Tullian's therapeutic grace...

Saw this piece from Tullian Tchividjian applauded by another R2K advocate. In the article, Tullian sets out to rescue the world from the church. You see, the church has broken the spirit of wordlings and that's why people are abandoning churches and faith in God, altogether.

On the surface, he says some things that are true. In the end, however, the Gospel is, ironically, reduced to little more than a coping mechanism for an overarching sense of failure. This is Tullian's approach to the law: he does not preach it. He assumes... the world has heard enough of the law because the church's "performancism" is the law in action. If you feel like a failure (and who doesn't?), you've received the ministry of the Law and are ready for the Gospel. He draws on that sensation, that feeling, and applies the "healing" balm of telling his listener that God expects failure from us—that's why He sent Jesus to do it all for us. Tullian creates the atmosphere of "Law" minus repentance, and it's little more than a psychological ploy.

From Tullian, this is nothing new. As time has passed, it has become obvious that these things Tullian says are not occasions where he's just speaking carelessly. Nor is such cheap grace being applauded by R2K men an anomaly. Rather, with both Tullian and R2K, these errors are a defining characteristic. There is a "mood" to strains within R2K, and this mood reflects the darker mood of post (post)modernism, drawing on it as inspiration for a modified message.

The medium is the message and that message becomes sickeningly obvious in the set, props, and attire put on display.

* * *

[On October 25, 2013, this post was edited, removing the text "Gospel Coalition's Fab One" from the first and "want to be like Tully" from the second paragraphs.]


“The medium is the message and that message becomes sickeningly obvious in the set, props, and attire put on display."

After 28 minutes of flashing his v-necked underwear, he finally doffs his outerwear, so we can see how he looks as he strips off his clothing before bedtime. After that, I wondered if he was going to strip off that t-shirt and flash us his bare chest. It wouldn't have been out of character with other elements of his … what? … style? presentation?

As an Anglican priest who weekly presides at a classical 16th-Century liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, I am long used to hearing the charge that liturgy in worship is a constricting form, a pointless ritual, a meaningless script of meaningless gestures and meaningless actions and meaningless words, performed by those who haven't a clue as to their meaning.

In rebuttal, I'd point to this presentation (or anything else in any “contemporary” worship you've ever experienced). The liturgist Aidan Kavanaugh said it most pithily when he observed (my paraphrase from memory) – “Liturgy is how we learn things that cannot be taught.”

The point: those who participate in any group activity (that's what a liturgy is, you see), especially a liturgy so ostensibly passive as to sit through Tully's hour-long presentation, necessarily adopt (absent their deliberate, conscious resistance) mental/psychological postures, attitudes, and emotions that ~mold~ them, by which they ~learn~ at the most vicseral level possible, things which cannot be taught, either because to teach them conventionally is impossible, or to do so would be so patently offensive or outrageous that the learner would recoil in revulsion. What a man will reject with his mind he usually sucks in through his stomach without a thought.

There is no option between liturgy or no liturgy. The only option is what shall be conveyed by the liturgy in which one participates, that is, the overall group activity (even “passive” activities) that one experiences.

Caveat factor!

David Murray has some good interchange with Tullian a while back. Here is the tail end of it (I think):


Fr. Bill,

How dare you diss the "Perfect Boyfriend" White t-shirt!

That uniform being, of course, the perfect metaphor for therapeutic theology.

I just want to know what school you go to in order to learn the hand gestures. 


What is meant by therapeutic grace?

Unfortunately I think you have confused a conference with a church service. (please check out his videos from Coral Ridge to see that on Sunday mornings he preaches in a suit) I also think that you might be hearing a completely different audio track than what I'm hearing, because this blog post doesn't even remotely represent what Tullian preaches, what since he starts out explaining the law. (Both God's law and man's law, neither one of which we can fulfill, but we often try to substitute man's for God's when we realize the impossibility of fulfilling God's law, and this too is mention by Jesus to the teachers of the law, many times, so Tullian is not out of bounds at all.)

