Kevin DeYoung Bagged by the New Calvinist Slither Police, Part 2: Is Special K the Forerunner of the Great Slither?
Kevin DeYoung, hereafter affectionately referred to as “Special K” (SK), offered a response to officer Tullian Tchividjian’s (hereafter, OTT) “pushback” regarding an article he wrote that sounded too orthodox. You can’t blame him; after all, OTT is one bad dude. Anybody who is privy to OTT’s merciless hostile takeover of Coral Ridge would certainly hesitate to ruffle his feathers. Even James D. Kennedy’s daughter barely got out of there with her hairdo still intact.
In SK’s response to OTT’s response, he mentioned that he is on sabbatical to write a book on sanctification. Funny, just last week, a reader wrote an email to me—asking what I thought of sabbaticals. I told him they are a joke, with the exception of a pastor doing so to search the Scriptures for himself regarding serious theological issues of our day. Bingo, what’s more important in our day than the whole question of sanctification? Compare SK’s sabbatical with Piper’s last sabbatical where the purpose was to expunge several “species of idols” in his heart. The sabbatical was predetermined to be eight months, so we can only assume that his consultants, Tim Keller and Paul Tripp, identified the idols as those that can always be rectified by deep repentance in an eight-month period—just in time to return on January 1; because after all, like everything else, the new year was all about him. I almost went myself, video cam in-hand, to document the fawning (complete with glazed-over eyes, perspiration, and weak knees) of his Koolaid drinking followers waiting with bated breath as he walked up to the podium to pontificate his first Sunday morning message after his “sabbatical.”
But, back to SK. I found the interpretive questions he is asking himself during his sabbatical to be very interesting, and leads one to think that his church may be populated with a rare breed of Christians known as homo thinking sapiens:
1. Can the justified believer please God with his obedience? [Yes, du, Paul said, “it is our goal to please Him”]
2. Is the justified believer displeasing to God in some way when he sins? [Yes, du, the opposite of “please” is “displease.”]
3. Is unbelief the root of every sin? [No—read about king David and Jonah] Or is it pride? Or idolatry? Should we even both trying to find a root sin? [No]
4. How are justification and sanctification related? [Read JC Ryle’s “Holiness”]
5. Can we obey God? [ SK, see John 14:15,16. Why is the Holy Spirit called our “helper”?]
6. Can we feel confident about our obedience, not in a justifying way but that we have done as we were commanded? [Yes, see 2Peter Chapter 1]
7. How does Scripture motivate us to obedience? [Start with Romans 5:13, then read verse 4 in the same chapter, and many other Scriptures like those. It’s NOT either the Holy Spirit or Scripture—it’s both.]
8. Are most Christians too hard on themselves (thinking they are filthy scum when they actually walk with the Lord in a way that pleases him)? [Not if they have a biblically trained conscience]
9. Or are most Christians too easy on themselves (thinking nothing of holiness and content with little progress in godliness)? [Ya think?]
10. What is the role of union with Christ in sanctification? And how do union with Christ and sanctification relate to justification? [SK: see the Australian Forum archives for a review of what you presently believe on that. It’s called the “centrality of the objective gospel.”]
But stop the presses! DeYoung wrote another article after he capitulated to the fearsome OTT entitled, “Is Sanctification By Faith Alone?” I will just say it plainly: dead on! With the exception of one whopper in the beginning of the piece, the rest of the post is a masterful articulation of true biblical sanctification. Is this the first time I have complimented a New Calvinist in the two-year history of this blog? Yes! In regard to the whopper: “Though it sounds very Protestant, it is not correct to say ‘sanctification is by faith alone.’” Uh, Special K, it has never been Protestant to say that, but hey, you’re going in the right direction.
This is major. DeYoung’s post is clearly in the face of New Calvinist doctrine, and the ten questions asked in the prior post are intimately connected to the conclusions stated in the latter. I can only pray that his healthy infatuation with JC Ryle will result in a positive outcome regarding the book he is writing on sanctification (and such a book is long overdue). In fact, Ryle’s “Holiness,” a book DeYoung often quotes, was written to refute false doctrines running amuck in Ryle’s day that were evil twins to present-day New Calvinism.
So, will SK take a hard stand and separate himself from the New Calvinism cartel? Or will he stay and be a lynchpin for the Great Slither? (See part 1): “Uh, ya, I agree with SK, absolutely! Yep, that’s been my position all along. In all of those other quotes of mine, I was talking about justification—not sanctification. But I will admit, I should have put a grammatical transition between the two—my bad dude.”
Or, if SK stays the course, will the New Calvinist throw him under the bus? Will the dreaded tweet come from the High Priest of New Calvinism?: “Bye, bye, Kevin DeYoung.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful; it’s about time antinomians of our day have to answer the charge. But have you ever heard the theory by psychologist that serial criminals want to be caught? In regard to applying the same theory to the serial antinomians of our day, I have to think the theory has merit.
Consider what has happened this week. A writer for “Pyromaniacs,” a blog authored by Phil Johnson, (an associate of John MacArthur Jr.), wrote a six-page open letter to Micheal Horton and others at the “White Horse Inn,” another blog of the Reformed sort. Horton responded to the open letter by denying that he was an antinomian while defending another proponent of gospel sanctification / Sonship theology who had supposedly been accused as well by pastor Jason Hood, via an article Hood wrote in Christianity Today. A rough week for antinomians, supposedly.
