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Paul Zahl: The World Needs Tullian Preaching Again!

Paul Zahl and Tullian Tchividjian are busy writing love letters (See here and here) to one another on Tullian’s personal website.

Zahl’s article makes the following contention:

“I would go so far as to say that Tullian’s personal experience, as bad as you want to make it out, has qualified him (and qualified him brilliantly!) to preach the Gospel.”

As bad as we want to make it out or as bad as the facts show the case to be? His Presbytery defrocked him. We are not making out anything to be bad but acknowledging the action of the church, which said it was really bad.

Later Zahl says,

“The affirmation of this website is that the world needs Tullian…”

So the article, without actually quoting the Bible, but instead three songs and an episode of the Twilight Zone, argues that Tullian’s personal website is public because “the world needs Tullian.” Honestly, I would be hugely embarrassed if a friend said on my personal website that the world needs me.

Since some are fond of quoting lyrics, let me get by “With a Little Help From My [Facebook] Friends”.

Zahl writes: “This is because everything Tullian thought he had, and everything he thought he was, got pulverized. Everything on which he had prided himself got pulverized. Tullian got turned to dust.”

Notice the passive voice? He was the one doing the pulverizing to others. Let’s be clear about that.

We can also look at Zahl’s article and come away with an almost shocking revelation, namely, that sin is actually a resume enhancement, not a resume killer. The Scriptures go to great lengths to speak about the personal piety of pastors. But for Zahl, Tullian is more qualified to preach the gospel, not because of his piety but because of his impiety. This sort of biblical ethic is extremely dangerous, and I would say that Zahl needs to repent for even hinting at this idea.

Let us sin that grace may abound! We will be better preachers (“qualified brilliantly”) when we’ve preyed upon married women, destroyed families, and caused pain to our flock. Think about that for a minute.

Does the world need Tullian, as Zahl suggests? I thought the whole point of the Liberate movement was that the world needs Jesus. Funny how that happens.

Zahl adds, “What the world needs now is the pulverized residue of a life forcibly taken, in the school of hardest knocks both self-inflicted and imposed by the world.”

As one of my (more intelligent) Facebook friend says, “For Pete’s sake, there are children who grow up in brothels!”

There are ministers who really have been harmed by the world (e.g., beaten for their faith) and know how to effectively minister to others. They are gifts to the church. They, of course, are images of our Savior who was truly pulverized by the world. For the sake of the Church, Tullian needs to shut up, not make a comeback. He needs to live a quiet, godly life. But this type of brown-nosing, virtue-signaling, Scripture-denying madness from Zahl is an attack upon Christ’s bride and also an attack upon Tullian.

I have a question for not only Zahl, but also for those who want to defend Tullian and welcome him back into the ministry. Do you really feel, after all he has done that 1 Timothy 3:2-7 can ever be true of him?

“[2]Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, [3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, [5] for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

I doubt very much that Tullian will ever now be well thought of by outsiders. Tullian committed adultery (at least) twice, hid them both, threw his wife under the bus for separating from him when she discovered the second affair, wangled a job with some naive pastors while being stripped of his credentials by his presbytery, then fled accountability when his original affair became public, got remarried when he has no biblical grounds to do so, and now apparently seeks reinstatement to the office of elder (i.e., wants to preach). But all this time Zahl was intimately involved in Tullian’s life and now has the effrontery to write this post? If Zahl was a true friend of Tullian, he would be faithful to Tullian’s soul. He would quit the sycophancy and repent for making it sound like the church needs Tullian when in fact it is Tullian who needs the church.

I wonder, based on the “About Tullian” at his website, whether Tullian has sufficiently understood this: “After a season of self-destruction leading up to, and following, his resignation from Coral Ridge in June 2015, Tullian is now married to Stacie, and together they have five children and one grandchild.” I don’t think “resignation” is the proper word, Tullian. And I don’t think it was merely “Self-destruction” but also “other people destruction.”

Perhaps the scariest thing about Zahl’s article isn’t even the suggestion that Tullian should be preaching again. Rather, it is the implicit idea that there’s something insufficient about Jesus because, well, he didn’t rob banks, kill people, and commit adultery. If Tullian is “qualified brilliantly” because of his sins, what does that mean for the one who was tempted in every way that we are yet without sin?

Tullian needs grace. He needs forgiveness. I trust he has received it. But just as we need to be emphatic that there is forgiveness for all who repent, we also need to be emphatic that sin has consequences. One such consequence of Tullian’s action is that he should never preach from a pulpit again. But that’s okay. The world needs Jesus and the men he has appointed, through the church, to be faithful heralds of the mysteries of the gospel of grace.

By Mark Jones

The Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Dr. Jones is the author of several books, including Knowing Christ, God Is, Living For God (2020 Crossway).

23 replies on “Paul Zahl: The World Needs Tullian Preaching Again!”

I had been wondering when the Tullian fan club would start up again, proclaiming him “truly repentant“ yet again… Well I guess I have my answer.

Great article. Your numbers are low on adultery. I’ve spoken/corresponded with 2 of the women, and he’s now married to the 3rd. You’re right, resignation was not the correct word. He conveniently left out his stint at Pastor Kevin Labby’s church where he was fired. Another aspect that wasn’t covered in this article was spiritual abuse and the harm caused to his congregants and staff. Some no longer go to church at all after all of this occurred. This comeback is disgusting.

