Monday, January 5, 2015

The Christian, Sanctification and the Growing Hyper Grace/Antinomianism Movement [UPDATED]

Posted by Christine Pack

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:1-7)
There is a growing movement within conservative Christianity which has come to be termed the "Hyper Grace" movement, and which has become enough of a concern for a number of high profile pastors to publicly name this movement and its leaders, and sound a warning. This includes GTY's John MacArthur who considered this movement sufficiently serious enough to warrant it being publicly named at the 2014 Shepherds Conference (Pastor Jerry Wragg did an outstanding teaching session on it).
"Churches are dividing over this...." (Pastor Jerry Wragg)
The two most prominent and well known leaders of the Hyper Grace movement are Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham and author of Jesus + Nothing = Everything) and Elyse Fitzpatrick (author of the parenting book Give Them Grace, and a counselor in the biblical counseling movement). Tchvidijian and Fitzpatrick, along with biblical counselor Paul David Tripp, are also the creators of the annual Liberate Conference.

Elyse Fitzpatrick has defended her views in her article dated June 7, 2014 and entitled "I Am Not Antinomian." Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough defended Tullian Tchividjian in his radio show dated May 22, 2014 ("Is Tullian Tchividjian An Antinomian?").


The controversy about Hyper Grace in a nutshell:
- Proponents of Hyper Grace seem to be confusing justification and sanctification as being one and the same thing. 
- Hyper Grace adherents tend to regard imperatives in scripture ("Law") as being mentioned only for the purpose of explaining to Christians what will (passively) occur to them throughout their Christian walks, while the non-Hyper Gracers believe that imperatives are mentioned in scripture for the purpose of exhorting believers to (actively) engage in their own sanctification, albeit always by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
- Hyper Grace adherents would consider those on the other side of the argument as being Legalists, and (wrongly) claim that those on the other side think that their works have something to do with God saving them (works righteousness). 
- And of course, those on the other side of the argument would have concerns that Hyper Grace adherents are Antinomian (literally, against or "anti" God's moral law) in their Christian walks, and would tend toward licentiousness.
It should be noted that some in the Hyper Grace movement were reacting (legitimately) to genuine legalism and works righteousness in evangelicalism that was leading to burnt out, exhausted Christians. But the concern is that they have over-corrected to the point that they dismiss a believer's genuine concern over personal sin by just telling them to look at the Cross, and not helping them to grow in personal holiness and putting off sin, to the point of tempting them to antinomian patterns of behavior.

In his article Antinomianism and the Hyper Grace Error, Bill Muehlenberg website addressed this issue by stating it this way:
One of a number of errors found in antinomianism is a failure to keep the various aspects of salvation in proper alignment. The long-standing and quite biblical threefold division of salvation is always important to appeal to here. Let me lay it out very simply and diagrammatically:


Below are some Christian pastors who have addressed this movement:

