Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I’ve had some posts about Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson and the successor to D. James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.  He is a significant evangelical pastor who credits Lutherans (e.g., Bo Giertz; Harold Senkbeil; Rod Rosenbladt) for helping him to understand the full magnitude of the Gospel.  He has written a book about all of this–including how it impacted him as he went through some difficult times in his ministry–entitled  Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

I was asked to write a blurb for it, as were many others, including other evangelicals who resonate with what he has written.  They are all worth reading in themselves.  (Read them on the Amazon site that this post links to.)  I will just quote myself and Dr. Rosenbladt, whose work I also blogged about recently:

“Many Christians today assume that the gospel just has to do with conversion, for way back when they first came to faith. They have lost the sense, well known to Christians of the past, that the gospel is for every moment of their lives. As a result, they often fall into a moralism that can be, as this book shows, just as idolatrous, self-focused, and godless as immorality. This book shows how the good news of free forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ is the driving energy that makes the Christian life possible. Pastor Tchividjian tells about how he himself discovered the full magnitude of God’s grace in the midst of difficult times in his own ministry. He does so in a way that will bring relief, exhilaration, and freedom to struggling Christians.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr., provost, professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College; director, Cranach Institute, Concordia Theological Seminary; columnist; author

“In a powerful, concise, and popular style, Tchividjian announces, explicates, defends, and contrasts the gratuitous gospel of Christ’s person and work with the oft-misheld conviction of us sinners that, if we are somehow to be justified, it will have to be a matter of ‘making up for’ our offenses and of inward improvement. Chapter-by-chapter he argues that God’s saving plan is one of grace and not one of improvement. Filled with illustrations from his life as a pastor, this is no unapproachable, academic tome. But neither, thank God, is it today’s ‘Evangelical silly!’ Tchividjian wrestles openly with demons and their central lie in order that we truly ‘get’ what the Bible is really about. From every point on the compass, he contrasts ‘moral renovation’ with a free, one-sided rescue drenched in the blood of Jesus. Good news for everyone—but especially for Christians who are worn out by trying the other way, believing the lie, somehow knowing renovation isn’t working but knowing nowhere else to turn. Tchividjian is out to convince his reader that justification before God really is pure gift, is free, is by grace and through faith in Christ. . . sola!”
Rod Rosenbladt, professor of theology, Concordia University

via Amazon.com: Jesus + Nothing = Everything (9781433507786): Tullian Tchividjian: Books.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • larry

    Dr. Veith,

    Brilliant Gospel light quotes. The opening of yours was particularly personal to me:

    “Many Christians today assume that the gospel just has to do with conversion, for way back when they first came to faith. They have lost the sense, well known to Christians of the past, that the gospel is for every moment of their lives.”

    That “concept” shift, if you will, was critical to me when I was in between Reformed and looking into Lutheranism, tipping to the Lutheran side. Because I was groomed doctrinally under the former (the conversion thing) many of the Lutheran things like confession/absolution, constantly in/returning to baptism, and the constant forgiveness given in the sacrament of the altar sounded to my ear as a form of works righteousness. I suspect that’s very true of many who’d like to come to Lutheranism but this point holds them back, I know another good baptist friend that wrestles with this, and my wife did until she had her “ahha” moment like I did. Those things, conf./abs., constant referral to baptism, constant forgiveness in the present given/regiven in the sacrament sounds to the outside protestant ear as a form of RC works and its due to that ‘paradigm’ affecting one’s thinking on the matter. It appears at first blow that these gifts deny the one time in the past sufficiency of Christ’s work for one. That holds MANY back I’m convinced.

    It’s not until two thing strike one that the “shift” or “epiphany” occurs, (1) that God is not “re-forgiving you” because you fell away and He “un-forgave you” temporarily but that He’s telling you again, “you are forgiven always have been, be steadfast and believing this”. Or as Luther captures in his commentary on the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespass…”, (paraphrasing Luther) this is not so that we will BE forgiven, we have that already in the Gospel, but so that we might KNOW we ARE forgiven. Many protestants have trouble with that petition for the same reasons as the conf/abs. and sacraments. (2) Already alluded to, our natural gravity is to not believe its true for us and it hides most insidiously in that fake humility we call, ‘to be humble I should doubt’. I.e. We NEED to hear it fresh, God doesn’t!

