At some level, The Gospel Coalition is an attempt to get evangelical back on the rails (the perceived, true rails, that is). It is an attempt to reverse the Village Green or Big Tent evangelicalism of the last fifty years. Tullian didn’t fit TGC’s perception, he was in effect removed, and this is Tullian’s response:
Tchividjian, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, told The Christian Post on Thursday that the statement published by founders Keller and Carson on The Gospel Coalition’s website wrongly characterized a meeting in Florida between him and TGC Executive Director Ben Peays.
“I told Ben Peays this last night. I called him and I told him, ‘That statement’s misleading and you know it,'” said Tchividjian, “… The way the statement read, it was as if he came down to Fort Lauderdale to talk with me on behalf of the coalition regarding the theological issue that they were having with me. That is categorically false.”
Tchividjian explained that Peays flew down to Florida as a consultant for the pastor’s new ministry, Liberate, which also picked up the bill for his flight. He added that he (Tullian) initiated a conversation about moving his blog content off the coalition’s website and that “it was never ever insinuated that that’s what The Gospel Coalition wanted.”
None other than my friend Pete Enns weighed in with what I think was insightful commentary. While Tullian did not think this was simply about Reformed theology, Pete Enns suggests in fact it is a theology that is at work — and one might have to say it was the “culturally embedded theology at work,” which is a kind of Reformed/Neo-Puritan theology, and on that I would agree. TGC’s theology found tension with Tullian’s more grace-fronted theology. To call Tullian’s theology anti-nomian is nonsense. (And I don’t agree with Tullian on some of his favorite themes.)
First, the resurgence of Reformed theology in American evangelicalism and fundamentalism–commonly referred to as the Neo-Reformed movement–is a belligerent movement. This is why it exists–to correct others, not to turn the spotlight inward. There are exceptions within, of course, and I am by no means suggesting everyone who sees him or herself as part of this movement exhibits this tendency. But the “system” is set up to fight. It’s what they do.
So don’t be shocked, Tullian, if it happens to you. Yesterday’s heroes can quickly become tomorrow’s vanquished foes. When “contending for the gospel” is your center of gravity, there’s always a foe. There has to be.
Second, theology proper is to blame here–”theology” as in how we understand God.
Christians who can’t seem to walk away from a fight–who seem uncomfortable in a peace vacuum, who feel the gospel is at stake with nearly every perceived errant thought or difference of opinion, and who feel they need to group together and found organizations to protect the truth against all ungodly attacks–are showing us what their God is like.
If you are a fighter, chances are the God you imagine is:
fundamentally hacked off, retributive, touchy, demanding of theological precision, uncompromising, takes-no-prisoners-and-gives-no-quarter, whose wrath needs to be appeased so watch your step.
If that’s your God, you have full permission–in fact, you are commanded– to fight a lot, especially with other Christians–a modern day Phinehas weeding out the covenant breakers among us (Numbers 25), God’s instrument of retribution.
TGC’s overt, and far too quick, support for SGM remains something TGC has to live with, and the evidence is not turning in its favor. I commend Boz and Tullian’s denunciation. On this singular issue, TGC reminds of the Vatican — a decade back.