Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Rehab or not. . .

By now we all know the story of Tullian Tchividjian's meteoric rise and fall.  Apart from being the grandson of Billy Graham, his biography reads more like a dime novel.  Another affair came to light just when it seemed he might have served his penance and another congregation was left behind.  Why is this of interest to Lutherans?  Because, it seems, Tichividjian is now a Lutheran, specifically a member of a Lutheran Brethren congregation in Florida.  In addition, it appears he is now an author promoted and published by Fortress Press (the ELCA publishing house).  It appears this Presbyterian pedigreed preacher is also beginning a new unafflilated congregation called The Sanctuary.  So maybe his time as a Lutheran is coming to an end.

The point of this all is how hard it is for Christians to stop being attracted to big personalities.  And Tullian Tchividjian is a big personality.  He went from a middling congregation to Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in the hopes of putting the shine on that pulpit after the death of D. James Kennedy.  That did not work so well for him or for the congregation.  Deposed from the clergy as unfit for the ministry, Tchividjian has worked tirelessly and deliberately to re-enter the scene.  He did not stop writing or serving as conference speaker or hobnobbing with other cutting edge pastors of the day.  He has published 8 books, some received with great fanfare.  He has blogged and networked and done just about anything and everything except remain quiet.

According to its website, The Sanctuary:
The Sanctuary is a judgment-free zone where people can come as they are, not as they should be. A place to find love and laughter and hope and healing and acceptance and forgiveness and mercy and help. Sadly, churches tend to be the scariest places, rather than the safest places, for fallen people to fall down and for broken people to break down. The Sanctuary strives to be different.
I would focus on the term judgment-free zone and suggest that this is exactly what the problem with the cult of personality.  They remain free to judge those who went before them and their critics but they claim for themselves and their followers the privilege of being without the scrutiny and judgment of others.  In most cases, fallen Christian star figures have rejected any path of repentance and supervision by others and insist upon being free to do as they please.  So why do Christians follow them?  That is the million dollar question.  Could it be that we want to live without judgment and scrutiny as well?  Could it be that we refuse the oversight of those who would call us to account and believe we are too important to be silenced, too important to be held responsible for our failings, and too needed to be subject to anyone else's rules?

Tchividjian reportedly preached recently, “It’s always the immoral person who gets the Gospel before the moral person.”  Well, of course it is.  All the world is filled with Pharisees who seek a pat on the back and approval of their homemade righteousness except the immoral who get the Gospel.  Could it possibly be that some of those immoral are not looking for forgiveness at all, not willing to meet the Lord in the humility of repentance, and not ready to change their ways?  On the surface his words seem to fit with the example of Jesus but if you dig a little deeper his words are a tat too convenient to ring as authentic.  Buyer beware.

At one point I had hopes that Tchividjian might be the harbinger of a new direction for evangelicals who had found Luther and the Gospel.  I have not paid any attention to him at all except to note how he refuses to be silenced or restrained from what he wants to say and what he wants to do.  The rest of Christianity should wait to pay any attention to him as well.  Repentance and forgiveness is not an out to erase the past but remain the same old person.  Standards for clergy should be different from those in the pews.  Read St. Paul to Timothy and Titus.  The only thing we owe him is to ignore him until he gets it.  Free grace and a judgment free church sound great except in the mouth of someone who has refused the counsel of his elders and insists that accountability applies to everyone but him.  Tchividjian is not alone in this or even its worst example but a solemn reminder that we should not following personalities, Christian included.

3 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

Tullian Tchividjian, then senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was the speaker at the Reformation500 annual speaker series at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, on March 19, 2015. The LCMS Reporter noted:

"As [Florida's Reformed Theological Seminary-degreed PCA Minister Tullian] Tchividjian examines the legacy of the theology of the Reformation, he brings his own legacy of American Christianity and ministry. He is the grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham."

John J. Flanagan said...

Most of the people we place on a pedestal, inside and outside of the church, will eventually displease us, as their humanity is revealed, usually in their own words, and by their own flawed behavior. Therefore, remembering that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we ought to remain sober minded and objective. Otherwise, emotions will pervert discernment. Loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord are especially tested when we willfully follow false teachers. We ought to remain faithful to God first, and remember that all of our iconic figures are fallen, flawed, and sinners in need of grace.

Carl Vehse said...

Whatever Christian denomination, the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 for a pastor still need to be addressed... or, in the case of this unaffiliated church that Tullian Tchividjian is developing, simply ignored.