William Lane Craig – Introduction (1)

According to nominalism, “being” – that which is common or universal in any given category – is no more than a “name,” a concept or term. Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity in this philosophy leads to tritheism. Excessive realism, on the other hand, associates the word “essence” with some subsistent thing that stands behind or above the person and so leads to tetratheism or Seballianism. – Herman Bavinck (God and Creation 2004, 299)

Recently, I have noticed a flare-up of interest in philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig among young Reformed Christians in various circles I run in. I have been investigating Dr. Craig’s apologetics and theology on and off for close to seven years now. Because of what I have identified as serious errors in Dr. Craig’s positions on the Trinity and the Incarnation, I think that this is a dangerous development among young Christian thinkers.

I’m not opposed to appropriating good aspects of someone’s thoughts while leaving behind the problems. However, we are not talking about auxiliary doctrines or matters of indifference. Instead, we are talking about core and foundational doctrines which impact every other area of doctrine. It is not the case that our Trinitarian theology is separate from our apologetic. It is not the case that our doctrine of Scripture does not affect our soteriology.

Dr. Craig is a high level, technical, and academic philosopher. It would be presumptuous of me, despite some philosophical training, to assume I understand all the nuances of his writing. However, it is reasonable to think that we should be able to read what a man has written and assess his theology on that basis. As such, I am starting on a project to describe and critique Dr. Craig’s positions regarding the Trinity and the Incarnation. My goal is to publish weekly, but because of the gravity of what I believe the conclusions are I want to ensure that I am taking the appropriate time to properly understand what is being said, and properly critique and respond to it.

If this were an academic paper, it would be ideal to assess and critique based on academic resources. However, this is a series of blog posts, and my concern is not so much with those who are interacting with Dr. Craig academically. Rather, I am concerned with those who are interacting with Dr. Craig popularly. As such I am restricting most of my inquiry to popular resources. While there are a variety of resources that fit into this category, I will be focusing on the ones which are most commonly used, and through which Craig most prolifically spreads his theology. Those resources are:

  1. Defenders – This is a podcast which is the audio recordings of a Sunday school theology class that Dr. Craig teaches at his home church. I do not know if this is an ongoing class, or if they republish the lectures on an ongoing basis (or a mixture of the two).
  2. Reasonable Faith Podcast – Dr. Craig has a brief podcast where he discusses various topics with his cohost Kevin Harris. This usually involves discussions of apologetic topics, but he does occasionally speak about his Trinitarian and Incarnation theology.
  3. Reasonable Faith Website – Dr. Craig responds to questions and writes articles. This is Dr. Craig’s internet footprint and serves as a stable and extensive representation of his popular presentations.
  4. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview – This book, authored with JP Moreland, serves as the systematic presentation which will be my primary object of critique. The other resources will be used to fill in gaps or to help offer an explanation of what may seem unclear.

Review of “A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament” edited by Michael Kruger (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016)

Today I will be reviewing the second installment of a two-part Biblical Theology collection published by Crossway. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament is a collection of essays written by the past and present members of the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary. It shares many traits in common with the Old Testament volume so I would encourage you to check out my review before proceeding here.

In the introductory essay by editor Michael Kruger, he identifies several features of this collection of essays which are of note. First, it is accessible. By this, he means that it does not require a technical knowledge to make use of this volume. Issues like dating are generally left to an appendix, there is a general lack of discussion regarding Greek, and there is a premium placed on more applicable aspects of the text. Second, it is theological. “Because this volume is designed primarily to help pastors and Bible study leaders prepare their sermons or lessons, a higher priority is placed on exploring the message of each New Testament book.” (loc 437) That is one of the primary strengths of this book, is that a pastor can simply read through an essay regarding the book he is working on and already have a good idea of the main themes and structure of the book. When he then goes to more technical commentaries, he already has the foundational aspects of the whole book in mind. Thirdly, it is redemptive-historical. Now, this is a term that can mean different things to different people. What is meant in this volume is that the authors of each essay are intentionally showing “how each book contributes to the fulfillment of God’s salvific plan. In particular, such an approach would focus on how Old Testament history, types, and shadows all find their fulfillment in the person and work of Christ.” (loc 475) Finally, it is Reformed. This was a breath of fresh air for me. It is not the case that there is an absence of good Reformed commentaries, but the fact is that when writing an essay, to properly source your thoughts one often must look outside the Reformed tradition. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when preparing for a sermon it can be cumbersome to sift through the chaff to find that kernel of wheat. Knowing that these essays were prepared by men who have studied and been approved for Gospel ministry in a Reformed context is incredibly helpful. Fourthly, it is multiauthored. Kruger offers some commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach, but I will leave the reader to his thoughts on that. Finally, he notes that it is pastoral. “As noted above, the real purpose of this volume is to help Bible study leaders, pastors, and Christian leaders to teach and apply the Word of God to their respective audiences.” (loc 549)