Also, he spends a lot of time talking about the law.  I'm mystified as to how you miss it, unless you're looking for law that you can fulfill.  He doesn't give you that.  Sorry to disappoint, but he's demonstrating how to starve a pharisee and you all are tipping your hand.  :-)

before you get to 15 minutes:
"I've seen a lot of lives RUINED by friends and parents and whatnot when people rush past God's first word (law) to get to God's final (second) word (gospel). Let me tell you something about the  Christian faith.  The Christian faith is not a one word faith it's a two word faith. It'sIt's not law OR gospel, it's law THEN gospel.  That's what it is and it's when we rush past God's first word to get to God's second word and the Law has not yet had a chance to do it's wrecking work the gospel is not given a chance to do its restorative work.  So I remind people of the father in Luke chapter 15.  The father did not fall down and wrap his arms around the son when he was leaving but as he was coming home."

It's a shame people have to blatantly and obviously misrepresent preachers to promote their moralistic agenda.  It's sad, and it only makes the blogger look foolish.

btw - I just checked and recently he has started wearing Tshirts on Sunday mornings (presumably because it's hot - I had heard a guest speaker or someone make a comment to that effect - that he had warned them about the heat up there).  Anyway, I do know that when I used to watch the videos as opposed to listen to just the audio, it was usually a suit.  Either way I don't have a big problem with it, though I'd prefer a little more dress up.  I'm not sure what chapter and verse the Bible prescribes exactly what a pastor is supposed to wear.  I do think I remember a verse where Jesus condemned the pharisees for widening their phylacteries however.

Tully is all promises on the law with no delivery. He talks about the law, tip toes around it, but doesn't actually preach it.

It doesn't matter whether he was preaching in a worship service or not. The entire set speaks volumes, especially when coupled with the odd lighting and black Fonzie jacket. The fact he's a Floridian wearing that in a hot and humid weather should be some indication that he's not dressing for the climate but for something else.

S**ks. :( That is, that this sort of cool-boy/mood therapy thing is found in a "Reformed" churches when I escaped this junk (barely alive) from the "evangelical" world. To me this sort of thing is a false lure that damns more people to a sort of spiritual poverty while they think they are rich, more authentic, "refreshed", etc. Funny too that after some years in misery I could use some therapy but would rather die in the streets than sit in such an environment again. With Fr. Bill speaking on Liturgy, btw, I have an anecdote: I spent many Sundays sitting in the mass due to a great aunt devout in her Roman Catholicism (Irish) wherein each service was begun by reading Genesis, using the traditional language taken-up by the Douay Rheims from Tyndale/KJV because Challoner was a translator rather than partisan, who recognized how good and fitting that version (and its offpsring) was. It was a performance, but not an evangsmellical drama meant to sucker-in (through emotions) attendees invited to church to give Jesus permission and to surrender their lives; it was booming declaration that God spoke, AAAAAND SOOO IIT WASSSS!!!!!! It imparted gravity and authority, though not quite as simple as our tastes tend to be regarding the handling of the word. Too bad that afterwards would follow lectures that would be as appropriate in a pleasure gathering with sufficient jocularity to keep everyone more entertained than taught: that the constituents to what now constitutes Romanist liturgy arose in days (hundreds of years ago) when priests were illiterate as to the words and substance of the word of God does not mean that their situation has improved, or that what is left thereof is any less powerful to teach in spite of those handling it.

What is meant by therapeutic grace?

Here's one example from Tullian:

"Indeed, I had to learn the hard way (the only way?) that the gospel alone can free us from our addiction to being liked - that Jesus measured up for us so that we wouldn't have to live under the enslaving pressure of measuring up for others - including ourselves. I finally understood what Paul meant in Romans 10:4 when he wrote that Christ is the 'end of the law'. Because of Jesus' finished work for me, I already had the justification, approval, acceptance, security, freedom, affection, cleansing, new beginning, righteousness, and rescue I longed for." Glorious Ruin, pgs 148-149

Apparently Jesus saw the weight of narcissistic ambition on our shoulders, and realizing that we could never fulfill it, He bore the brunt of that "law" so we can experience all those things we apparently had been longing for already.

>>Tullian is not out of bounds at all...