    Once that “clicked for me” confession/absolution, baptism and the sacrament of the altar, i.e. the constant forgiveness gifted afresh continually to me, fell into place.

    I’ve struggled for a couple years for a way to express that shift if you will and you really captured it in a couple of concise sentences!

  • larry

    Dr. Veith,

    Brilliant Gospel light quotes. The opening of yours was particularly personal to me:

    “Many Christians today assume that the gospel just has to do with conversion, for way back when they first came to faith. They have lost the sense, well known to Christians of the past, that the gospel is for every moment of their lives.”

    That “concept” shift, if you will, was critical to me when I was in between Reformed and looking into Lutheranism, tipping to the Lutheran side. Because I was groomed doctrinally under the former (the conversion thing) many of the Lutheran things like confession/absolution, constantly in/returning to baptism, and the constant forgiveness given in the sacrament of the altar sounded to my ear as a form of works righteousness. I suspect that’s very true of many who’d like to come to Lutheranism but this point holds them back, I know another good baptist friend that wrestles with this, and my wife did until she had her “ahha” moment like I did. Those things, conf./abs., constant referral to baptism, constant forgiveness in the present given/regiven in the sacrament sounds to the outside protestant ear as a form of RC works and its due to that ‘paradigm’ affecting one’s thinking on the matter. It appears at first blow that these gifts deny the one time in the past sufficiency of Christ’s work for one. That holds MANY back I’m convinced.

    It’s not until two thing strike one that the “shift” or “epiphany” occurs, (1) that God is not “re-forgiving you” because you fell away and He “un-forgave you” temporarily but that He’s telling you again, “you are forgiven always have been, be steadfast and believing this”. Or as Luther captures in his commentary on the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespass…”, (paraphrasing Luther) this is not so that we will BE forgiven, we have that already in the Gospel, but so that we might KNOW we ARE forgiven. Many protestants have trouble with that petition for the same reasons as the conf/abs. and sacraments. (2) Already alluded to, our natural gravity is to not believe its true for us and it hides most insidiously in that fake humility we call, ‘to be humble I should doubt’. I.e. We NEED to hear it fresh, God doesn’t!

    Once that “clicked for me” confession/absolution, baptism and the sacrament of the altar, i.e. the constant forgiveness gifted afresh continually to me, fell into place.

    I’ve struggled for a couple years for a way to express that shift if you will and you really captured it in a couple of concise sentences!

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Yet another Reformed ‘crypto-Lutheran’.
    This phenomenon could have a very positive influence upon the Reformed world.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Yet another Reformed ‘crypto-Lutheran’.
    This phenomenon could have a very positive influence upon the Reformed world.

  • fws

    pastor henderson @ 2

    yes this is all good stuff, but most wont succeed in moving to a Lutheran and scriptural paradym because they will continue as neo-scholastics to read the romans 8 distinction of flesh vs spirit as profane vs transcendent and secular vs churchly/spiritual.

    they wont see then that the two kingdoms doctrine is really exactly a law and gospel distinction that says faith vs spirit is rather this:

    flesh/body is everything we can see and do in our bodies, fully including word and sacrament and preaching of law and gospel and sanctification that we can see and do. So they will continue to make something we can see and do, like baptism or churchly things or the visible part of sanctification into something that is “spirit” rather than the Law mortification that it totally is.

    and so the heavenly kingdom that is spirit will not alone be alone invisible faith alone in Christ alone alone alone.

    Instead they will understand two kingdoms to be some political theory or the difference between word and sacrament vs secular stuff.

  • fws

    pastor henderson @ 2

    yes this is all good stuff, but most wont succeed in moving to a Lutheran and scriptural paradym because they will continue as neo-scholastics to read the romans 8 distinction of flesh vs spirit as profane vs transcendent and secular vs churchly/spiritual.

    they wont see then that the two kingdoms doctrine is really exactly a law and gospel distinction that says faith vs spirit is rather this:

    flesh/body is everything we can see and do in our bodies, fully including word and sacrament and preaching of law and gospel and sanctification that we can see and do. So they will continue to make something we can see and do, like baptism or churchly things or the visible part of sanctification into something that is “spirit” rather than the Law mortification that it totally is.

    and so the heavenly kingdom that is spirit will not alone be alone invisible faith alone in Christ alone alone alone.

