Timothy Kauffman's Recent Critique of Brown, Tchividjian & Keller

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by The Sola System, Mar 14, 2012.

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  1. The Sola System

    The Sola System Puritan Board Freshman

    Today I received the latest issue of the Trinity Review in my parsonage mailbox, featuring the first half of an article by Timothy Kauffman (PCA), entitled: "Sanctification, Half Full: The Myopic Hermeneutic of the Grace Movement." The author focuses chiefly on the views of PCA Pastors Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian, and Tim Keller. After reading the rest of the article online, I felt compelled to post it with a hearty recommendation.

    I am shocked that anyone would confuse the teachings of the so-called "Grace Movement" with the authentic Reformed faith, but I guess there are always new generations of naive Calvinists who are vulnerable to this stuff. Very sad!

    Here is the link to the article: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=282

    [PLEASE NOTE: The word "teachings" in paragraph 2 was substituted for the original phrase "overt antinomianism" at the request of an offended brother. I'm happy to comply!]
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  2. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    That would be an interesting read.
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Is the article copywrited?
  4. The Sola System

    The Sola System Puritan Board Freshman

    Sorry, I forgot to include the link to the article on the original post. It's there now.
  5. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, but The Trinity Foundation gives this permission (found at bottom of web page):

  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I just read the first part on the charge of conflating justification with santification by Pastor Brown. Having sat under Pastor Brown's pastor for the past few years and hearing Pastor Brown preach I can see a huge problem that they are attempting to battle. This battle is how Christians are trying to be good not for The Lord's sake but with some kind of idea that God will love us more if we try to be good. Now the idea that God loves His children more BECAUSE they try hard to be good is predicating something on God (His love) that is dependent on the creature.

    We all have to remember that the faith that justifies is also the faith that santifies.
  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    To understand the "Grace Movement," you need to understand that these guys see a difference between self effort in sanctification and a relying-on-God, faith-based effort. They condemn self effort as legalism, and instead urge a faith-based effort.

    Kauffman sounds bothered by the Grace Movement's critique of self effort, supposing that it is against all effort. Indeed, the Grace Movement may come off sounding like that sometimes, and ought to be more clear at points. But these guys aren't against all effort. They believe we cooperate in our sanctification. They just want to see it be more of a Spirit-dependent effort and one that draws more on appreciating our justification.

    There's nothing wrong with that. I believe it is, in fact, very helpful to many believers. I wish Kauffman could acknowledge this, though I think he's right when he says the movement struggles to communicate these ideas without doctrinal confusion and in a way that doesn't suggest your sin might not be so bad for you.

    To call Grace Movement guys "antinomian," though, is both unfair and itself confusing. None of them believes it's okay to sin, or that obedience doesn't matter. In fact, some of the most compelling teaching on obedience I've been exposed to, urging me to work very hard on it (in a relying-on-God way), has come from guys who're associated with the Grace Movement.
  8. forgivenmuch

    forgivenmuch Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you. The label is absolutely absurd.
  9. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

  10. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    So is this more a question of presentation than of content?
  11. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I think so. I'm by no means letting Brown, Keller, and Tchividjian off the hook, because they have a responsibility to be careful with their speech, but I also don't think that any of those men fall into the category of antinomians, which by the way, I don't remember reading Kauffman make that accusation in the article (I read it pretty quickly), but it is a charge the OP leveled against them.
  12. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    You're right. Kauffman didn't make that charge in the article. And the article did have some worthwhile critique.
  13. yoyoceramic

    yoyoceramic Puritan Board Freshman

    I admit that I only skimmed the article, but does Ken propose a hermeneutical remedy or recommendation for the preachers in question?
  14. The Sola System

    The Sola System Puritan Board Freshman

    My apologies to anyone who is offended by application of the term antinomianism to the "Grace Movement". I am using this term according to its original meaning in the "antinomian controversy" of the 17th Century. I would encourage anyone who (A) has read Kauffman's article in full, and (B) has also read Ernest Kevan's "The Grace of Law" (a detailed discussion of the 17th Century antinomian controversy) to please point out where I have erred. Historically the term "antinomianism" refers to any concept of justification which tends to marginalize or downplay the believer's duty to zealously strive after holiness (and against all sin). Unless Mr. Kauffman is misquoting these men, it seems clear that this is precisely what they are doing.