Dear Paula,

You're wrong. Tullian is far, far out of bounds, both in his doctrine and his appearance. If my son or (especially) daughter were to move to Coral Gables, I would encourage them not even to visit Coral Ridge where Tullian preaches. I would tell them that Tullian was spiritually dangerous and they should stay far away from him. If they asked me "why?" I'd say "Are you serious? Have I taught you nothing over the years? Do you have no discernment? Are you Tommy? Deaf, dumb, and blind?"

Then they'd look at me with a sheepish grin and say, "Just teasin you, Dad. Just teasin!" and I'd breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing my child had some minimal discernment and still feared God.

But if, instead of a smile and "just kidding," I got a pair of doe eyes and wonderment from my child, I'd sit down and watch the video with him and spend a forty-hour work week explaining everything that was wrong with Tullian's performance, starting with his hands. We'd spend ten hours on the hands, and then we'd move on to the props and set pieces, then to the clothes, then the hair, and after that ten hours on gestures and priops and appearance, we'd move on to rhetoric where we'd spend another ten hours, then twenty hours on doctrine and we'd not be done at the end of twenty hours.

My dear wife says "ten hours" with the hands is "over the top" and I'll lose people. So right, nine and a half hours on the hands. We're both laughing.

Then she wants to know why not start with doctrine because "that's the most important thing?" And it's because, in writing, you always start with the least important and move towards the most important.

Now my wife says I'm expecting too much of our readers and I have to explain the hands. She says, "you have to say, 'this man is selling himself; not teaching truth.'"

She's right: this man is selling himself, not teaching truth. Just like the Justin Bleeper and the Taylor Swift. Except that they are honest and identity themselves as entertainers.

Finally, my dear wife wonders if I'd have the courage to say this to the Tullian's face? And I answer, "uh, well; ummm; errr; what if he didn't like me after I'd said it? What if he never invited me to join the Holifill Disquisition? What if he punched me? If I said it to him, would you promise to buy me a bright white V-neck T-shirt and a leather bomber jacket and a plexiglass lectern?"

BTW, on the hands, watch men's hands; they tell you loads. The Bayly law is the more a pomo preacher uses his hands, the more he knows his message is a massage. (And yes, I know expressive hands can be an ethnic thing.)

My dear wife responds, "I just think you should write 'post-modern.' There's always new readers who don't know what 'pomo' means."

Now, dear reader, you know what "pomo" means.

Where would you be without my dear wife. I luv her!


Wow.  Must be nice to be such perfect people... outwardly.  Just like the rich, young ruler.  

Do you wear a brocaded jacket, knee length pantaloons, with ribbons and lace, plus a ruff collar to the grocery store and how does that go over in your town?  

What pettiness, criticizing a pastor for his clothing.  You sound like a hen party.

>>What pettiness

Dear Julie,

If you write again, please use your full name. House rules.


Dear Craig,

My dear wife is laughing and laughing. "Oh, that's hilarious."

You should put it on the main page as a separate post.


When I look at the "shadow puppet sermonettes" I can't help but see an upside down Luger...which would probably look better with the leather jacket.

By the way, is it worth pointing-out for those confused by your words that the gospel, and its theology, are indeed therapeutic and worthy (and capable) balms for every wound--as BB Warfield in The Power of God unto Salvation wrote; perhaps dying it into your pointing-out the necessity of the fear of the Lord, teaching of that law and, indeed, as the Scriptures say, that a loving father inflicts wounds, and that such wounds may be the father's own because of love for us? Maybe you've caught the attention of a few pomo culturettes and Tully-watchers, so it might be worth the trouble--I'm without a home of my own yet would even pay for it, as those who labor in the gospel...
Apologies, I put just "John" above, I think, contra house rules.

Ah junk: did it again with the name.

"BTW, on the hands, watch men's hands; they tell you loads. "

LOL!! When I'm in the pulpit, nine-five percent of my hand movements are really just my right hand, turning the page of my manuscript. Astute and observant parishioners know that this manuscript is never less than 27 pages, never more than 32, usually 29 or 30. 