Rather than spend time exploring the specifics of each essay, or even the specific of any one essay, I will make some brief comments. Each essay is valuable in its own right, and I would commend this work as an addition to the library of any pastor or biblical student. Not only that, but it is approachable enough that any adult Christian reader would benefit from a run through this and the accompanying Old Testament volume. The varied style of each essay, although basically structurally the same, I found to be somewhat distracting. This is mostly a reader preference, and not necessarily a weakness of the book, but it is important to know this going into the text. For those who may find this problematic, I would suggest not reading the book sequentially, as I did for review purposes. That isn’t really the intention of the book anyway, so that isn’t an issue. That said, the essays were all excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the essay on Hebrews by Simon Kistemaker.


Kruger, Michael, ed. A Biblical-Theological introduction to the New Testament. Kindle Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.


Please Note: The publisher has provided me with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

By the Washing of Regeneration

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, ESV)

This coming Sunday, I have been asked to provide pulpit supply for my pastor who is taking some time to visit his brand new, and very first, grandson. The text I selected was Titus 3:1-7, and in particular, a section in the middle jumped out at me. One phrase caught my attention.

by the washing of regeneration

Paul, writing to one of his successors Titus, is concluding the letter with some instructions. Immediately before this passage, he exhorted the people to obey the governing authorities, to be ready to do good works, and to be charitable all people. (1-2)

Then he grounds his command in the fact that we were once sinners who also needed God to show us kindness and charity. (3)

That brings us to our passage. While we were still in the state described in verse 3, the loving-kindness of the Father appeared. That loving-kindness was Jesus. (John 3:16, Rom 5:8) Contrary to Roman Catholic thought, the Father saved us “not because of works done by us in righteousness.” (3:5a) Rather he saved us “according to his own mercy. (3:5b)

In the second half of verse 5, we come to the contentious phrase which is the subject of our inquiry today.

by the washing of regeneration

This passage has been interpreted variously throughout Church history. Some see it as an obvious reference to the rite of baptism. They use this passage to demonstrate that the washing (baptism) is effectual to bring about regeneration. They read the phrase as though it said something to the effect of “the regenerating washing.” This position the prevailing view among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and some Anglicans. However, even among early church commentators who affirmed Baptismal Regeneration, this interpretation was not universal.

Strange! How were we drowned in wickedness, so that we could not be purified, but needed a new birth? For this is implied by “Regeneration.” For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it, nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations, and rebuilds it anew; so in our case, God has not repaired us, but has made us anew. For this is “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” He has made us new men. How? “By His Spirit” (John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. James Tweed and Philip Schaff, vol. 13 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 538.)

It is interesting to note here, that Chrysostom literally says “we were baptized (βεβαπτισμένοι) in wickedness.” It seems like if he was going to make the point that baptism regenerates us, that this would be a perfect intro. We once were baptized in wickedness, and we are now baptized in righteousness. However, he does not do so. Rather, he points out here that we cannot be purified, but rather we must be entirely rebuilt. That certainly does not sound like an infusion of grace that transforms us such that we are inherently just. I digress.