But the fact that Horton responded to the open letter as if it was an accusation that he is antinomian – is surprising because it would take at least five attorneys to interpret the letter that way, if in fact it was an accusation of antinomianism to begin with; I certainly didn’t take it that way.
So why did Horton respond that way? See, it’s true; deep down, they want to get caught. Horton initially defended himself in the first paragraphs of his response, but then toyed with his “accuser” by dropping in clues as to what they should really be accusing him of: antinomianism based on his doctrine! After his defense, his suggested cure for antinomianism was “more gospel”(hint, hint). So after denying that he’s antinomian, he actually launched into a full-blown antinomian doctrine! I will dissect his response in part 2, but in essence, he said “more justification in sanctification.” I posed this question in the comment section and expect it will never get out of moderation purgatory:
“Dr Horton: or anyone else,
If we are sanctified by justification, and we don’t have a role in justification, how can we have a role in our sanctification? And if we can’t have a role in our sanctification, isn’t that antinomianism by default? I don’t have to obey / I can’t obey. What’s the difference?”
But it gets better. In the other article Horton complains about, Hood doesn’t accuse the new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian (the late James D. Kennedy’s church) of antinomianism, but rather only complains that Tullian Tchividjian bragged about being an antinomian! See, again, Tchividjian is another example of a serial antinomian who wants to get caught; so he bragged about being an antinomian. However, it didn’t work.
Will the Keystone Discernment Police ever figure it out? Stay tuned. But meanwhile, here’s another clue for Team Pyro: you don’t need six pages – you only need six words; “How is progressive justification not antinomianism?
What Really Happened at Coral Ridge: Heavy-Handed Leadership is Part of the Gospel Sanctification Mystique
I have plowed through massive amounts of data / articles regarding the Coral Ridge Presbyterian split / controversy, and wow, what a gargantuan mass of theories, opinions, and “he said – she said.” But what happened at Coral Ridge is really very simple, and is being played out throughout the country on a continual basis. Actually, in all the information I consumed, the crux of the matter can be boiled down to a few excerpts.
First, the key to understanding what happened there is the theology of the new pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, hereafter referred to as “TT” (who in the world would ever name their child Tullian Tchividjian?). TT is a proponent of Gospel Sanctification, hereafter referred to as “GS.” One writer refuted an accusation against TT (by one person in the small group of dissenters who tried to have him expelled as the pastor) that he has a distorted view of the gospel. But in supposedly refuting that, he quotes TT as saying the following:
“As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ‘the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.’ As Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.”
In this quote, we see the theology of GS and why it caused big trouble at Coral Ridge. Notice that TT says plainly that he has come to a scriptural understanding of the gospel that “the vast majority of professing Christians” don’t share. Think about that statement, I mean really think about it. He is saying that he was once among “the vast majority of *professing* [that word is no accident] Christians” who HAVE THE GOSPEL WRONG! This is the mentality of GS proponents: they think they are on the cutting edge of a reformation that is saving Evangelicalism from a false gospel. What else can be surmised from this statement?
As a result, leaders in the GS movement do not intend to play nicely with papal minions of the Synergistic Dark Age, and they routinely kick butt and take names. The pattern is the same: new pastors assume leadership in a church that doesn’t know what GS is, and the church takes it for granted that their theology is orthodox. Then once in, they replace present leadership with those of like mind, and begin to make vast and rapid changes because they see that church as a bastion of falsehood. Then, dissenters are mercilessly mowed down and muzzled, usually via church discipline.
In all cases, the dissenters don’t have a full understanding of what they are dealing with, they just know something isn’t right. I saw this exact same GS pattern play out in a church in Dayton, Ohio, and it’s also exactly what happened at Coral Ridge. My thoughts on this were confirmed by a telephone interview with a person involved with the protesters at Coral Ridge. However, the particular church in Dayton didn’t have the ecclesiastical safeguards afforded Presbyterians, and some dissenting members actually fled to other states because of the intensity of the backlash from the GS leadership, and trust me, I’m not exaggerating. Other Christians have told me that their leaders simply refuse to discuss the issue with them, rightly observing that there is no premise for agreement when one party holds to a grammatical view of interpretation verses redemptive.
Before I move on, some of what I am saying here can be seen in the letter that Coral Ridge dissenters issued to the rest of the congregation in an attempt to have TT removed as their pastor: http://blackandwhiteministries.blogspot.com/2009/07/founding-pastors-daughter-raises-mutiny.html
In conclusion, much of the GS doctrine can be seen in TT’s statement if one observes closely and believes that words mean things. Instead of moving on to “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded,” we are supposed to move “more deeply” into the gospel. GS teaches that a deeper focus on the gospel results in Christ obeying biblical imperatives for us. TT has also insinuated this in other statements. You can also see the GS element of continual redemption (or the idea that Christians are continually re-saved) in this part of his statement:
“After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel” [then what do you do with John 13:8-10 ?].
Furthermore, the gospel is monergistic, so if we are sanctified by the gospel, that means we can do no more to be sanctified than we could do to be justified. Therefore, GS can be nothing more than a *let go and let God* theology. Also, the relationship or role of the Law would be the same, making it an Antinomian doctrine. Not being obligated to keep the Law or completely unable is the same difference.