    Instead they will understand two kingdoms to be some political theory or the difference between word and sacrament vs secular stuff.

  • Jonathan

    Phonetic pronunciation of the Pastor’s family name, please?

    Is it pronounced like a combination of Tchaikovsky and Deukmejian?

  • Jonathan

    Phonetic pronunciation of the Pastor’s family name, please?

    Is it pronounced like a combination of Tchaikovsky and Deukmejian?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    cha-vi-jin

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    cha-vi-jin

  • Dennis Peskey

    Pastor Tchividjian is making great strides toward Law and Gospel (aka becoming a Lutheran). He will do well until he arrives at the defining fork on the road to Emmaus, satisfactio vicaria. Neither Calvin nor Arminius demonstrate faith to embrace the fullness of this concept. From the blurbs posted by Dr. Veith and Dr. Rosenbladt, I would surmise Pastor Tchividjian is but a few steps away. When he divorces himself from the confusion of justification with sanctification, he’ll no longer be preaching in a Presbyterian church. At that point, I would encourage Dr. Veith to invite Pastor Tchividjian to CTSFW – the 2012 Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions (Wed-Fri Jan 18-20) will be addressing Justification in a Contemporary Context. This would be a good start.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Pastor Tchividjian is making great strides toward Law and Gospel (aka becoming a Lutheran). He will do well until he arrives at the defining fork on the road to Emmaus, satisfactio vicaria. Neither Calvin nor Arminius demonstrate faith to embrace the fullness of this concept. From the blurbs posted by Dr. Veith and Dr. Rosenbladt, I would surmise Pastor Tchividjian is but a few steps away. When he divorces himself from the confusion of justification with sanctification, he’ll no longer be preaching in a Presbyterian church. At that point, I would encourage Dr. Veith to invite Pastor Tchividjian to CTSFW – the 2012 Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions (Wed-Fri Jan 18-20) will be addressing Justification in a Contemporary Context. This would be a good start.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Joe

    Thanks be to God!

  • Joe

    Thanks be to God!

  • larry

    Frank’s correct, they will only “almost get there” (as a whole group, individuals may convert over). A lot of this is manifested in their basic hanging on to Augustine’s word/sign theory (which dates to platonic thought). This is why one hears “don’t confuse the sign with the thing signified” and this extends not only to the sacraments themselves but to the Word spoken without an external element (unless one counts the preacher).

    The Word or Sacrament is always a sign pointing to the reality elsewhere, this is how the doctrine diverts the eyes inward then upward to the unpreached God and away from the preached God clothed in His Words. For Luther the sign or sacrament IS the reality, that is precisely and specifically what Calvin rejected. And that theology/doctrine extends to their preached Word theory (like Augustines). In that system faith makes the Word alive, faith makes the Gospel real, not the Word making faith alive and the Gospel making faith real. This is manifest in the Reformed internal/external Word theory too.

    Some Reformed and some Lutherans have mistakenly fallen for the Reformed saying this concept is the same as Luther’s preached and unpreached God. It is not, and Frank has pointed out the philosophical shift that occurs.

  • larry

    Frank’s correct, they will only “almost get there” (as a whole group, individuals may convert over). A lot of this is manifested in their basic hanging on to Augustine’s word/sign theory (which dates to platonic thought). This is why one hears “don’t confuse the sign with the thing signified” and this extends not only to the sacraments themselves but to the Word spoken without an external element (unless one counts the preacher).

    The Word or Sacrament is always a sign pointing to the reality elsewhere, this is how the doctrine diverts the eyes inward then upward to the unpreached God and away from the preached God clothed in His Words. For Luther the sign or sacrament IS the reality, that is precisely and specifically what Calvin rejected. And that theology/doctrine extends to their preached Word theory (like Augustines). In that system faith makes the Word alive, faith makes the Gospel real, not the Word making faith alive and the Gospel making faith real. This is manifest in the Reformed internal/external Word theory too.

    Some Reformed and some Lutherans have mistakenly fallen for the Reformed saying this concept is the same as Luther’s preached and unpreached God. It is not, and Frank has pointed out the philosophical shift that occurs.