(1) Pastor Jerry Wragg (Grace Immanuel Bible Church - Jupiter, FL) spoke on the Hyper Grace movement at John MacArthur's 2014 Shepherd's Conference. (You can listen to that talk here: The New Antinomianism). A few excerpts from Pastor Wragg's Shepherd's Conference talk:
Pastor Jerry Wragg
"I have a lot of young people in our church, and I talk to them all the time and counsel many of them, and all of our staff counsel the up-and-comers who've been saved by grace. And they are immersed in and loving what the Bible says about justification by faith alone. They are as reformed, through and through, as they can be in the early part of their Christian life. But as we counsel them, it's interesting. They have a lot of patterns of failure as you would expect (in new believers), but there is a defeatedness and spiritual fatigue that is also there quite often. And look, they're singing the songs as passionately as anyone on Sunday morning. I've never seen so much passion....a lot of heat, a lot of passion. But it doesn't seem to change the spiritual patterns of growth and maturity in their lives quite often. And then this sort of depression sets in, and these doubts set in. And it's interesting, the [Hyper] Grace movement today sees the greatest problem in the church as driving people to conform to rules for fear of failing to accept or hold onto God's love. It's like the diagnosis today is, if you see people today in spiritual fatigue, it can't possibly be because they're just sinning and full of guilt and need to repent and live a life of confession. That can't be it. It's got to be because the rest of us are telling them about duty all the time. Tullian Tchividjian calls it 'the plague of performance-ism,' which is trying too hard, and they're just tired. Let me tell you, (if a Christian believes) that their salvation could be lost, (and they have been) taught.......that their salvation is not secure, and they don't understand justification, by all means, ground them in the security of the justification of God. Ground them there. But sometimes, it isn't that they are doubting at all their justification. Sometimes, listen, they are under the divine burden of guilt and failure that is on their conscience. If you tell them about free grace in that moment, you will tempt them to ignore the conscience."
"Beloved, there's a very real danger in merely telling exhausted, fearful Christians that Christ has done everything for them. You must help them trace their spiritual discouragement to the correct root. I mean, you know that, right? Cain was depressed, and what did God say to him? 'Hey man, if you sing a song about me, won't your countenance be lifted?' No. And I don't mean to be overly critical, I'm just saying, He said, 'If you do what is right.......'"
"We told an entire generation that evangelism means 'Go immerse yourself in the culture,' and they did. And now their life is riddled with all kinds of sensuality, carnality, and the dumbing down of God's standards. And they don't see sin rightly. They don't see the standard of God's holiness where they need to see it. And so they're living a sensual life, and they're burdened because they're hearing gospel truth from your pulpit. They're hearing the word of God from your pulpit, and they're burdened. And they come to you and they say, 'What's wrong? I sing songs to the cross, I pray, I contemplate grace (and I'm still burdened). What's wrong?' I'll tell you what's wrong, beloved, you haven't repented of those moment by moment times when temptation presents itself, and you believed God for your justification, but in that moment (of temptation), you won't believe him, and his promise, for your sanctification. You believe lies in the moment. And so it's dangerous to tell every sin-worn Christian that his or her disobedience is nothing more than a failure to bask in grace, a failure to be joyful that they're already accepted in Christ. That isn't the point.......So I would suggest that what this sensual, culture-immersed generation needs is not another excuse for their guilt and weakness, but a message of real power. Real power that God assures us in the very gospel of grace, and the power that comes by the means that God chose. The Bible never pits indicatives against imperatives. The grace that effected and secured my justification is the same grace that empowers me in the use of God's intended means, which are the word and prayer and service and praise, etc. And the key that unleashes the Spirit's power in sanctification is true faith. When you entrust yourself to God's word in the moment of temptation, that's what starves the flesh. That's mortification. Scripture teaches that Christ's victory over sin and death in the past is what assures us of the dynamic power over sin in the present." (my emphasis)
(2) Wayne de Villiers of Grace Community Church has also weighed in on the Hyper Grace movement with two excellent talks:
The Misleading Refrains of the Hyper Grace Movement - Part 1  
The Misleading Refrains of the Hyper Grace Movement - Part 2
Pastor Chris Anderson,
Killian Hill Baptist Church
(3) Pastor Chris Anderson of  Killian Hill Baptist Church addressed this movement with a sermon series entitled Taking Aim At Godliness, and which is linked below:
Taking Aim At Godliness 
Defining Godliness
Grace Teaches Godliness
Worship and Godliness - Part 1
Worship and Godliness - Part 2
Growing In Grace
Christ Centered Growth - Part 1
Christ Centered Growth - Part 2
Pastor Kevin DeYoung,
The Hole In Our Holiness
(4) Pastors Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian have engaged in a kind but vigorous public exchange on the topic of Sanctification and Hyper Grace. That exchange was helpfully compiled by Don K. Clements of The Aquila Report, and can be read here:
The Role of ‘Effort’ in Sanctification – a dialogue between Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian
DeYoung's wrap-up article is here:
 What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don't, In this Sanctification Debate
Kevin DeYoung is the pastor of University Reformed Church and author of one of my favorite books - Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. He is also the author of what several of my friends have informed me will be my new favorite book - The Hole in Our Holiness.

Pastor Carl Trueman
(5) Carl Trueman, pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, has published a number of articles at the Reformation 21 blog addressing the topic of Hyper Grace. They can be read below:
A Review of Tullian Tchividjian's Jesus+Nothing=Everything (Jared Oliphint)
Where the Sanctification Controversy Lies (Rick Phillips)
Imperatives Are For Preaching...... (Todd Pruitt)
Concerns about the "Efficacy" of Works (Rick Phillips)
A Few More Questions (Aimee Byrd)
Can Questions Be Slanderous? (Carl Trueman)
I Forgive You, But Please Don't Call It 'Giving Grace' (Megan Hill)
Law-Gospel Off the Rails (Rick Phillips)  
Thank God That Christians Are Not Totally Depraved (Rick Phillips)


6-21-15 - Prominent Hyper Grace proponent Tullian Tchividjian resigns as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian, citing an adulterous affair. 