The Baptismal Regeneration reading is not justified. Rather, we should read the passage such that regeneration itself is the washing. Grammatically, the phrase λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας simply does not bear out the adjectival reading above. Rather, the second noun in the construction is better seen as the means or agent of the first. Thus it is better understood as something closer to “the regeneration which washes” or “the washing which comes about because of regeneration.” We see this clearly when we observe the following phrase which is joined with the coordinating conjunction καὶ.

and the renewal of the Holy Spirit

The phrase ἀνακαινώσεως πνεύματος ἁγίου is parallel to λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας and thus we may draw a reasonable conclusion that the construction is also parallel. It is evident that the phrase “Holy Spirit” does not describe the word “renewal.” If we take the Baptismal Regeneration view above, and λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας means “regenerative washing,” then this phrase here must mean something like “Holy Spirit inducing renewal.” Now, while it is true that those holding to Baptismal Regeneration would agree that baptism indeed brings about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am not aware of a single commentator here that uses this passage to support that. Rather they are of one voice in recognizing that this is telling us that the Holy Spirit brings about renewal. However, the same construct used immediately prior, says the Baptismal Regeneration Advocate, says that washing brings about regeneration. Why the discrepancy?

Instead, we ought to read this passage as though identical constructions function identically. In fact, the two constructions are referring to the same thing. The regeneration which washes is, in fact, an act of the Holy Spirit who renews. The washing described in the first phrase is the renewal described in the second.

If “through” (dia) were used before “renewal,” thus rendering “through the washing of rebirth and through renewal of the Holy Spirit,” it would describe two events instead of one. Simply stated, the text indicates that “washing” is an activity of the Holy Spirit and that this washing involves “rebirth” (palingenesias) and “renewal” (anakainoseos). (Thomas Lea and Hayne Griffin, New American Commentary, vol. 34 (Nashville: B&H, 1992), 323.)

What Paul here is describing is the regeneration and conversion of a Christian. He goes on to say that the purpose of the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit by which we were saved is “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (7) He also notes that the Holy Spirit who brings about this regeneration and renewal is “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (6) This act is an act of the triune God from start to finish.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that this is not precisely the same as what is advocated by many in the Reformed tradition. Both Matthew Henry and John Calvin associate the phrase “washing of regeneration” with baptism. Henry does so more strongly than Calvin, but it is important to note that both draw the conclusion that the combination of phrases “washing of regeneration” and “renewal of the Holy Spirit” deny Baptismal Regeneration. What they are saying is not all that far off from what I’m saying. Rather than understand this passage as advocating Baptismal Regeneration, instead what we see is that the sign (baptism, here called the washing of regeneration) is here directly associated with that which is signified (regeneration itself here called the renewal of the Holy Spirit). While I disagree with them that baptism is in view here, I fully affirm the theology they are putting forward.

Amazing Resource – Reformed Books Online

I wanted to share with my readers an amazing resource that I have known about for quite some time, but am just starting to dig into. The website Reformed Books Online is a website which has a collection of links to thousands of resources.

Our purpose is to promote historic, reformed Christianity by providing in one location a collection of the best theological literature from 1800 to today available for free on the internet.  Select works from the reformation and puritan periods are included as well.

Most recently a collection of over 2,200 commentaries has been added and curated which includes every commentary which was recommended by Charles Spurgeon (including his own notes), every Reformed or Puritan commentary that the editors could find in English, every major Early and Medieval Church commentary that has been translated into English, and “every Bible commentary before 1875 that a Bible-believer would be interested in.”

Having recently given a lecture on how the advent of the digital age has made it possible to do the things that Christians have always done, in a new way… this collection demonstrates shows that technology can open horizons that previous generations could not have dreamed of.

Calvinist – The Trailer

My good friend Les Lanphere (Co-host of the Reformed Pubcast, founder of the Reformed Pub Facebook group) has been diligently working on a documentary film called Calvinist. The film, as I understand it, is a look at the rise of the New Calvinism (broadly speaking) and how it has effected and affected a whole generation of Christians.

The trailer was just released, so check it out.

Review of “Saving Calvinism” by Oliver Crisp (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016)

I recently received a copy of Oliver Crisp‘s new book, Saving Calvinism. The book is a work of analytic theology, with a dash of historical theology mixed in, and stands in continuity with his previous work Deviant Calvinism. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014)

The basic thesis of the book is that Calvinism —or Reformed theology, he distinguishes the two in the introduction but indicates that he will be using them interchangeably in a sort of colloquial sense— often falls victim to what he sees as legitimate critiques regarding its doctrine of God and soteriology. However, so says Crisp, the Reformed tradition has resources within it which serve to answer those critiques, but due to the rise of the New Calvinism (which he identifies primarily as those who affirm TULIP, but not much else), are not usually recognized as Calvinism.