  • larry

    However, on a specific level I do agree with what Dennis said. Many of us made that kind of journey and many still do, and that is wonderful. The ‘reformed’ as a body will never go away en mass for its a well established doctrine and confession. In reality it existed under Med. R. Catholicism in form as one of the monk variants. There really are no “new” heresies they just kind of shift shapes a bit and rearrange themselves in various apparent new forms. More like many permutations.

    The test for him, temptation will come when it occurs to him these are two different religions and one cannot continue to straddle the fence. That’s what happened to us. That initial taste of 200 proof Gospel is great and one likes to think all denominations are equal here and things can either be reconciled by language or not essential. And so a temptation comes in the way of sadness, true sadness, that the Word is narrowing things for one. It’s very tempting because who doesn’t want to have all in one! One can linger there for a long time “straddling the fence” as it were, trying to see if Calvin and Luther (or Zwingli) and their descendants are “just talking past each other”. I did for years, hoping that was the case.

    This temptation to remain spiritually with family and/or friends past is very real, Jesus was not speaking lightly when he said you must love him more than mother, father, step son, etc… (those very close to you who should be a part of you very naturally, including friends of one’s denomination and such). One cannot walk away from that callously but with many great tears, thus the very true reality of the temptation. It’s not a pretend temptation at all. And he being a pastor with a flock he loves, it will be all the greater for him.

  • larry

    However, on a specific level I do agree with what Dennis said. Many of us made that kind of journey and many still do, and that is wonderful. The ‘reformed’ as a body will never go away en mass for its a well established doctrine and confession. In reality it existed under Med. R. Catholicism in form as one of the monk variants. There really are no “new” heresies they just kind of shift shapes a bit and rearrange themselves in various apparent new forms. More like many permutations.

    The test for him, temptation will come when it occurs to him these are two different religions and one cannot continue to straddle the fence. That’s what happened to us. That initial taste of 200 proof Gospel is great and one likes to think all denominations are equal here and things can either be reconciled by language or not essential. And so a temptation comes in the way of sadness, true sadness, that the Word is narrowing things for one. It’s very tempting because who doesn’t want to have all in one! One can linger there for a long time “straddling the fence” as it were, trying to see if Calvin and Luther (or Zwingli) and their descendants are “just talking past each other”. I did for years, hoping that was the case.

    This temptation to remain spiritually with family and/or friends past is very real, Jesus was not speaking lightly when he said you must love him more than mother, father, step son, etc… (those very close to you who should be a part of you very naturally, including friends of one’s denomination and such). One cannot walk away from that callously but with many great tears, thus the very true reality of the temptation. It’s not a pretend temptation at all. And he being a pastor with a flock he loves, it will be all the greater for him.

  • fws

    what dennis and larry say.

  • fws

    what dennis and larry say.

  • Jerry

    I can feel for Pastor Tchividjian. I’ve gone through difficult times and found help in both Bo Giertz and Harold Senkbeil. However, it does call into question as to why. If as Larry points out this man is currently on the fence and has no established theological base, why should I buy his book? Maybe I should wait for his next one?

  • Jerry

    I can feel for Pastor Tchividjian. I’ve gone through difficult times and found help in both Bo Giertz and Harold Senkbeil. However, it does call into question as to why. If as Larry points out this man is currently on the fence and has no established theological base, why should I buy his book? Maybe I should wait for his next one?

  • Bob

    Thanks be to God! I love it when someone outside the Lutheran camp discovers the power of the Gospel!

  • Bob

    Thanks be to God! I love it when someone outside the Lutheran camp discovers the power of the Gospel!

  • Joe

    I will not preclude the possibility that whole groups may get it. We are talking about the efficacy of God’s Word. Despite my pessimistic nature, I no that with God all things are possible.

  • Joe

    I will not preclude the possibility that whole groups may get it. We are talking about the efficacy of God’s Word. Despite my pessimistic nature, I no that with God all things are possible.

  • Abby

    I love Tullian! I listen to his preaching weekly. He is doing a great job hammering at this at his church. His teaching is very clear: Gospel vs moralism/legalism. I haven’t heard his views on the Sacraments. If he believes like us, I personally hope he stays right where he is and brings his people “in.”

  • Abby

    I love Tullian! I listen to his preaching weekly. He is doing a great job hammering at this at his church. His teaching is very clear: Gospel vs moralism/legalism. I haven’t heard his views on the Sacraments. If he believes like us, I personally hope he stays right where he is and brings his people “in.”