I hope, of course, that they're not sitting there counting the pages as they turn, but rather listening to me instead.  Nevertheless, the turning of a page every sixty seconds or so, assures them that I'm not off on some interminable rabbit trail, that the entire service is still on track, that the roast in the oven will not be charred to cinders, and so forth.

Craig, my first thought on seeing that screen shot you've harvested was that he'd just finished brushing and rinsing his teeth before heading to bed, and he was looking into the mirror to admire his freshly cleansed toofies!  


I want to emphasize that clothes and hand gestures are serious efforts at communication on Tullian's part and should be taken as part and parcel of his theological errors. Serious efforts should be taken seriously.

So then, should they be deconstructed, with many words?

No, that would be to dignify them.

Joking about them is a better response, like the little boy pointing at the oh-so-serious emperor and hooting, "He has no clothes!"


This (the video) is clearly an EE presentation on steroids.

But it strikes me as a binitarian religion. No Holy Spirit. Therefore no repentance. Therefore no actual Christian life. 

Can anyone point me to a esteemed book on the exegesis and theology of hand gestures within sermon delivery?  I would like to learn more about this topic.

Paula, please read the post. Note that it is about an article. You can find the link at the very beginning. The video is simply visual evidence added to the words Tullian Tchividjian has written. What he wrote is clearly accurately described by the post.

It's disturbing that a congregation that sat under Dr. Kennedy's teaching for so long went for a Tchividjian.

Right at the point where he complains about the heat at 27:58 it seems he takes the Lord's name in vain (or at least the first syllable). No antinomianism demonstrated there.

"Paula, please read the post. Note that it is about an article. You can find the link at the very beginning. The video is simply visual evidence added to the words Tullian Tchividjian has written. What he wrote is clearly accurately described by the post"

Yeah, I read that article when it came out.  It is exactly what he's been saying for at least three years, and accurately reflects what he said in the LIBERATE 2013 video.  So... not sure what your point is.

"You're wrong. Tullian is far, far out of bounds, both in his doctrine and his appearance. If my son or (especially) daughter were to move to Coral Gables, I would encourage them not even to visit Coral Ridge where Tullian preaches. I would tell them that Tullian was spiritually dangerous and they should stay far away from him. If they asked me "why?" I'd say "Are you serious? Have I taught you nothing over the years? Do you have no discernment? Are you Tommy? Deaf, dumb, and blind?""

Wow, now THAT is what I call a convincing rational argument!  You win a free copy of the Fallacy Detective!


Tchividjian is a man who teaches God's flock that fruitless faith is true faith, acceptable to God. Why don't we bring the argument there. Are you willing to argue that fruitless faith is acceptable to God, or if it isn't, that Tchividjian preaches that faith without works is dead?


One might wonder why an assertion on your part (one that is also wrong) requires a counter argument. Only an argument can be fallacious, and what you received was an assertion in the form of a rebuke/warning...which is infinitely more valuable to a woman raising her voice.

A comment pertinent to this discussion...


I think the key to understanding Tullian's theology and teaching comes down to how one understands the doctrine of original sin and concupiscence.  The reason being, a person's understanding of original sin has a great deal to do with how one shapes the formulation or delivers the doctrine of justification.  Along with this comes our understanding of repentance, conversion, sanctification, etc... 

So, how does everyone understand original sin and especially concupiscence?  I believe I have a fairly good understanding of Rev. Tullian's approach on this, but I would appreciate hearing from the rest of you... especially those who are critical of Rev. Tullian.

Dear Brothers,

For those still watching this discussion, I went to Pastor Richards' blog and read some of the things he commends. First, note he is LCMS. This is key in understanding his support for Tullian. Again and again, we must understand the distinction between Reformed and Lutheran theology. Never the twain shall meet here this side of Heaven. They are incompatible on many points, not the least of which are Scripture's teaching concerning the Sacraments. When Michael Horton and the Escondido men (as well as many Federal Vision men) teach and write, always ask yourself whether you're getting Lutheran or Reformed theology? In many cases, it's not Reformed at all, but Lutheran.