This thesis very similar to the core argument of Deviant Calvinism which argued that several wings of the Reformed tradition exist which were deviant, but were none-the-less Calvinistic.

The basic structure of each chapter follows the same pattern. Crisp describes the dominant Reformed position, summarizes the common critique, and our author reaches into a corner of Reformed history to explain how a given form of Calvinism can address the critique. This pattern is effective if someone accepts his premise that this fringe position reflects a legitimate form of Reformed thought.

However, that is where the work often fails. Although Crisp does demonstrate, usually, that the given position falls within the history of the Reformed camp, this usually is only due to its origin. One of his more outrageous examples is that he considers Arminianism a form of deviant Calvinism because Arminius came out of the Reformed tradition. Crisp applies this same line of thinking to figures like Karl Barth and Friedrich Schleiermacher. This sort of reverse genetic fallacy is only a very superficial form of historical rooting, and having read Crisp in other areas, he is capable of a better argument.

Overall, the general aims of Crisp’s project are commendable. He believes that Calvinism has been artificially restricted to the so-called five points, and wants people to return to the broader tradition. He also desires to see the tradition rooted in Confessionalism, about which I certainly cannot complain. However, his conclusions seem suspicious to me. In both this work and Deviant Calvinism he seems too particularly (forgive the pun) focused on the Particularism of the majority report. This focus takes the form of arguing that Universalism and Reformed soteriology are compatible, undercutting the traditional doctrines of penal substitution and limited atonement, and a favorable disposition toward Karl Barth.

Additionally, and this is more a result of the analytical method than Crisp himself, he tends to phrase everything in overly tentative ways. “It may be the case that…” is a common phrase, and serves to introduce a theology that the majority of Reformed thinkers reject, in a way that cannot be disproven. For example, he says that it may be the case that God has provided a way for those dying to be presented the Gospel immediately by God and to repent in a way that is not outwardly visible to human observers, thereby allowing the doctrine of Predestination to be compatible with Universalism. Sure, it may be the case, but as Crisp himself even says, we have no good reason to think that it is. In this way, he is very similar to Barth in that he seems to be arguing for a position without actually arguing for it. It is difficult to see how, given this phrasing, we could rule any position out.

Finally, understanding that this is not a work of systematic theology, Crisp engages in surprisingly little exegetical work. In chapter 6 he provides only a few example passages and even comments that this is not a sufficient exegetical basis to form an argument, but then proceeds to form an argument. Combined with the slippery “It may be the case” methodology above, it makes for a book that leaves the reader grasping for something concrete.


Please Note: The publisher has provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Dear Elias Sutton

This post was originally published about a year ago. On the anniversary of little Elias’s death, take some time to pray for Tedd, Kylie, and their children.


This letter will probably never be read by you, I don’t think we’ll have the internet in heaven. Why would we need it?

A month ago you came into this world. I wish I could say that it was under the normal circumstances. As soon as you were born, people were praying for you. Your tiny life affected so many. Two days later, you went home to be with Jesus.

Many would look at the friendship I have with your father and scoff. How could two men on opposite coasts, who have never met each other, consider each other friends? The unity of Christ’s body, and the fellowship of the Spirit, that’s how. I’m sure you know all about that, though… much better than I. Oh how I long to be with you in his presence, to rejoice with you in endless praise as we gaze together upon our common Savior!

I am so proud of your mother and father as they grieve your death. I cannot imagine the pain they are feeling, but I am continually encouraged by their faith as they trust in our Lord. They are steadfast in their faith, and it is a beautiful thing. Even in their grief, they praise our Lord. Even as they mourn, they point to his grace. Through their tears, they continue to proclaim his name.

You see, they recognize that the promise which our Father made to your father is not just for him. It is for him and for his children (Acts 2:39, Isa 54:13). Covenant faithfulness has always been a family affair. From Adam to Seth, from Seth to his line… the seed of the Woman has never been about an individual decision. While your parents were unable to apply the covenant sign and seal of baptism, we trust in the Lord that all elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit (WCF 10.3).