  • steve

    I checked it out. The math is correct:

    Everything – Jesus = Nothing

  • steve

    I checked it out. The math is correct:

    Everything – Jesus = Nothing

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    @fws #3

    Yes, fws, whatever happens in Pr Tullian T.’s future, I wasn’t thinking so much of corporate conversions as of the leaven of the Gospel spreading through Reformed circles (however, corporate conversions do happen – and like Joe I would not want to 2nd guess what God can do.) The proposal for Lutherans to reach out to TT is also a good one.

    What others have written about the need to overcome the Augustinian/neo-Platonic paradigm is also crucial. Btw, I have been present at a Reformed service where the preacher worked his way expositorily through John 6 and came to a Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper! Not the most direct route, but a safe arrival nonetheless.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    @fws #3

    Yes, fws, whatever happens in Pr Tullian T.’s future, I wasn’t thinking so much of corporate conversions as of the leaven of the Gospel spreading through Reformed circles (however, corporate conversions do happen – and like Joe I would not want to 2nd guess what God can do.) The proposal for Lutherans to reach out to TT is also a good one.

    What others have written about the need to overcome the Augustinian/neo-Platonic paradigm is also crucial. Btw, I have been present at a Reformed service where the preacher worked his way expositorily through John 6 and came to a Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper! Not the most direct route, but a safe arrival nonetheless.

  • fws

    pator henderson @ 16

    That is heartening to hear pastor. I believe (and I suspect so do you), that the best way to reach out to the Reformed and Evangelicals and Roman catholics and other sects is to constantly renew our own Lutheran undertanding of the Holy Gospel..

    After all, we are all really pharisees , scholastics and reformed rationalists at heart for our hearts , wills and soul are fully Old Adam and needs to daily die in daily contrition and repentance. We Lutherans only need to look in the mirror to see that our own hearts are at constant war against the doctrines in our Confessions that our New Man holds dear and clings to for Life that is the heart of the Lutheran Doctrine… our dear Lord Jesus.

  • fws

    pator henderson @ 16

    That is heartening to hear pastor. I believe (and I suspect so do you), that the best way to reach out to the Reformed and Evangelicals and Roman catholics and other sects is to constantly renew our own Lutheran undertanding of the Holy Gospel..

    After all, we are all really pharisees , scholastics and reformed rationalists at heart for our hearts , wills and soul are fully Old Adam and needs to daily die in daily contrition and repentance. We Lutherans only need to look in the mirror to see that our own hearts are at constant war against the doctrines in our Confessions that our New Man holds dear and clings to for Life that is the heart of the Lutheran Doctrine… our dear Lord Jesus.

  • fws

    pastor henderson @ 16

    our own posture towards non Lutherans should be one of repentence and a recognition that our Old Adam hearts constantly wants to place it’s trust in pure doctrine or reason or Lutheranism or anything at all as long as it is not the Works of Another.

    Or…… Old Adam tells us that none of that matters, things like pure doctrine, and the disciplines of Holy Liturgy and synod bureacracy, and that we should put our trust in Love as lifegiving rather than submit to the obedience that is about our death that alone in Old Adam can result in goodness and mercy for others.

    Old Adam is deeply religious and a clever liar. Original sin is to trust in anything at all that we can see or do as long as it is not alone our dear Lord Jesus.

    The reformed make this about trying to distinguish their sanctified works from those of pagans to know they are saved. When they are faced with that fact that there is no difference, then they turn to trying to distinguish their attitude of gratitude or heart-attitude as being what is different.

    And so they seek Life where thre are only things that will perish. Instead they need to be seeking their death in ALL they can do, and then hide all they do in the Works of Another because they are terrified at all they can see and do.

  • fws

    pastor henderson @ 16

    our own posture towards non Lutherans should be one of repentence and a recognition that our Old Adam hearts constantly wants to place it’s trust in pure doctrine or reason or Lutheranism or anything at all as long as it is not the Works of Another.

    Or…… Old Adam tells us that none of that matters, things like pure doctrine, and the disciplines of Holy Liturgy and synod bureacracy, and that we should put our trust in Love as lifegiving rather than submit to the obedience that is about our death that alone in Old Adam can result in goodness and mercy for others.