6-21-15 - Tchividjian releases a statement about his adulterous affair and states that his wife had an affair before he did.

6-22-15 - Tullian's wife, Kim Tchividjian, releases a statement of her own: “The statement (given by Tullian Tchvidjian 6-21-15) reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own. Please respect the privacy of my family at this time, thank you. I do thank everyone for the outpouring of love for my family as well during this difficult time and we appreciate all the prayers and support we are receiving.”

8-11-15 - The PCA's South Florida Presbytery strips Tchividjian of his pastoral credentials and removes him from ministry.

8-24-15 - Tchividjian files for divorce from his wife of 20 years.

8-29-15 - Tchividjian's fellow Liberate conference speaker and friend Paul David Tripp issues a statement indicating that after two months of counsel, he was giving his blessing to Tchividjian's divorce from his wife Kim. Tripp briefly posts this article on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, but removes them after receiving comments from both Tchividjian's brother and sister (Boz Tchividjian and Jerushah Tchividjian Armfield, respectively) that strongly imply that what was being portrayed by Tripp and Tullian publicly was not necessarily an accurate representation of what was going on behind the scenes (screenshots below).

8-30-15 - Mark Jones of the Reformation 21 website writes an article questioning the wisdom of Paul David Tripp publicly weighing in on the Tchividjian divorce. 

9-1-15 - Tullian Tchividjian, formerly the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church before he was removed from the pastoral office and disciplined for committing adultery (in June 2015), is listed as the "Director of Ministry Development" at Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs, FL (screenshots below).

9-2-15 - Carl Trueman of Mortification of Spin weighs in: "Celebrity is not just about being well known.  It is also about developing informal and formal extra-ecclesiastical structures of authority (and thus of accountability, or lack thereof) which focus on specific personalities and subserve the needs of those personalities......At a more formal level, the language of accountability is transferred from church to specially selected individuals or parachurch organizations.  This is where it becomes really complicated.  If money changes hands, then an already problematic arrangement is potentially corrupted.   If no money changes hands but the parties have a mutual interest in brand protection and promotion, the same applies."

9-2-15 - Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin weighs in: "The South Florida Presbytery has also attempted to shepherd (Tchividjian) during this time. But those offers appear to have been rejected.........When a minister falls to adultery it is imperative that he be removed from his position of oversight. It is dangerous both for the church and for the fallen pastor’s own soul to remain in a position of spiritual oversight when he is unfit for such a responsibility. By stripping Tchividjian of his credentials and extending pastoral care to him and his family the South Florida Presbytery did the right thing; the Christian thing. I wonder if the church that has just hired Tchividjian understands the peril in which they have placed him." (Online source: "A Grievous Ruin")

9-3-15 - Rick Phillips, chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and senior pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., weighs in:  "Does pastoral godliness matter? This question is fairly raised, given both Tullian's writings (including tweets) since his admitted sexual infidelity and now the response to it by his supporters. For his part, Tullian has expressed an unwillingness to cease his public ministry, saying this would 'undermine the very message' he teaches (one can only but regrettably agree). This attitude has now been confirmed by Willow Creek Church (PCA) in Orlando, which just announced hiring Tchividjian to its ministry staff. This a mere two weeks after Tullian filed for divorce, three weeks after he was deposed from the ministry, and a little over two months after he resigned his pastorate over admitted moral unfitness. The apostle Paul's teaching that a pastor (and by extension, a celebrity preacher) must be faithful to his wife and above public reproach (1 Tim. 3:2) also does not seem to matter. Perhaps because Paul's teaching falls into the category of law it is deemed irrelevant to the celebration of grace.......One of the more horrific moments in this affair was Tullian's disgraceful exposing (even highlighting) of his wife's sin before the national media. Likewise, Paul Tripp's public article defending Tullian's divorce implied that the problem was her unwillingness to reconcile. One may wonder why a private counselor would even publish such information about his clients..... It certainly does not seem that the CGM emphasizes the duties of husbands to protect and love their wives, perhaps since teaching male obligation would under Tullian's doctrine amount to legalism. Sadly, we are reminded of what happens not only when sin is given license but when our 'glorious ruin' is celebrated: many vulnerable people, starting with women and children in the home, suffer from the tolerated sins of men. Of all the people who should express concern about attending CGM churches, prospective wives may be among the first."

