Yesterday, Tullian posted an apology on his website regarding his behavior during his transition out of TGC. As I read it, I was encouraged that he seemed to recognize that he had made some interpersonal transgressions. However, I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the apology itself, as well as a brief comment on the theology present in the apology.
The apology consists of three main items that Tullian is recognizing as needing to apologize.
The first item that Tullian saw fit to apologize for is his behavior. He takes a generally contrite tone and apologizes for vague items which he ostensibly regrets. What is unclear however, is what specific things he regrets. Also, it is unclear whether he regrets saying them, but still believes them to be true.
The specific question I had is this: Does he still think that Carl Trueman has committed slander? Does he still hold the position that DA Carson and Tim Keller are lying about having informed him months ago that this change was going to happen? Does he still believe this is less about theological dispute and more about the SGM scandal? Now, I understand that some of those issues are interpersonal. If he picked up the phone and called Trueman, Keller, Or Carson to apologize, that is between them. However, he made very public statements and if he no longer holds those statements to be true (or never held them to be true but said them in an emotional response) , he ought to acknowledge that.
Second, he makes a statement about how much he loves Tim Keller and hopes that Keller can forgive him if he has hurt him. This is all good and well, but what about Carson (who Keller seemed to be in agreement regarding the state of Tchividjian’s theology and his departure from TGC), Trueman, DeYoung, Phillips, or any of the other number of people who may have been hurt (both personally and professionall) by Tchividjian’s self-admitted emotional outburst?
Third, he makes a statement that he rejoices that even though we have disagreement that we are all on the same team. This strikes me as disingenuous unless accompanied with an acknowledgement that he went on the attack regarding people on his own team. He made very specific allegations about the personal lives of these men. He made very specific allegations about their integrity. He made very specific allegations and accusations regarding slander (which is itself slander unless it is true). Simply saying “My bad guys, we’re on the same team here” is good, but it needs to be accompanied with an awareness that in his rashness he acted out, and those statements either need to be corroborated or recanted and repented of.
Finally, I want to make a comment regarding the theology in this apology. Tchividjian continues his “free to fail” line of thinking in his first item. He notes that he is free to lose, and that to strive to win is to go back to slavery. Now, I fully acknowledge what he is saying and actually agree with it to an extent. However, this phrasing does not appear in isolation in this post. In the broader context of his work it includes things like being free to fail at being a good husband, pastor, or father. It includes things like being free to fail in our battle against the flesh, sin, and the devil. It includes freedom to fail to grow in holiness and christlikeness. While I agree with him 100% that we do not lose our justification when we fail, so in that sense we are “free to fail,” this does not mean that in ANY sense of the word we are actually free to fail. Everytime I fail to worship God the way I ought, I spit in Christ’s faith. Every time I fail to honor and respect my wife the way God’s law demands, I hammer that nail in just a little more.
God does not revoke our justification when we do not succeed. But Tullian still fails to recognize that this is the primary theological point that people are concerned with. We are NOT free to fail. Sin is still sin, and there are still expectations on the life of a believer. Jesus did not die so that I could be free to fail, he died so that I would not be eternally separated from the Father. Jesus died so I could be free, but not free to fail. Jesus died so I could be free to succeed, and the Holy Spirit ensures that ultimately I will.