I guess it had to happen someday. Turns out it did this past summer. Megachurch pastors tend to accept invitations to places where there are TV cameras, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Tullian’s message of “radical grace” has reached the first family of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. While in many ways, this is an example of worlds colliding, I figure if Peter Lillback can accept an invitation to Glenn Beck’s TV show a few years ago with the intention of making sure the gospel is clearly communicated on his air, then why not Tullian on TBN? The world’s largest Christian television network could do a lot worse, and has built an empire on doing just that.
For those unaware, Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is a favorite among the New Calvinists and is notorious for his popularization of the Lutheranesque “law-gospel distinction” which is taken by many to his right, myself included, as repeating the mistakes of historic antinomianism in some of his rhetoric and in his application of the otherwise valid hermeneutic pioneered by the Protestant Reformer. Among Tullian’s influences are Steve Brown (RTS Orlando and Key Life) and the theologians associated with Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio show. While I believe Tullian when he says he affirms the Reformed teaching on the third use of the law , I also believe his critics when they say his rhetoric smacks too much of historic antinomianism (read about that here). Tullian’s intention is to minister to those burned by legalism, and I’m all for that, even if he may be pushing the envelope of Reformed theology further to the left than I think he should.
But I like Tullian in small doses. Few and far between. It has been a while since my last dose of Tullian, so I am prepared to have a good attitude about his appearance on TBN to promote his recent book One Way Love. Besides, it would be inconsistent of me to criticize him for accepting an invitation to speak on Word of Faith turf, since the seeds of Reformed theology were planted in my own mind when Michael Horton appeared on TBN to promote his very first book originally entitled Mission Accomplished (now Putting Amazing Back Into Grace) while still a student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). The difference between Horton’s and Tullian’s appearances is that the latter they post on YouTube, while the former they immediately erase, cancel the talk show that featured him, and have the host reassigned to a job behind the scenes. This reaction was due to the fact that Horton was a known critic of the Word of Faith heresy who would go on to edit The Agony of Deceit. My hope is that Tullian’s interview will likewise plant and water the seeds of Reformed theology and the true gospel of Christ among today’s regular TBN viewers.
While Tullian admits to being a one-sermon preacher, his message that Christ kept the law perfectly and earned eternal life for those who believe and so frees us to gratefully, though imperfectly, respond to his amazing grace with love toward our neighbors is one we need to be reminded of on a daily basis. In fact, it is this “preach the gospel to yourself daily” notion that motivated me to put “Daily Evangel” on the building in the background of my picture of Captain Headknowledge. We need the Evangel of the free grace of God in Christ every day, and may it spur us on to love and good works, though we’ll never do them as well as Jesus did them for us.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle, Washington’s Mars Hill Church, must have been very thankful for his friends in the Christian publishing world on Thanksgiving. Since he was asked some tough questions about some passages in his latest book, A Call to Resurgence, which gave insufficient citation to one of his sources, they’ve been circling the wagons around their author.
But Driscoll is no stranger to controversy. It’s plagued his ministry since the beginning. He started out a member of Emergent Village, working alongside Brian McLaren and others, trying to find new ways to do church with the “emerging” generation of postmoderns who were leaving Evangelicalism, or at least lowering the Evangelical bar even closer to the ground than it already is. To his credit, he left Emergent Village, when they left orthodox Christianity. You can read about that in “Navigating the Emerging Church Highway.”
Building a church in what he calls “the most unchurched city” in America, Seattle, Washington, Driscoll earned a reputation among his Evangelical and Calvinistic colleagues for his delivery—irreverent at best, and vulgar at worst. I personally recall Steve Camp’s ongoing blog crusade calling him out for this. But they have since buried the hatchet in the wake of an edifying debate Mark did on Nightline. I don’t know if what Camp called Driscoll’s “scatological” language has ended, but Camp’s crusade certainly did.
A year or so ago, Mark got in trouble for joining James MacDonald and others at the Elephant Room Conference to pass some soft-ball questions to T.D. Jakes about the Trinity, before declaring him an orthodox brother in Christ. Jakes was raised in the Oneness Pentecostal tradition, but now plays both sides of the Trinitarian divide with carefully crafted language which demonstrates he hasn’t repented of the anti-Trinitarianism of his youth. This No Compromise video handles the issues well.
I haven’t followed Mark Driscoll’s ministry that closely over the years. My theology and interests are on a slightly different trajectory from his, so I’m not aware of the datails in many of the scandals and stories about which I’ve heard. Liberals, however, also find much to criticize in him. Just search your favorite Left-wing site and you’re likely to find posts on his being “anti-gay,” among other things, some of which even his conservative critics would likewise critique, even if for different reasons.
A few weeks ago, when John MacArthur hosted his latest Truth Matters conference at Grace Community Church on the subject of how the charismatic movement often features false forms of worship (see my recent post on this here), the Charismatic Calvinist Mark Driscoll crashed the conference to pass out copies of A Call to Resurgence and tweeted a much-debated claim that security personnel confiscate his books, while cell-phone footage seemed to indicate otherwise, and a representative of the conference accused Driscoll of lying about the incident. See that story here.
It was therefore no surprise to me, when Mark Driscoll was as defensive as he was when he went on the Janet Mefferd Show and was asked some tough questions about several pages in A Call to Resurgence in which he borrows heavily from Dr. Peter Jones of TruthXChange.com but gives only one citation referencing him as an “example.” This is insufficient, because it does not clearly state Jones was the actual source. While I can see how Driscoll may have thought he was doing justice to Jones’ intellectual property, and neglected to cite him properly, his defensive tone and attempt to turn the tables on Mefferd by making the issue her “grumpiness” and “rudeness,” demonstrates to me that Driscoll wasn’t serious about doing what needs to be done, even though he tried to use all the right sentiments to come off as someone who is suffering for doing the right thing. If you listen to the interview, it is true that Mefferd seems to be relentless in her questioning even after he began saying he’d talk to Jones about the matter, even though she was asking if he’d go to his publisher about it. But the tone he takes with her in his own defense, and the pretentious way he attempts to frame her as a bully betrays his insincerity on this, in my opinion.
In the days that followed that interview, Driscoll’s publisher, and a prominent Reformed promoter of one of Driscoll’s past publishers attempted to follow Driscoll in turning the tables on Mefferd and make her the bad guy. But the fact that he is a source of income for them makes their objections less meaningful, if not a real conflict of interests.
Then Mefferd kept finding more examples of plagiarism in other books he’s written. She provided photographs of the texts in question so her listeners could see for themselves how he used the language of others without proper, if any documentation of his use of their intellectual property (but Mefferd removed them all yesterday, upon her apology motivated by her regret over the controversy caused by the interview, though not the inaccuracy of her criticism). The only person who can’t be persuaded that Janet Mefferd is correct in her assertions and documentation are those who want Driscoll to prevail in this controversy, or those too squeamish to stomach a trained journalist doing what journalists do when presented with obstacles in their effort to get at the truth. They get persistent.
Today’s “Bully Pulpit” episode of The Mortification of Spin, in which Dr. Carl Trueman, Rev. Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd address the need for accountability for Evangelical celebrities, and hence the necessity of a free Christian press. Listen to “Structured Accountability.” I am thankful that there are real journalists like Janet Mefferd who are willing to do what they can to hold celebrities accountable for their behavior.