    At the same time, I realize that most people in the Church today (perhaps many in this forum) have only heard the term "antinomianism" applied to the even more radical idea that the Ten Commandments have become obsolete (or that "sin is okay" and "obedience doesn't matter"). In hindsight, I should have been sensitive to this fact and clarified that I do not believe that the men in question are guilty of that kind of antinomianism. Of course, being that this forum is entitled, "The Puritan Board", I would encourage you all to consult Thomas Watson's "Heaven Taken By Storm", which sets forth an entirely different view of sanctification than the one advocated by the "Grace Movement".

    As Watson said, "Our salvation cost Christ's blood; it will cost us sweat."
  15. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the context of this quote, but I don't believe it to be one that I'd agree with. How does our salvation cost us sweat? What can I possibly contribute to my salvation other than my sin?
  16. The Sola System

    The Sola System Puritan Board Freshman

    With all due respect (and I am seriously NOT trying to sound demeaning in ANY way) I wonder how many members of The Puritan Board are comfortably familiar with the concepts and phrases used by the Puritans to describe the Christian life. In this case (as throughout his book), Watson is speaking of salvation in the broadest possible sense, so as to include progressive sanctification, the believer's "running the race" to Heaven, and his "fighting the good fight" against the world, the flesh, and the devil (etc etc). The Puritans had no problem characterizing the Christian life as one of strenuous spiritual exertion, requiring us to "take up our cross", by God's grace "work out our salvation with fear and trembling", etc. Of course, the 17th Century antinomians had a fit over such language (though the Apostle Paul seemed quite pleased to employ it repeatedly).

    I Corinthians 9:24-27
    24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
    25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
    26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
    27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
  17. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Agree completely, so long as it does not fall into the Wesleyan/Pelagian trap of works-righteousness (and believe me, it is EASIER to go down that road than one may think, even in an evangelical church).

    In light of the fact that the church is encountering Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul, neo-monasticism (see David Platt and Francis Chan who come across as advocating that all Christians are to be giving every spare cent they have to ministry), and other movements/ideas that at the very least give an impression of contribution to salvation via works, I can't really blame these guys for going this route. Yes, they may seem to stretch grace further than they ought, but didn't Martin-Lloyd Jones once say something to the effect of "if you're not being accused of being an antinomian in your preaching then you're not really preaching the gospel?"
  18. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor


    Yes, I'm familiar with with several meanings of "antinomianism." This is exactly why I suggest taking care with the term, especially when using it in a criticizing fashion. You run the risk of (1) being misunderstood and (2) unfairly injuring a Christian brother by causing others to think things about that brother which are untrue. Just the possibility of #2 would be enough to get me to use more precise words. Making accusations about fellow believers (even those who operate very public ministries) calls for extra care and precision, does it not? Or is defending your preferred use of a term more important than safeguarding your brother's name?

    More to the point, though... You and I will disagree if you think telling believers to sweat more is usually the most helpful way to encourage stronger obedience. To take a more appreciative-of-grace approach does NOT necessarily mean you're downplaying the believer's duty to zealously strive after holiness. And a love for and reliance on the grace of God is not by itself antinomian in any century's sense.
  19. The Sola System

    The Sola System Puritan Board Freshman

    Jack: I will edit my original post to satisfy your request. I still believe that the "grace movement" (as described by Kauffman) is demonstrably akin to 17th Century "antinomianism" (in a very precise sense). At the same time, it would be hypocritical for me to oppose antinomianism without being willing to mortify my pride and "go the extra mile" to maintain peace with a brother like yourself. Thanks for the reminder.

    Dean: Agreed. Justification is free enough to almost sound antinomian and sanctification is strenuous enough to almost sound legalistic. Rest in Christ is all the more meaningful when you're running the race of faith.
  20. SolaGratia

    SolaGratia Puritan Board Junior

    This is not the first time we talk about antinomianism and about Reformed folks who should know better but yet sadly teach antinomianism:


    http://www.puritanboard.com/f48/law-gospel-65775/#post844768Samuel Rutherford (Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, preface)

    As Rev. Matthew Winzer pointed out quoting Samuel Rutherford:

    "If Antinomians offend, or such as are, out of ignorance, seduced, hate me for heightening Christ, not in a gospel-licence, as they do; but in a strict and accurate walking, in commanding of which, both law and gospel do friendly agree, and never did, and never could jar, or contest; I threaten them, in this I write, with the revenge of good will, to have them saved, in a weak aim, and a far off (at least) desire, to offer to their view such a gospel idea and representation of Christ, as the prophets and apostles have shown in the word of his kingdom, who opens the secrets of the Father to the sons of men." - Westminster Divine Samuel Rutherford

    "May God give grace and courage to show this gospel revenge upon Antinomian severers of law and gospel!" - Rev. Matthew Winzer
  21. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    With all due respect, I think the problem is that there has been 400 years of protestant debates since that time so sometimes word choices that were very clear when they were written are read through the lens of today's debates and therefore misunderstood. I personally have found your comments on this topic to be very appropriate and agree with you in case you would think otherwise.
  22. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    One thing to note is that the term antinomian has always been a big accusation. If one would have asked Rutherford et al, to tone down the language because the people who believed and taught such could have their reputations injured, it seems that he would have responded with something along the lines of: "That is the point".

    It really seems that your position and reasoning only makes sense if you believe that term antinomianism as used by Rutherford et. al is not a great error. If the original term referred to a great error while the contemporary term refers to an even greater error, then it seems that your argument against using the term today goes along the if the term thief was used to refer to those who only robbed one bank, while today it refers to those who rob at least five banks. Robbing five banks is a greater wrong. However, I don't see anyone gaining any traction in being offended that a person who only robbed one bank is being linked with those who have robbed five.

  23. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yeah, I don't think Tullian, Keller, and friends are making a "great error" by reminding us of the value for sanctification that's to be had in more fully appreciating the grace we've been given. There are plenty of great errors floating around these days and this, if it is an error at all, falls short of such greatness. You can debate its relative helpfulness compared to the "tell 'em to sweat" approach, but merely working to more fully appreciate God's grace is a good thing to do and, in itself, surely not a great error.
  24. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    In my opinion, the writer of the article is inexperienced in his use of Luther. His attempted use of Luther to support the reformed view of Justification/Sanctification is mind-boggling to me, and probably anyone who has read much of Lutheran theology. Luther is nearly on a different planet when it comes to that topic. Take this example:

    When Luther says, "Wherefore, if the question be concerning the matter of faith or conscience, let us utterly exclude the law, and leave it on earth; but, if we have to do with works, then let us lighten the lantern of works and of the righteousness of the law. So let the sun and the inestimable light of the Gospel and grace shine in the day, and the lantern of the law in the night…. This place, touching the difference between law and Gospel, is very necessary to be known, for it containeth the sum of all Christian doctrine. Wherefore let all that love and fear God, diligently learn to discern the one from the other…. Wherefore, when thy conscience is terrified with sin…[l]et the law now depart, and let the Gospel come…ut…when external duties must be done, there is no time to hearken to the Gospel; then thou must follow thy vocation, and the works thereof.[48]",

    the author goes on to say this:

    "Note that Luther explicitly denies what Keller had him affirming. Keller had Luther affirming the need for more Gospel in this verse, but we find instead that Luther called for better instruction in both Law and Gospel for sanctification. Indeed we share Luther’s concern that some preachers, in their unbalanced hermeneutic, “do not explain the law and the promises of God to such an end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn whence repentance and grace are to come”:

    Luther is not even talking about Sanctification, for he hardly ever did, nor is he being an advocate for the Reformed view of good works. Luther is speaking of doing good works in the Kingdom below for fellow man, and is saying that the Kingdom below has nothing at all to do with the Kingdom above, where the Gospel is. It's the Two-Kingdom idea that Luther is here teaching. Anyone familiar with Luther recognizes this topic as central to his theology involving faith and good works. Faith connects to Christ. Good works are good because they are useful to others, and involve your vocation, such as being a carpenter, a farmer, or a housewife. The gospel has nothing to do with these good works, he would say. Luther used to also say, "God doesn't need your good works, but your neighbor does." Again, it's the two-kingdom idea.