Even the very name that your parents chose for you testifies to their faith in this truth. Elias, you see, means Yahweh is my God. From before you were born your parents intended to raise you in the ways of God, and trusted that when you were old, you would not depart from the faith once delivered to the saints (Prov 22:6). God has given his Church one heart, for our own good, and for the good of our children. He is our God, and we are his people. (Jer 32:38-39)

For those of us on earth, it seems like a long time before we will be able to meet you, to embrace you, to smile as you tell us all about your time with the Lord. However, for you, it will be like the blink of an eye. What are 50-60 short years in light of eternity? Our life here is like a vapor (Jas 4:14), but our life in Christ will be everlasting (John 3:16).

Sweet baby Elias, even though I never knew you hear in this age, I long for the day when I will see you in the next.

With all my affection in Christ,

-Tony

Reflections on Erasures

As I noted in my article regarding Tullian’s Current Membership Status, I will be offering some reflections. Many would look at a simple act of declaring a person to be no longer a member of a local church to be something of a non-issue, that could not be further from the truth.

I’ll again here quote from the PCA‘s Book of Church Order for reference:

When a member of a particular church has willfully neglected the church for a period of one year, or has made it known that he has no intention of fulfilling the church vows, then the Session, continuing to exercise pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a and 27-4) in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, shall remind the member, if possible both in person and in writing, of the declarations and promises by which he entered into a solemn covenant with God and His Church (BCO 57-5, nos. 3-5), and warn him that, if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll.

If after diligently pursuing such pastoral discipline, and after further inquiry and due delay, the Session is of the judgment that the member will not fulfill his membership obligations in this or any other branch of the Visible Church (cf. BCO 2-2), then the Session shall erase his name from the roll. This erasure is an act of pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a) without process. The Session shall notify the person, if possible, whose name has been removed.

Notwithstanding the above, if a member thus warned makes a written request for process (i.e., BCO Chapters 31-33, 35-36), the Session shall grant such a request. Further, if the Session determines that any offense of such a member is of the nature that process is necessary, the Session may institute such process.


A quick excursus. Many of my readers have noted that some of these terms are confusing. I think that is because there is a general lack of awareness of Presbyterian Polity, even among the Young, Reformed, Restless / New Calvinism crowd. Presbyterianism functions generally by the presence of a regional Church called a Presbytery. This Presbytery is composed in its membership of the ordained teaching elders of the local congregations in the region. The teaching elders, along with ruling elders (usually lay persons who are ordained by the Session which they are being elected or appointed to), of each congregation make up what is called the Session. This session is comparable to an elder board in Baptist and Evangelical churches.


The first thing to recognize in reference to this action taken by the Session of which Tullian was a member is that this is not a neutral action. It is formal church discipline. Neglecting to attend the Lord’s Day service, especially on a repeated basis, is a sin. The action which the Session takes to “remind the member […] of the declarations and promises by which he entered a solemn covenant” is essentially the equivalent of step one or two of the Matthew 18 process. The Session is attempting to confront this member with their sin and call them to repentance and returned participation and fellowship with the Church.

Once the Session has made these attempts, they make a judgement. They are not required to make this judgement, but if they do make the judgement that the member is neglecting his vows to faithfully attend to the Lord’s Day, “in this or any other branch of the Visible Church” then the session erases the member’s name from the membership rolls.

This is significant for two reasons. First, Tullian’s session made the determination that Tullian was not attending worship in any local congregation on a regular basis. This may not be true, but since Tullian refused contact with the Session they were forced to come to this conclusion. Had they been made aware of a difference set of circumstances (Either by Tullian, by a direct acquaintance of Tullian’s, or by word of mouth) they would not have taken this action. There are provisions in the BCO to transfer membership without this kind of erasure. Second, this is essentially a form of excommunication. Tullian, by severing himself from the Visible Church has excommunicated himself. The Session’s judgement and action here is a confirmation of that self-imposed excommunication. Dr. Rev. Glen Clary, Teaching Elder at Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC) says this:

Even though erasure is not exactly the same as excommunication, the effect is the same as if it were. The man was removed from the membership of the church of Christ. Unless he has obtained membership in another visible church, he is to be regarded as “a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). I.e. he should not be regarded as a “brother in Christ.”

