At CBC the Sunday School class has been a series titled The Bible, Marriage and You. Having Biblically laid the foundation of the meaning of marriage, we turned to focus for several lessons on how singles should approach marriage. As long-time Pyro readers would expect, I made a very impassioned case that Christians should not even toy with becoming romantically involved with non-believers.
Last Sunday we capped that portion of the series, and turned to address marrieds. But before we left our focus on singles, I wanted to deal with one last issue. A great believer in prevention, I wanted to head off a pernicious thought: the person who might say, "But ______ dated an unbeliever, and he got saved!" or even "But ____ married an unbeliever, and she got saved/was a great lady/whatever." In other words, "Sure, maybe it's foolish, maybe it's even sinful, but other people did it and it worked out okay... so what's the big deal, Pastor?"
This is course-charting by anecdote, and it is (to say the very least) a foolish way to live.
As you can imagine, I had some thoughts about this, and I shared them with characteristic daintiness and nuance. Which is to say I fired up the grill and barbecued away, driven by passion and conviction and a lot of care and concern for my dear ones here, as well as intrawebbers. My conclusion was that this whole line of thinking amounted to asking "Why not just continue in sin, that grace might abound?"
And then Monday, I read this, and its (at present) unanimously positive, emotional accolades. Ah, me.
Tullian Tchividjian, now a pastor, admits to having been such an incorrigible 16yo that his father actually booted him out of the house. But Tchividjian continued on a rebellious, ruinous path... and his father fully subsidized it. At one point, after Tchividjian had screwed up a job and lied to his father about what had happened, dad gave him a blank check, no questions asked. Though Tchividjian took advantage of that check, it didn't stop there. Tullian snuck into the family home and committed repeated acts of theft and felony, stealing dad's checks and forging his signature. Dad (a clinical psychologist, or so I read) was aware of his son's crimes, and let him go on (you'll pardon me) unchecked and unconfronted.
But see: it had a happy ending. By all accounts, Tchividjian's now converted, is a good guy and a celebrated and well-positioned preacher of wide renown. So we know it was the right thing to do. Right?
No, I'm kidding. Tchividjian doesn't do anything like that. What he does instead is quote Steve Brown, whose rather appalling teachings about "grace" I've examined at great length elsewhere (here, here, and here).
But it's a feel-good story, and anyone who disagrees can only be cast as a legalist and anti-grace and a hater and a good-story-spoiler and all those awful things. Besides, it's at The Gospel Coalition, so it has to be all right, right? They're all sound there. Right?
Tchividjian's book Jesus + Nothing = Everything received a fair bit of friendly critical pushback, most of which centered around accusations that it fell short of Biblically relating the indicative to the imperative.
Unfortunately, none of the critics I read seemed to know of a single book that presents the Gospel Biblically, highlighting God's saving grace in such a way as to frame the place of God's commands within a grace-fueled walk — a book that does some kind of justice both to both indicative and imperative. It sounded as if they really, really wished that some book Biblically preached up God's sovereign, saving grace, and equally clearly set forth the distinctively sanctifying power of grace. Some book that dealt extensively with Scripture, exalted God and His word, and was broadly accessible. But none of the critics I read could really recommend a single book that did all that. Sadder still, none of the commenters on those reviews seemed to know of such a book, either. Alas.
So then when someone tries to point out that the book of Proverbs is still in the Bible, is still breathed out by the God who knows everything about grace and love, and is still profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; and that Proverbs (to say the least) doesn't lend itself to such amorphous sentimentality and funding of folly and crime... well, he's really asking for it.
The call to us is, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15) — not "you will figure out what strikes you as the most gracious, loving thing to do, then pray for it all to work out." Love for God is still, in this church age, to keep His commandments (1 Jn 5:3) — not to pursue what we hope will work, especially if it suits our standards of grace and love, and leave it to God to bring on the happy ending.
And it falls to us who are elders to keep speaking things that befit sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), and insistently to urge our hearers to be eager to do them (Titus 2:15).
Not to do what fits the content our imaginations supply to a Bibley theme, bereft of the Bible's own working out of that theme.