Paul's Passing Thoughts

What Really Happened at Coral Ridge: Heavy-Handed Leadership is Part of the Gospel Sanctification Mystique

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 6, 2010

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:

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.


8 Responses

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  1. Bill said, on April 22, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    I agree, they see the historic church as having the wrong gospel. At my former church, with a Sonship pastor, we heard over and over that the church had not been honest about our sin. He claimed that Christians are no better that any other religious people. We spent 1.5 years of sermons examining the sins of saints especially in the Old Testament. Implication being that if Paul was the “Chief of Sinners” how does that leave us? We must be the Devil himself! I think Micheal Horton especially has a vast artillary of phrases like: moralism, good works trends, self justification, self righteousness, smothering the gospel with personal and social change, etc. all aimed at the historic church to discredit. I can see many of these GS/Sonship guys are hostile to the historic church. Question: How can our relationship continue? To commune with it is to participate in it! Why be partners and share in their sins? People only have authority to build-up the church, not tear it down.

    Arkansas Bill


    • pauldohse said, on April 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      That’s a good question. I think at some point–some kind of separation has to happen

      > —–Original Message—– >


  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 15, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Reblogged this on Paul's Passing Thoughts.


  3. Christian said, on November 15, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    I watched TT being interviewed by Fox New after the Billy Graham special last week. Not only does his doctrine bother me but I thought his appearance was not becoming for a pastor. His shirt was left unbuttoned way too low not be be a distraction. I don’t know if it was accidental or normal. Maybe he was trying to be cool for the YRR group. Was anyone else offended?


  4. Alfred James said, on December 5, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    I think there is a misunderstanding in what the man is saying. I think he is speaking of our lives in general. It is not that we are sinning at the same degree prior to Christ, but we all sin. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. As we go through our Christian walk we must continually apply the truths of the gospel to our lives. I think the man is calling us to greater examination of our lives and to never forget what God has done for us through Christ. Change is never easy, but change will continue to occur in the church. Asking people to continue to focus and trust in the gospel is an interesting thing. As far as John 13, there was a need for some cleansing even though they were clean. The purpose of this text was to cause these men to remember Who it was that cleansed them. It is a clear call of remembrance and to realize none of them are greater than the other, but it is Christ who is supreme, The author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) As I said earlier, change will continue in the church, but we must look to the word of God as our constant guide. I constantly remind myself of how Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has paid the price and I must constantly hold fast to this belief when sin attempts to overcome, but then I remember that because I have committed to the gospel that I am the overcomer. Let’s stop focusing on non-essential things and focus on truth.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 5, 2014 at 11:08 PM


      I am not misunderstanding anything; sanctification by justification implies that justification is not finished and that’s a false gospel.


  5. Anonymous said, on April 5, 2015 at 2:59 AM

    Sinful man can not hear and grasp too much about the life , work , death and resurrection of Christ . The more
    understanding … the more one is graced with humility as pride and self righteousness are beaten down . These are by far the 2 biggest problems within the hearts of collective church attendees . Overcome these sins ,
    gain humility and everything else in a Christians life will fall in place by the power of the H.S. Intellectual
    pride ruins many a believer . The deeper one gets theologically , usually the deeper the self righteousness .


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on April 5, 2015 at 8:12 AM

      And that’s good old fashioned Neo-Platonic Protestantism. I don’t usually take the time to do this, but what the heck.

      1.”Sinful man can not hear and grasp too much about the life, work, death and resurrection of Christ.”
      A. All men remain sinful and salvation is only defined as an increased perception of our own sinfulness.
      B. All reality is interpreted through redemption.

      2. “The more understanding … the more one is graced with humility as pride and self-righteousness are beaten down. These are by far the 2
      biggest problems within the hearts of collective church attendees.”
      A.”the more one is graced”
      a. Refers to increase in “grace” or justification.
      b. Justification is progressive.

      3. “Overcome these sins, gain humility and everything else in a Christians life will fall in place by the power of the H.S.”
      A. Realm manifestation.
      B. The imputation of Christ’s obedience to our lives (double imputation).
      a. No longer defines our obedience as love.
      a1. Christian love is circumvented.

      4. “Intellectual pride ruins many a believer. The deeper one gets theologically, usually the deeper the self-righteousness.”
      A. Only God’s preordained philosopher kings can know theology.
      B. All knowledge gained by the average Spirit-filled believer is only presumed knowledge.
      a. Luther’s glory story, or the material realm.
      C. All knowledge is synonymous with pride.
      a. Luther’s glory story.


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