I was having a conversation recently that discussed the needs of the Church. We began discussing unity and if the North American Church was more or less fractured now than ever before.
We cited recent events like what’s going on with the Tullian Tchividjian, Tim Keller and The Gospel Coalition and the comment sections of the blog post 6 Heretics Who Should Be Banned From Evangelicalism – original and Relevant’s posting. (Note: I appreciated the post, comments – ugh. Though it goes against my hope for conversation and community, comment sections on mainstream blogs are painful and often void of conversation and community).
Which got me thinking, if Tim Keller and Tullian Tchividjian can’t get along, are we in trouble? If the best thing to do concerning comment sections on Christian blogs is to NOT read them, then what does that say?
First the Keller-Tchividjian-Gospel Coalition Fallout. From what I can tell, both are high integrity, laser focused people with no time for distraction. Yet, our Twitter feeds are filled up with what transpired with Tullian kicked out of the Gospel Coalition. TGC is offering a clarification that’s it’s due to a theological difference and Tullian has called that a “flat out lie.” As an outsider who does not follow Tchividjian that closely (he’s too intense for me at times) and as one who is not a faithful reader of TGC, I’d like to hear about another time when a blog kicked someone out over the doctrine of sanctification – Come on TGC. I appreciate that it’s complicated, I chuckle that it has much to do with sanctification.
I’m sure they tried to fix all of this in-house first. I’m sure they would catch up at conferences, phone calls, hallway conversations, discuss matters over dinner and late-night tea. They probably would have gotten things taken care of over good beer (like good reformers do) but its all out here now and it really shouldn’t be.
Now Tullian is saying that he’s been increasingly frustrated with the “tone” of the TGC and the poor handling of the the Sovereign Grace Child Abuse Scandal. At this point it’s difficult to see what really happened in this scandal but time will likely tell. But given criminal lawsuits, a spiritually sophisticated statement of support from TGC for Mahaney and Harris, then a criminal conviction of the abuser, Nathaniel Morales, Mahaney and Harris step-down from TGC, and now Tullian gets dismissed, again, I’m just an onlooker but from this limited angle, it looks like they kicked out the wrong guy at the wrong time.
I mentioned that to someone who took exception with the term “kicked out.” Umm, yeah, what i don’t mean that Tim Keller and D.A. Carson flew down to Coral Ridge, Florida, erected a symbolic Gospel Coalition headquarters symbolized by a tent with the TGC logo, drug Tullian into it and proceeded to literally kick him until he was no longer under the canvas covering.
I mean they sent him a polite, overly spiritualized email that said something like, “Though our Savior and the mission of the Gospel unite us, our methodologies differ to the point that perhaps it’s to God’s glory that we part ways on this project – In His Grip, Tim and Don”. So if Tullian couldn’t say “No, I’d really like to stay under your tent and work this out” then it’s fair to say they kicked him out.
I don’t know the details, and I have a great respect for Tim Keller but this just feels so wrong. And as mentioned, I/we shouldn’t really know any of this – it’s really none of my business.
Or is it my business?
I’ve walked around this week wondering about this. I may not serve/worship at Redeemer or Coral Ridge and rarely read the Gospel Coalition blog. But I’m a brother in Christ, I serve the same Kingdom, the same Body, we’re all connected. How much of this is metaphorical, how much of this is spiritually true?
Keller asked us to pray and I will do so but here’s what I am praying for and it’s for the sake of Christian unity:
First the Sovereign Grace Child Abuse Scandal. Where to begin, that’s appropriate in this space? Let’s pray that all the truth comes out. So that when there is reconciliation and unity that it means something.
Soon it will be time for The Gospel Coalition to call out the incredible mishandling of this scandal by their friends Mahaney and Harris. Now TGC has nothing to do with the scandal but it’s foolish to not see how their patient endorsement of their friends has protected them. I’m not in any way suggesting that they destroy their friends, rather I’m insisting they act like friends, Christian friends. They can say what is needed to be said with love and dignity. God help all of them if the leaders of Sovereign Grace were involved in any type of cover-up or concealing of information. Since the Morales conviction, C.J. Mahaney has finally released a statement. It’s overdue and it’s helpful. Hopefully this is the first of many.
I’m doing my best to take it easy here as I am only an observer but in good conscience, I have to say that they have to stop treating this as an “in-house” matter, this is a public scandal where children and families were profoundly hurt. They may not be a media-outlet like Christianity Today but they are a network, they are a hub, and they represent a lot of things. May they move forward more as Christians than friends.
Second, when the dust settles, the Gospel Coalition should reconcile with Tullian. That would be Christian. They are not a denomination and the whole point is to be centered on the gospel so they really should have him (and many others) in their fold.
Third, I’m praying for Ben Peays, the executive director of TGC. He’s probably the guy that’s going to best mediate this whole mess. About ten years ago, our paths crossed for a season (we even went to a Bob Dylan concert together so you know he’s cool). In all seriousness, he’s a smart guy, highly relational and he’s of sound character. He probably feels caught in the middle of all this but he’s probably a trusted voice of reason.
Lastly and what started this whole thing is that I really am praying for Christian unity here and everywhere. The above feels like a microcosm of all the crap that gets in the way of our preservation/strengthening of unity. This stuff is happening on all sorts of levels throughout the Global Church and it’s unnecessary. There is so much goodness, power, love, peace and joy that God is capable of bringing through us. The Christian gospel moves us to be better than this and our unity is going to prove to be crucial. May God be at work and may we let Him be at work.