    Old Adam is deeply religious and a clever liar. Original sin is to trust in anything at all that we can see or do as long as it is not alone our dear Lord Jesus.

    The reformed make this about trying to distinguish their sanctified works from those of pagans to know they are saved. When they are faced with that fact that there is no difference, then they turn to trying to distinguish their attitude of gratitude or heart-attitude as being what is different.

    And so they seek Life where thre are only things that will perish. Instead they need to be seeking their death in ALL they can do, and then hide all they do in the Works of Another because they are terrified at all they can see and do.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I often make comments on Pastor Tullian’s blog, and I usually mention the Sacraments.

    But there is an aversion to speaking about the Sacraments in Reformed/Calvinist circles.

    They are on the right track but are often oblivious to the vehicle that can carry them down that track without having to use their own power.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I often make comments on Pastor Tullian’s blog, and I usually mention the Sacraments.

    But there is an aversion to speaking about the Sacraments in Reformed/Calvinist circles.

    They are on the right track but are often oblivious to the vehicle that can carry them down that track without having to use their own power.

  • Bob

    Does this pastor have a radio and/or TV show?

  • Bob

    Does this pastor have a radio and/or TV show?

  • Abby

    Bob @20: Not radio or TV that I know of, but here are his sermon archives:

    http://www.crpc.org/media

  • Abby

    Bob @20: Not radio or TV that I know of, but here are his sermon archives:

    http://www.crpc.org/media

  • Abby
  • Abby
  • Abby

    Ok, now I’ve heard Tullian speak of Baptism and Holy Communion. His “Midweek, Doctrines of Grace, Part 11 Nov. 9″ is where he hits on both of these. If someone else would listen to this one (about 35 min.), maybe you can tell me if he is really close to being “Lutheran.” He baptizes babies and believes in the Real Presence in Holy Communion. With the baptizing of babies he seems to say that it does not “save” the baby. I’ve never heard the explanation he gives here before.

  • Abby

    Ok, now I’ve heard Tullian speak of Baptism and Holy Communion. His “Midweek, Doctrines of Grace, Part 11 Nov. 9″ is where he hits on both of these. If someone else would listen to this one (about 35 min.), maybe you can tell me if he is really close to being “Lutheran.” He baptizes babies and believes in the Real Presence in Holy Communion. With the baptizing of babies he seems to say that it does not “save” the baby. I’ve never heard the explanation he gives here before.

  • Greg

    @Abby #23
    I can’t say what Tullian’s explanation would be, but I will answer based on the common Presbyterian teaching. Presbyterian congregations often do baptize infants as a covenantal sign analogous to circumcision. This is consistent with what they teach about adult baptism, since they say that baptism identifies the person as a member of the covenant community but not as a Christian (or one who has received justifying grace). Reformed Baptists say that baptism is a sign of the faith of the individual being baptized. Reformed Presbyterians says that baptism is a sign of the entrance into the community of believers, given to believers AND nonbelievers, who will live and spend time within the Christian community. This allows them to accept infant baptism and reconcile the future rejection of the faith by some of the baptized with their Calvinist belief in Eternal Security.

  • Greg

    @Abby #23
    I can’t say what Tullian’s explanation would be, but I will answer based on the common Presbyterian teaching. Presbyterian congregations often do baptize infants as a covenantal sign analogous to circumcision. This is consistent with what they teach about adult baptism, since they say that baptism identifies the person as a member of the covenant community but not as a Christian (or one who has received justifying grace). Reformed Baptists say that baptism is a sign of the faith of the individual being baptized. Reformed Presbyterians says that baptism is a sign of the entrance into the community of believers, given to believers AND nonbelievers, who will live and spend time within the Christian community. This allows them to accept infant baptism and reconcile the future rejection of the faith by some of the baptized with their Calvinist belief in Eternal Security.

  • Greg

    @Abby #23
    As for the “real” presence in communion, Presbyterians do say this, but they are hesitant to define what it means. Many people interpret the words “spiritually” but insist that it is “real” presence. Most of them say that it is a real spiritual presence in communion (or even literal presence in spirit). They do believe that communion really does something to the communicant, though, that God literally acts through it. They agree that it renews us spiritually in some sense or another and that it strengthens our faith, but they still do not accept that it is for the forgiveness of sins.