For instance, keeping in mind my recent critique of the Escondido teachers drone of justification-by-gace-alone-through-faith-alone supplanting or displacing or eviscerating sanctification, here's the first couple of sentences of a piece Pastor Matt Richards promotes on his blog concerning what he himself (the piece is written by someone else) believes concerning the doctrine of sanctification:

SANCTIFICATION, IF IT IS TO BE SPOKEN OF AS SOMETHING other than justification is perhaps best defined as the art of getting used to the unconditional justification wrought by the grace of God for Jesus‟  sake. It is what happens when we are grasped by the fact that God alone justifies. It is being made holy, and as such, it is not our work. It is the work of the Spirit who is called Holy. The fact that it is not our work puts the old Adam/Eve (our old self) to death and calls forth a new being in Christ. It is being saved from the sickness unto death and being called to new life.

In German there is a nice play on words which is hard to reproduce in English. Salvation is “Das Heilâ” which gives the sense both of being healed and of being saved. Sanctification is “Die Heiligungâ” which would perhaps best be translated as “being salvationed.” Sanctification is “being salvationed,” the new life arising from the catastrophe suffered by the old upon hearing that God alone saves. It is the pure flower that blossoms in the desert, watered by the unconditional grace of God. Sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification.

Note carefully that "if" and the "perhaps" in the first sentence; they're the whole ballgame.

This stuff is not Reformed theology at all. It's modern conservativish Lutheranism. It's the sort of thing men raised Lutheran and now claiming to be Reformed like to promote.

I don't have time to debate this here. Maybe someone else will take up the cudgel and show how contrary to Scripture such stuff is, and why Escondido men never stop promoting it?

But I did think it would be helpful for all those following this thread to know where Pastor Richards is coming from in his defense of Tullian.


Sorry Pastor Richard,

No. You haven't done what you said you would do. Demonstrate your willingness to use discernment concerning what Tully wrote in the linked article. The post has already made the argument that what Tully wrote is bad. If you disagree, make a case for why it is good.

In the meantime, I will add to what Craig wrote above my own evaluation of what Tully wrote.

Tully has attempted to make sanctification the enemy of the free gift of the gospel by wrongly equating performancism with an attempt to obey God's law. In point of fact, performancism is one of two things:

  1. fearing man rather than God, in which case it needs to be rebuked as sin. 
  2. seeking after the lusts of the flesh, in which case it needs to be rebuked as sin.

Neither one of those things is remotely like what he claims, which is that performancism is the godly sorrow that leads to life when the law is brought to bear on us.

Tully agrees with Rachel Held Evans that the church needs to change the substance of its message, and then he says, "Grace and rest and absolution–with no new strings or anxieties attached–now that would be a change in substance."

I agree. That would be a change in substance--the substance of the gospel. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23).

The pic of Tullian's hand puppets has been removed, leaving several comments above lacking the content to which they referred. Our apologies.


I finally watched the video. I think you misunderstand Tullian entirely. You see, there are many deaf people in the congregation there, and he is not only communicating in verbal English, but also level 2 American Sign Language. 

Instead of hiring an interpreter for the deaf, Tullian does that work, and they send the money they would have spent to support counseling ministries among the French.

Undoubtedly. Stupid me. Love,

Sorry, man, but I've read Tullian's blog posts and his book Jesus + nothing=everything, and I've never once heard him promote any sort of hedonistic Antinomian stance or tell Christians to completely disregard the law in every way shape or form.  

May I propose something?  I said this before somewhere else, but I would suggest that perhaps Tullian may sound too Antinomian because the Reformed church might have some teaching that sounds too Arminian/legalistic?  Because I can just as easily point out statements by people like David Platt, Francis Chan,  and others who come dangerously close to works-righteousness in their theology.

Let me quote Martin Lloyd-Jones on this: 

“If your preaching of the gospel of God's free grace in Jesus Christ does not provoke the charge from some of antinomianism, you're not preaching the gospel of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.”

Jimmy Dean,
It is difficult to determine if you're responding to a particular commenter or to the post's content. The issues you raise in the way in which you state them are absent in the content of the post and the content from commenters.


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