I called for Tullian’s excommunication recently and a little over a year ago, although this is a sad result and I would have much preferred that Tullian repent and be restored… excommuncation, or in this case erasure confirming a self-imposed excommunication, exists both for the good of the wayward individual, but also to protect the peace and purity of God’s Church. At this point, as Dr. Clary notes, we are not to regard Tullian as a Christian. The Session which was responsible for his soul (Heb 13:17) has assessed Tullian’s fruit, and based on his refusal to submit to church discipline and willful abandonment of the responsibilities to his local church —which he solemnly vowed to uphold— has determined that he is not a Christian. This spiritual reality which the Church has recognized (not determined, Tullian did that) is made visible by removing him from membership in the Visible Church.

Now, what of this talk of “process.” The PCA BCO uses the term “process” to speak of formal disciplinary action. Essentially, and in most cases, this takes the form of a trial. Erasure of this type is no less discipline, but it does not require any sort of public trial. The final clause of the final paragraph indicates that the Session could have taken this action through process if they so desired, and Tullian could have responded to the notification that his name was being erased by requesting process.

Now, I want to say this clearly: I have not been in contact with the leadership of the Session of which Tullian was subject. I do not know their reasoning for taking the approach they did, and I in no way want to question their judgement. Without knowing what their reasoning was, I simply am not in a position to speculate or assess it.

However, if I were on the Session making this decision, I would have advocated for this discipline to take place with process, and here is why:

First, Tullian is guilty of far more than just not being faithful to his membership vows. During his time under this Session’s jurisdiction —at least from what I can tell, it isn’t clear when he was removed from the membership rolls, but it probably was not prior to August of 2016— he lied publicly to the entire nation, he continued to teach —both in non-elder capacities at conferences and events, and at least once in an elder capacity on the Lord’s Day— he divorced his wife without biblical grounds, and he remarried. He did all of these things without any real indication of repentance at this point. The divorce and remarriage in itself is worthy of excommunication. Churches like Spring Hills would be less likely to have him teach (or offer him a job) if he had been excommunicated. Non-denominational church members have a tendency to move from church to church, and many non-denominational churches don’t do membership at all. Leaving a church is no big deal, getting kicked out of a church is. Furthermore, publishers like David C Cook would face more pressure not to publish Tullian or give him a platform to propagate his theological error. As it stands, they are currently publishing a book in which he makes the destruction that his lust, manipulation, lies, and arrogance wrought to be a good thing.

Second, as you can see from previous posts —which was operating on information from persons within the South Florida and Central Florida Presbyteries— it was unclear exactly where Tullian’s membership was. For nearly a year it was assumed that his membership was at Willow Creek, then for a brief time it was assumed it remained with the South Florida Presbytery. One of the hallmarks of Presbyterianism is its desire to do everything decently and in good order. I can understand why there might be a desire to not make this public, no congregation wants that kind of attention. However, a public action with process also comes with a kind of clarity and transparency that was lacking in this situation. Again, I don’t want to cast aspersions on the Session which made the decisions they did, I have no idea why they chose the course of action they did and they probably had good reasons that I am not privy to. However, where they to have pursued this with process, it would have been clear where his membership resided.

Finally, as we have seen in the past, Tullian is a master manipulator. He twists narratives to fit his needs. This often takes the form of bald faced lies, but also takes the form of subtle shifts in the story which paints him in a different light. I can imagine at least three ways he could do so as things went. Perhaps he didn’t know where his membership lay. Perhaps he did respond to them and tell them where he was going to church. Maybe he has actually been attending the church and the leadership is lying. At this point, he could say just about anything and there is no public counter narrative. However, discipline with process would involve evidence, public statements by the Session, witnesses, and ultimately a formal judgement by not just the Session involved, but likely the Presbytery as a whole. This would include the Session at Coral Ridge PCA which is constituted by men Tullian served with, as well as men whom Tullian was an Elder over.


Please also see a helpful article published in the Ordained Servant, which is a publication of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. While there are differences between the OPC and PCA, in my study the way they treat erasure and excommunication has not proven to be substantially different.

Peter II Stazen, “Unbiblical Erasures,” Ordained Servant 4, no. 3 (1995): 67–70.