3-16-16 - Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough publishes the article "A Statement Regarding Tullian Tchividjian and the New Allegations of Infidelity." In this article, Rosebrough states that: "I was accused of being inconsistent with how I treat my friend Tullian as opposed to how I critique Mark Driscoll. Comparing Driscoll to Tullian is like comparing grapefruits to bananas. Here's why: a) Driscoll fled from church discipline and claimed he heard God's voice telling him that the discipline plan put in place by the board at Mars Hill was a trap and now he is restoring himself to ministry, b) Tullian resigned and submitted to church discipline after his sin was brought to light and has since been under the watchful care of a PCA pastor and elders. The fact that Tullian has now been further disciplined by his pastor is undeniable proof that there is no comparison between Tullian and Driscoll and that I wasn't being inconsistent by not treating them the same." MY COMMENT: There have been conflicting public statements by 2 different pastors regarding how Tullian Tchividjian's discipline was handled:

(1) "(Tchividjian) submitted to church discipline," (as asserted by Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith radio), and

(2) "The South Florida Presbytery.....attempted to shepherd [Tchividjian] during this time. But those offers appear to have been rejected," (as stated by Presbyterian pastor Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin). 

Both of the above statements cannot be true. In my judgement (and I could certainly be wrong), Pastor Pruitt most likely has the greater understanding of what actually played out behind the scenes in terms of attempts to meaningfully apply discipline to Tchividjian, given that he (Pruitt) is a member of the Presbytery, as is Tchividjian. Rosebrough, as a Lutheran pastor, is under a different ecclesiastical polity structure. Either Tchividjian "submitted to church discipline" (as asserted by Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith radio) or "The South Florida Presbytery.....attempted to shepherd [Tchividjian] during this time. But those offers appear to have been rejected" (as stated by Presbyterian pastor Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin). Both of these statements cannot be true. In my judgement (and I could certainly be wrong), Pastor Pruitt most likely has the greater understanding of what actually played out behind the scenes in terms of attempts to meaningfully apply discipline to Tchividjian, given that he (Pruitt) is a member of the Presbytery, as is Tchividjian. Rosebrough, as a Lutheran pastor, is under a different ecclesiastical polity structure.

3-16-16 Tullian Tchividjian Fired by Church, Liberate Board Members Quit

3-18-16 - Tullian Tchividjian's Liberate Network Dissolves

3-21-16 - Tullian Tchividjian Confesses Second Affair Concealed by Two Coral Ridge Elders


No one has condemned Tullian Tchividjian, in the sense of pronouncing eternal judgement on his soul. The concern has been that whether Tchividjian's supporters acknowledges this or not, all of Tchividjian's rehabilitation, restoration, however his supporters want to frame it, has had the appearance of working toward the purpose of getting Tchividjian back into a teaching role as quickly as possible. His supporters can say otherwise, but when it is known that:

(1) Tchividjian appears to have rejected any kind of meaningful oversight through the Presbytery (at least according to Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin), and then it is known that

(2) Another Presbyterian church (Willow Creek Presbyterian) immediately took Tchividjian in, and hired him to be the church's "Director of Ministry Development," and also that

(3) The pastor (Kevin Labby) of the church that took him in has written in his bio what a positive influence Tchividjian's teachings have had on him, the pastor, personally.....

.......well, it all takes on a very bad appearance. And frankly, it raises more questions than it answers. It comes across, at least to me, that those who have benefited from their association with Tchividjian's celebrity status don't want to give that up. If so, then shame, shame, shame on them.

I know that there will be those who read this article as being unnecessarily harsh toward Tchividjian. Please understand that that is not my intent. Tullian Tchividjian is in great peril, and even though he has personally resisted accountability, that does not let his sycophant associates and proppers off the hook, the ones who have so vigorously attempted to defend the indefensible.

 Additional Resources 

Antinomianism and Elyse Fitzpatrick's Denial (Pastor Bob Schilling)

Antinomianism and the Hyper Grace Error (William Muehlenberg)

Anatomy of An Evangelical Scandal (Janet Mefferd)

The New Antinomianism (Jerry Wragg)