the Word of the Word of forgiveness in absolution, baptism and the Lord’s Supper one must conclude that such despise these things, and the Gospel which is the forgiving word, and actually loves staying in a state of filthiness (i.e. the dirty man). For the man who cleanses his accumulated mud (analogous to immoral sin) with other mud (analogous to moral works/fruits/so called sanctification) really just in reality likes the state of being of being muddy or being a sinner. It matters little if its on the clean or dirty side of the broad road leading to hell.

    This then boils down to what Luther was getting at the real stinging level of the true bondage of the will. Calvinist think they like that book but speaks against them and is much deeper than their “total depravity”. In short the bound will is bound to always willfully save itself in nearly infinite and various ways, even inventing and redefining its own ways, even using scripture to pave a self saving road. The issue, thus, over the sacraments actually giving, doing saving, forgiveness, the Spirit, regenerating has nothing to do with “it’s too confusing”. In fact the words surrounding and about the sacraments are of the most clear and simple language in all of Scripture. Rather it is because God has said “I forgive this way”. By analogy, if God had said, “Rub mud on your hands and mud to receive the forgiveness of your sin”, the bound will would immediately go to work on doctrines and theologies that basically would say,”Mud rubbing doesn’t really save, forgive…it’s only a sign or metaphor pointing to the thing signified and true assurance is had in some other way.”

  25. I ment to add, that that is the real value of the conversation with pastor Tchividjian. He’s at least speaking in that state of being, the Christian, where the conversation is needed to be had. That’s where all the conversation has to be had and that’s where the sacraments and doctrines can be seen as true or false. When we are drunkenly zigzagging across the road between before a christan now a christian everything gets confused.

    Pastor Tchividjian is at least beginning to send the conversation to the right address. And it might be better to consider it this way, certainly let’s speak clearly on the doctrines and never avoid them, but to keep in mind even Luther had to learn this as he was extracting himself from basically the same false doctrines that he’d been immersed in himself. What we ought not do is give up the doctrinal conversation and affirm them in the poisonous atmosphere they are in, but insist on the conversation now that we are at least in the right room (the state of being of the Christian).

  26. Gary,

    It’s mostly a matter of emphasis and “how far out”. E.g. an arrow is shot 5 degrees off target. At t = 3 seconds it’s a foot off of trajectory, at t = 5 seconds its three feet off trajectory. One might even goes as far to say, then, that Baptist doctrine is the logical extension of Calvin’s doctrine. So one example of this would be the “L” in the TULIP. The continental Calvinist would say “limited atonement” and the John Owen would say “double predestination, in this case to reprobation”. The later sounds softer but amounts to the same thing and there really is no difference for put correctly both say “To X to whom which the atonement did NOT exent”. Also the Puritans got more into infralapsarianism and the continental Calvinist tended toward supralapsarianism.

    Sublapsarianism places God’s decrees in the following order: (1) God decreed the creation of mankind, (2) God decreed to permit the fall to happen, (3) God decreed to provide salvation sufficient to all, and (4) God decreed to choose some to receive this salvation. Infralapsarianism puts God’s decrees in the following order: (1) God decreed the creation of mankind, (2) God decreed mankind would be allowed to fall into sin through its own self-determination, (3) God decreed to save some of the fallen, and (4) God decreed to provide Jesus Christ as the Redeemer.

    The main difference between infralapsarianism and sublapsarianism is whether God decreed to provide salvation through Jesus Christ and then decreed to choose some to be saved, or vice-versa. Hence the emphasis being for Puritans infralapsarianism and the language of double predestination, and the continental Calvinist being supralapsarianism and limited atonement. They amount to the same thing and Luther would well say of it “sophistry” and “the gouty foot laughs at your doctoring”.

    However, a point historically can be made here. Because the puritans more logically followed Calvin’s doctrine to its conclusion they ended in utter terrors of the conscience over being elect or not. The fervor got so bad at one point that Puritan theologian/pastor Thomas Hooker recalls of a woman who was so despairing and terrified over “not knowing”, not knowing mind you, if she was elect or not that she tossed her infant child down a well killing it. She then responded in relief, “Now I’m sure, I know I’m going to hell.” That story tragic as it is makes a point the Luther actually makes about the real hell and despair. It’s notable that it was not “hell” per se that terrified her but the despair of not knowing, but in reality that “state of despair” Luther says is to “feel hell/death (the second death) at hand and in reality the very hell that is hell, and not some other idea of “hell”.

    Thus, it is very easy to see where Calvin let the devil into his mind and began writing down what really was/is doctrines out of the abyss, really no less than the more crass false teachers such as Joseph Smith.

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