  • Greg

    @Abby #23
    As for the “real” presence in communion, Presbyterians do say this, but they are hesitant to define what it means. Many people interpret the words “spiritually” but insist that it is “real” presence. Most of them say that it is a real spiritual presence in communion (or even literal presence in spirit). They do believe that communion really does something to the communicant, though, that God literally acts through it. They agree that it renews us spiritually in some sense or another and that it strengthens our faith, but they still do not accept that it is for the forgiveness of sins.

  • Abby

    Greg @24, 25: Thanks for that information. The semantics we use are so tangled sometimes it makes my head spin! We mess up faith with too much rationality. It’s a lot easier just to accept God’s words as they are stated. How can someone define away “shed for the remission of sins?” The same as the blood offering for atonement in the Old Testament.

  • Abby

    Greg @24, 25: Thanks for that information. The semantics we use are so tangled sometimes it makes my head spin! We mess up faith with too much rationality. It’s a lot easier just to accept God’s words as they are stated. How can someone define away “shed for the remission of sins?” The same as the blood offering for atonement in the Old Testament.

  • larry

    Greg pretty much sums it up. It gets back, for the most part, to Augustines “sign/word” theory. That’s the common link between baptist and reformed (by extension Presb.). It’s just a matter of how that break is made. Sign is “here” but not the reality which is “there”, “there” is the spiritualization (where do I find a gracious God, where do I find Jesus and “for me”). Thus, its a subtle divorcing of the Word from thing (matter, and i.e. original sin) not wishing to find God and His Word in things but elsewhere (i.e. God in the nude as it were, God in majesty = original sin). So that one is then pointed in baptism OR the LS inward then thrusted upward to somehow have God graciously or Christ.

    One of the reasons one may want to read Tullian’s journey, with caution, is to see an honest man wrestling with the very hidden false doctrines, bringing about the honesty of what the doctrines teach and don’t teach rather than “fudging” and “smearing” all of it together and saying, “look us to and Luther”. A man such a Tullian wrestling with the Law of God in his heart and at least hearing some Gospel say in Luther is at least beginning to honestly wrestle with his heretofore confession of faith’s leaven.

    Eventually he’ll be faced with the trial of “this is not the Christian faith I once confessed as to its whole doctrine OR give up and stagnate”. The later is a sad reality that often happens too. Luther even points out that the sad reality is not many convert at length from heresy.

    Another way to look at it when you start looking at JUST how much God has given of Himself for us, quite frankly as a fallen person its scary as hell on both sides of the issue; (1) that I’m THAT sinful and (2) that God GIVES that MUCH. “Trust me utterly” is a terror to the old man.

  • larry

    Greg pretty much sums it up. It gets back, for the most part, to Augustines “sign/word” theory. That’s the common link between baptist and reformed (by extension Presb.). It’s just a matter of how that break is made. Sign is “here” but not the reality which is “there”, “there” is the spiritualization (where do I find a gracious God, where do I find Jesus and “for me”). Thus, its a subtle divorcing of the Word from thing (matter, and i.e. original sin) not wishing to find God and His Word in things but elsewhere (i.e. God in the nude as it were, God in majesty = original sin). So that one is then pointed in baptism OR the LS inward then thrusted upward to somehow have God graciously or Christ.

    One of the reasons one may want to read Tullian’s journey, with caution, is to see an honest man wrestling with the very hidden false doctrines, bringing about the honesty of what the doctrines teach and don’t teach rather than “fudging” and “smearing” all of it together and saying, “look us to and Luther”. A man such a Tullian wrestling with the Law of God in his heart and at least hearing some Gospel say in Luther is at least beginning to honestly wrestle with his heretofore confession of faith’s leaven.

    Eventually he’ll be faced with the trial of “this is not the Christian faith I once confessed as to its whole doctrine OR give up and stagnate”. The later is a sad reality that often happens too. Luther even points out that the sad reality is not many convert at length from heresy.

    Another way to look at it when you start looking at JUST how much God has given of Himself for us, quite frankly as a fallen person its scary as hell on both sides of the issue; (1) that I’m THAT sinful and (2) that God GIVES that MUCH. “Trust me utterly” is a terror to the old man.


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