    Another example: When Luther says this,

    "For not one word of God only, but both, should be preached; new and old things should be brought out of the treasury, as well the voice of the law as the word of grace. The voice of the law should be brought forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to penitence and to a better manner of life. But we must not stop here; that would be to wound only and not to bind up, to strike and not to heal, to kill and not to make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring back, to humble and not to exalt. Therefore the word of grace and of the promised remission of sin must also be preached, in order to teach and set up faith, since without that word contrition, penitence, and all other duties, are performed and taught in vain. There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance and grace, but they do not explain the law and the promises of God to such an end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn whence repentance and grace are to come. For repentance comes from the law of God, but faith or grace from the promises of God, as it is said, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. x. 17).[49]"

    The author goes on to say:

    "To Luther, that “word of God” that sanctifies us must include both Law and Gospel—not Gospel only, and not “grace, grace, grace” only. Thus does Keller join Brown and Tchividjian in extracting a quote from its original context, pressing it into service for a new view on sanctification in a manner that the author explicitly rejected, and missing the original intent in the process."

    Again, Luther is not even talking about Sanctification, for he hardly ever did. He is speaking against the teachings of his wayward student, John Agricola, and his followers, who said that only the gospel needed to be taught to unbelievers and no Law. It was unnecessary, Mr. Agricola said, to preach the Law at all to convert people. In response to this, Luther penned his work "Against the Antinomians", in which he rebutted this view and proclaimed that the Law was necessary to be preached prior to the Gospel. The law allowed us to see our sin more clearly and leads us to agree that it is wrong and brings the wrath of God down upon us. This terrifying of the conscience it produces is penance to Lutherans, and is relieved by the preaching of the good news of the Gospel. See the classical Lutheran Systematic Theology in 4 Volumes by Francis Pieper found here Amazon.com: Christian Dogmatics (4 volumes set) (9780570067153): Francis Pieper: Books Also note that Agricola is properly termed Antinomian, as he saw no place for the law at all for the Christian.

    Regardless of whether the grace emphasizers or the sanctification emphasizers are right or wrong, it disturbs me when either party writes so emphatically about things they don't take the time to wade through on their own. If they haven't buried their minds in Luther's writings and those who write Lutheran systematics, at least some humilty could be added to say, "It seems to me that Luther could be saying something different that what the Grace Emphasizers are saying." It's not even like me to post with the sort of emphasis I am now, but, if I weren't extremely sure of it from my readings, I wouldn't. For anyone who differs from my take on Luther, feel welcome to search Luther's writings for yourself, as well as Mr. Pieper's Systematic. Luther's work "Against the Antinomians" can be found here: http://www.gracelutheranchurchglendora.org/Martin Luther/Vol 47 Antinomians.pdf I am willing to stand corrected with my use of these works if I am in error. But surely, most every Reformed reader should know that Luther is not the one you turn to for support of your Gospel/Good Works, Justification/Sanctification paradigm. If anything, he does support the Gospel Emphasizers more, as he separates Justification and Sanctification way farther than the reformed do, and is near entirely justification driven.

    Overall, their approach to correcting those they differed with ends up making me somewhat suspicious of much else they have to say on the matter.

    Sorry for the bluntness of my post, Mr. Kuehner. I mean no negativity or sharpness towards you. I sincerely welcome you to the PuritanBoard with genuine kindness and fellowship. I'm sure I can learn at your feet in many things, as you are soon to be a minister. Blessings and prayers for you towards that end.
  25. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    I have never ready anything useful from the Trinity Foundation. I don't trust them.
  26. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Whatever sweat we produce will have no bearing on our salvation. As James explained in his epistle, works are the natural effect of salvation, not the cause.
  27. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'm not a fan of either Keller or Tchividjian for other reasons, but add me to the list that the accusations here against these men is not fairly based.
  28. Beoga

    Beoga Puritan Board Freshman

    So does sweat have no bearing in our sanctification?

    When did salvation come to mean, and only mean, a past event (regeneration or justification) and no longer includes sanctification or glorification?
  29. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I think there is warrant for both a narrow use of the word, and a broad use of the word. The narrow use would be something like the Philippian jailor, who asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, both you and your household." No mention is made of sanctification and effort. Yet, there is also a more overarching, summary use of the word as well, which encompasses the entire work of God in restoring man from his sin. A qualifier should always be used to make clear which we are talking about. Doing such would lessen much wrangling about words.

    Sorry to intrude if your question was only meant for Bill.

  30. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    So you view sanctification and glorifcation as synergistic?
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