For a thorough timeline of events regarding Tullian Tchividjian’s history, please see Resource Bibliography on System Issues Related to the Tullian Tchividjian SituationBy linking to this site I am not endorsing the site as a whole, nor testifying to the veracity of the information present. However, the timeline presented does appear to be accurate to the best of my knowledge and research.

Advent Series – WCF 8.5-6 (4)

Every year during the season of Advent I do a four part series in to match up with the four Sunday’s of Advent. In 2014 we explored the various heresies which facilitated the controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. In 2015 we took an in depth look at the Niceno-Constantinopolitian Creed. This year, we will take a look at the eight clauses of chapter eight of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Each week we will tackle two clauses.


5. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

This section teaches us three important truths. First, that it was both the active and passive righteousness of which satisfies God. It is not just that Christ died, but that he lived perfectly. Second, we see that the work of the Holy Spirit is central in Christ’s ministry. The perfect obedience and sacrifice which he gave to the Father to satisfy justice, was given through the Holy Spirit. Finally, the benefit which Christ purchased for us is not just that we are no longer at war with God, but we have become his sons and daughters. This section also notes that only those whom the Father has appointed to be the Son’s had the benefit purchased on their behalf, affirming the doctrine of Particular Atonement.

6. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.

All saints throughout history were saved by this sacrifice, even though it happened in a point in time. These benefits were displayed to the saints by means of the promises given, types demonstrated, and through the sacrificial system which prefigures Christ.

Tullian’s Current Membership Status

After my recent Open Letter to the South Florida Presbytery, and a Call to Repentance by many of Tullian‘s former confidants, I began to receive emails and messages asking what Tullian’s current status was. Did I know where he held membership? Was he going to be excommunicated?

In order to begin to seek answers to these questions, I reached out to the Stated Clerk of the South Florida Presbytery and asked him to read my recent letter. He graciously responded to my email and provided me with the following information. I will, at a later point, be offering some thoughts. However, in order to avoid confusion I will simply be providing the information he provided to me regarding Tullian’s current status. The following is a summary of the information that the Stated Clerk provided to me (Posted with permission):

Tullian was deposed by South Florida Presbytery and therefore no longer an ordained Teaching Elder of the PCA. According to the policies outlined in the Book of Church Order, his membership was assigned to a church in South Florida Presbytery. The Session was was asked to transfer Tullian’s membership to Willow Creek, located in Winter Spring Florida, under the jurisdiction of the Central Florida Presbytery. However before the transfer was completed, Tullian left Willow Creek. The church where Tullian’s membership remained, in the South Florida Presbytery, attempted to contact him unsuccessfully and eventually followed Chapter 38, Paragraph 4 of the PCA Book of Church Order and removed Tullian from their membership rolls.

For reference, the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, states the following in Chapter 38, Paragraph 4:

When a member of a particular church has willfully neglected the church for a period of one year, or has made it known that he has no intention of fulfilling the church vows, then the Session, continuing to exercise pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a and 27-4) in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, shall remind the member, if possible both in person and in writing, of the declarations and promises by which he entered into a solemn covenant with God and His Church (BCO 57-5, nos. 3-5), and warn him that, if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll.

If after diligently pursuing such pastoral discipline, and after further inquiry and due delay, the Session is of the judgment that the member will not fulfill his membership obligations in this or any other branch of the Visible Church (cf. BCO 2-2), then the Session shall erase his name from the roll. This erasure is an act of pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a) without process. The Session shall notify the person, if possible, whose name has been removed.

Notwithstanding the above, if a member thus warned makes a written request for process (i.e., BCO Chapters 31-33, 35-36), the Session shall grant such a request. Further, if the Session determines that any offense of such a member is of the nature that process is necessary, the Session may institute such process.


As stated above, I will forego any extensive comments to a later post. However, at this point I will simply note that currently Tullian is no longer a member in congregation, session, or presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Furthermore, he neglected attendance or communication with his church of membership for at least a year.


For a thorough timeline of events regarding Tullian Tchividjian’s history, please see Resource Bibliography on System Issues Related to the Tullian Tchividjian SituationBy linking to this site I am not endorsing the site as a whole, nor testifying to the veracity of the information present. However, the timeline presented does appear to be accurate to the best of my knowledge and research.