In Louisville, the FBI is probably going to indict coach superstar Rick Pitino because of a massive basketball-corruption case. He is the unnamed “Coach #2” in the FBI’s report. Yet there are still rich people in Louisville so ethically crippled that they’re saying the university can’t do without him or his crooked AD boss, and that the whole shindig is no big deal anyway. That reminds me of this.

He did not preach cheap grace. He preached a position that is consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith. That Sanctification is a Gift, and that Proclamation of the Gospel is central not only as a mark of a true church, but also because when the person and work of Christ (the object of our faith) is proclaimed, faith is built up, and that fruit born from that strong faith. The Arminian view of Sanctification is that focusing on doing more and trying harder is the way to bring it about.

I have been a Calvinist for over 25 years. I used to believe in a pietistic view of sanctification, but as I studied Tullian’s sermons, classical covenant theology, law and gospel, and the doctrine of sanctification, I now believe that he preached a proper Reformed (yet not piestic) view of Sanctification. What many who call themselves Calvinists think sanctification is today is often a more Arminian view. Either that or they are grounded in a more monocovenantal view of the scriptures, which evolved after John Murray denied the Covenant of Works, and so he laid the groundwork for an erroneous and abstract view of the work of Christ under the law, and of imputation, either of Adam’s sin to humanity or of Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the elect. Tullians position was always that sanctification was a gift (which is consistent with the Reformed confessions) , and was manifested not as you whip it up though an emphasis on sanctification, but as you emphasize the objective work of God in the person and work of Christ to save us sinners.

I have also found that the people on the other side of the issue here are much less knowledgeable than they think they are.

Do we believe in forgiveness or not. If David who murdered raped and committed adultery could continue being king then we could at least see if there is a path for restoration for this brother. And since we are quoting scripture how about the one we’re Jesus says we should forgive seventy times seven. There are consequences to sin but my question is do they last forever if the person has asked for forgiveness ?

Does a forgiven child molester get to work in children’s ministry? No. Should a man who used the internet and pastoral position to prey on women in the body of Christ be encouraged to get back on the internet and/or in that pastoral position? Absolutely not. It seems simple to me. Has he repented to the victims? Has he called the newspaper he used to announce his wife’s infidelity and confessed his own? Surely we should be more concerned with protecting the body of Christ than this. Please tell me that people can see through such sad manipulation and false humility.

My father is now pastoring again after having been forced to resign following adultery. He still has no concept of boundaries and continues to engage in abusive behaviour verbally, emotionally and spiritually. He is in my mind totally disqualified from ministering again, yet they don’t seem to see a problem. I wish some of the people involved would take to heart some of the points made in this article, it feels like a very similar situation.

No one is saying Tullian can’t be forgiven, but whether he should have a position of authority. He can still give words of forgiveness, but he doesn’t need to make a career out of it. And, comparing a priest/presbyter to a sovereign king is a mistake in biblical typology.

I would have thought that the man’s sad public fall would be an occasion to reconsider whether his theology/preaching is as sound and helpful as you have believed. To some of us, brother Tullian (I do not disown him) sometimes seemed allergic to speaking of obedience or a believer’s “effort” to walk in holiness. While avoiding the pitfall of relying upon the means of sanctification instead of the God of all grace (a most helpful point from John Murray), we have to do justice to the Scripture’s stress on obedience (NT as well as OT). I don’t know whom you count as “knowledgeable” or “much less knowledgeable,” but an old Bill Evans column appears balanced, wise, and biblical to me.

Are we really comparing a child molester to a person that committed adultery? One involves two consenting adults and one does not. He has been under the care of at least two pastors . At what point do we restore those who are truely repentant ? Now that does mean we don’t put safegraurd in place to protect against further moral failings but can a man or woman that committed sexual sin every be restored ? I think the bible says yes king David being one of many examples

Forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone is qualified to be a teaching elder. King David should have been stoned to death; the fact that he wasn’t was due to his national stature and renown. God allowing David to live, and continue as king, was a unique decision by God, and isn’t a standard for anyone else. 1st Timothy 3 defines who is qualified to be an elder, and Tullian Tchividjian fails on a number of counts.

I have not seen any real confession of sin by Tullian. The damage he has caused reaches deep into my family. His tears should reach my daughter, but there is no such thing. The Gospel has to do with Jesus saving us from our sins and bringing us back to God to live a life of holiness. For Tullian it was reduced to a justifying of his sinful life. Real repentance is concerned about repairing the done damage (see Zacchaeus). I have not perceived such a thing from Tullian. Just starting over under the cover of being a saint and a sinner is a cheap lie. I still pray and hope to see more signs of real renewing.

Can’t say I’m surprised…next phase will be an even more “gracious” Tullian who learned the “grace” of being liberal. Will he be successfully courted by the ELCA or ECUSA?

Exactly. That God forgave David is not an approved example for us to go and do likewise. IOW distinguish. Tullian is to be welcomed back into the body of Christ upon confession, repentance and restitution, but not into the ministry.

1) When a pastor uses his position and authority to prey on women needing guidance and care, repeatedly, it is not a simple case of adultery as you say. So yes, one is in a position of authority, the other is not. And in many cases the woman is literally groomed as the predator waits till the right moment. I’m sorry you can’t see that.

2) Everyone likes to bring up David. But it really is apples and oranges. What about Saul? He was an unrepentant King and maintained his position. There are different standards for a New Testament pastor/elder then an Old Testament King.

3) you mention safeguards… But if a pastor uses his fame, his Biblical knowledge, and his Twitter account to prey on women, what safeguards would make sense?

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