Doing The Hard Work Of Nothing

In “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” Tchividjian writes, “Jesus won for me, I was free to lose” and “Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail” (p.24). Throughout the book Tchividjian encourages us to remove our attention from what we do in sanctification. He writes, “I think too much about how I’m doing, if I’m growing, whether I’m doing it right or not” (p.174). He tells us such thinking is wrong and will only make us “neurotic and self-absorbed” (p.174). After all, in Christ, he tells us, “it’s all said and done” (p.174).


Contradiction alert

Here Tchividijan is writing a book telling people the right way to do it (growing in Christ) is by not worrying about whether one is doing it right. How is the prescription to do it right by not worrying about whether one is doing it right any different of a prescription then the one that teaches that doing it right is by worrying about doing it right? Tullian’s advice requires just as much work and is potentially just as promissory of failure. How does one know if one’s lack of worry is not enough lack of worry? Could we not begin to worry that we are not “not worrying” enough? Does Jesus’ not worrying about how His performance did or did not please the Father satisfy when we fail to preform well enough our not worrying work?

I know I regularly worry that I don’t not worry enough.

I fear Tchividijian is teaching me to be neurotic and self absorbed in all of his writing about the importance of my work of not worrying in sanctification.

The point is that Tullian is requiring me to do nothing and I am exhausting myself making sure that I do the good work of nothing in my sanctification.

If it really is all said and done then Tullian shouldn’t be writing books saying that we must not concentrate on the God pleasing work of “not doing.”

Further, if I’m free to fail and free to lose does that mean that if I win and succeed that somehow I have failed and lost because I didn’t fail and lose but if I was free to fail and lose and winning and succeeding is failing and losing then that means winning and succeeding is really something that I am free do to…. right? Or does this mean that God is only pleased with me when I fail and lose? And if God is only pleased with me when I fail and lose shouldn’t I try to please God by failing and losing all the time? But then I might worry that I am not losing and failing enough and God might be displeased with me… right?

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

3 thoughts on “Doing The Hard Work Of Nothing”

  1. Pastor M,

    Great post.

    I remember reading in John Frame’s book, Doctrine of the Christian Life, in which he said something to the effect of that Bahnsen was unfairly labeling those who eschew the usage of law language and/or not fully understanding the validity of God’s law today as being latent antinomians.

    I seem to recall that Dr. Frame felt that it was unfair for Bahnsen to label them as such. While on the surface, this seems like a very reasonable charge to hold against Bahnsen, I think that your post really strings out the logic behind this kind of avoidance of understanding (and/or usage) of the law of God for the NT Christian, and does vindicate and validate the (correct) accusation of those who avoid this kind of “extreme” ethic as being latent antinomians.

    From a confessional standpoint, the WCF clearly describes that the moral law is still binding today. This kind of talk that Tchividijan describes (along with sadly many reformed theologians today) is clearly not even confessional.

    It seems quite nice and very “biblical theological” to be solely focused on Christ. And yet, in these “BT” attempts to do so, it is missing the larger picture of how believing Christ will **necessarily** transform one’s ethics through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that our “alien” ethic flows from our justification. In this way, our salvation is both objective (justification) and subjective (sanctification).

    It is absolutely an absurd false dichotomy to say that we follow Jesus and not the law, yet this is what is being advocated today in some reformed circles.
    What did Jesus do? He fulfilled the law by obeying it. By logical extension, if we are to follow Jesus, and he obeyed the law, we therefore would necessarily **fiercely** obey the law as well, as fulfilled in Christ, NOT as a **basis** for our justification, but as a **result** of justification.

    Having been a member at various R2K churches in the past, I have noticed a rather poor Christian ethic (social, family and political) among the church members (me, included) in part because ethics was not being preached at all because of a common avoidance to preaching application (general and very specific) in the sermon.

    When we have Christian members pursuing (and/or being pursued by) non-Christian “love interests” (as I have seen in these churches), there is an obvious disconnect between our salvation and therefore our response to it. I even got rebuked by my PCA pastor for making it an issue that a man was willingly “dating” a non-Christian woman. To him, this was clearly not a reason that he should be barred from communion. (!!)

    It strikes me as odd that when advocates of this sort of “follow Jesus, not the law” mentality think emphasizing no ethical duty in our salvation is sufficient, this flies in the face of how Jesus subsequently describes various difficult ethical demands in verses after Matt 5:17.

    On the surface, while it seems to be more “Christian” to be following Jesus and not the law (for fear of being “legalistic”), I have come to realize that a lot of things that are somehow deemed legalistic, really are not legalistic. It was only through my realization and proper understanding of the law of God that I really began to grow in my Christian ethics.

    -Ensuring that a man does family worship with his family every night and expecting other men to do so is NOT legalistic.
    -Ensuring that a man on a business trip tries to make every effort to go to church in his area is NOT legalistic.
    -Avoiding movies whose intent is to parade sin around like it is normal is NOT legalistic.
    -Avoiding listening to Eminem and expecting others to not listen as well is NOT legalistic.
    -Not wanting my child to be taught under Christ hating presuppositions and wanting other Christians to think the same way with their children is NOT legalistic.
    -Preaching boldly and very specifically in one’s congregation and convicting people about the sin of birth control that causes abortions (e.g. birth control pills) is NOT legalistic.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Chris,

      On a trip I’m now on I was able to read Mark Jones book “Antinomianism.” I think you would profit by it.

      Only one correction to your note above and that is that sanctification is both objective AND subjective. Tullian’s problem is NOT that he has objectivity in his understanding of sanctification. His problem is that he has no subjectivity. He has collapsed and conflated sanctification into justification. The man is an antinomian. There can be no doubt. However, there would a danger in the other direction if we were to do what Tullian is doing in the other direction by suggesting that sanctification is all about subjectivity.

      Also, I would add that we have to understand that in our Union w/ Christ both justification and sanctification originate (Duplex Gratia) AND both of those are ours because our Lord Christ won them for His people on the Cross along with the gift of the Spirit who brings us into subjective Union. To eschew sanctification is a giant oxymoron in the Christian’s life.

      Anyway … if you can get your hands on a copy of Jones do so. It is a short book (130 pages) and I think it would help all people get some categories in their heads. I don’t give it a unqualified recommendation because I think some of the puritans could still be too subjective but it is well worth a read in these R2K New Calvinism times.

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