Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Mark Jones and Jared Oliphint speak about Tullian Tchividjian’s Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Rev. Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale and blogs at the Gospel Coalition. Dr. Jones published a review of the book at MeetThePuritans.com. Jared Oliphint’s review will appear soon at Reformation21.


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28 Responses

  1. Re: Mark Jones review of Tullian’s book, I don’t think “antinomian” is a helpful accusation/context to raise. That label as generally understood denotes a person who thinks you’re allowed to live however you choose, i.e. “I’m saved by faith and my works as a believer don’t matter.” That doesn’t fit Pastor Tullian.

    Sometimes I think what is going on in these kinds of reviews and discussions is an attempt to nudge certain Reformed pastors and theologians out of “the camp” only because they put “too much” emphasis on the the grace of the gospel for bringing forth that which the Law directs, i.e. good works, a necessary evidence of faith.

    Can we not discuss the differences among established Reformed voices without biasing the discussion with indictments of “antinomian, semi-plegian, or (God forbid) Lutheran?”

    -an OPC plodder…

  2. Bill

    I wonder why we don’t focus on the real antinomians because they are out there. Guys that openly say that the gospel does not always change you and you can be a carnal christian. Chuck Swindoll and Charles Stanley are two examples of out of the closet antinomians that hold to the carnal christian doctrine. And let me just say that you either are an antinomian or you are not, and Tullian is not even close to being an antinomian, because he will answer with a resounding yes the question whether the gospel sanctifies or changes lives.

    Now I believe there are two strains in the reformed tradition, the continental reformed that follow the belgic confession, heidelberg catechism , and the canons of dort and the puritan reformed that follow the Westminster Standards. I do believer the latter have problems with the lutheran view of sanctification while the former do not. The latter emphasize works more than the former. And this is due to some departure in the Westminster Standards from the teachings of the early reformers Calvin and Luther. Just as an example the Westminster Standards claim that a christian can lose his assurance of salvation and also teaches that our faith can be confirmed by looking at our own good works, contrary to the teachings of John Calvin. Michael Horton recently wrote about these branches of the reformed tradition.

  3. Russ Denning

    There are some that convey a blurred relationship between them to exemplify justification, while others understand a more distinctive relationship. The former sees the gospel essentially synonymous with justification, while the later includes sanctification as part of the gospel message. The former does not mind leaving the language incomplete, while the latter desires a clarified message that is as accurate as possible. It’s an issue we need to address well and I commend your efforts to be precise in articulating the gospel in full context.

  4. I took the opportunity yesterday to get and read this book. Having read it, I have to say the concerns that Dr Jones, Professor David Murray, Jared Oliphant and others have raised concerning this work are valid. There is no doubt that the view of sanctification expressed in the book isn’t consistent with that expressed by the Westminster divines, nor more importantly the biblical text.

    And of course that raises the very problematic question, what on earth was Mike Horton thinking of when he endorsed it?

  5. Bearing in mind this book’s distaste for Christians writing down rules, which are designed to help them live godly lives. I wonder what the author would make of Jonathan Edwards and his resolutions. I fear President Edwards may find himself lumped together with the Pharisees.

  6. David

    I think Tchividjian has been influenced by the Marrow theology, which apparently gives a different response than Dr. Jones does to the question of whether or not the gospel demands. Dr. Jones, in his written review of Tchividjian’s book, says:

    Historically speaking, the difference between the law and the gospel is not a distinction between demanding and forbidding, which was an Antinomian position, but rather a difference between the kinds of acts that are demanded. The law demands perfect works whereas the gospel demands faith, repentance and sincere – albeit imperfect – obedience. Faith is an antecedent condition whereas gospel obedience is a consequent condition.

    (In that first sentence I’m guessing Dr. Jones meant to say: “the difference between the law and the gospel is not a distinction between demanding and promising.”)

    Contrast Dr. Jones’ view with that of Boston, Erskine and the Marrowmen, who, in their response to the Scottish general assembly, argued that:

    In the gospel, taken strictly, and as contradistinct from the law, for a doctrine of grace, or good news from heaven, or help in God through Jesus Christ, to lost self-destroying creatures of Adam’s race, or the glad tidings of a Saviour, with life and salvation in him to the chief of sinners, there are no precepts; all these, the command to believe, and repent, not excepted, belonging to, and flowing from the law, which fastens the new duty on us, the same moment the gospel reveals the new object.

    That in the gospel, taken strictly, there are no precepts, to us seems evident from the holy Scriptures. In the first revelation of it, made in theses words,—’The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,’ we find no precept, but a promise containing glad tidings of a Saviour, with grace, mercy, life, and salvation in him, to lost sinners of Adam’s family. And the gospel preached unto Abraham, namely, ‘In thee,’ i.e., in thy seed, which is in Christ, ‘shall all nations be blessed,’ is of the same nature.

    They also say:

    That all precepts, [those of faith and repentance not excepted,] belong to, and are of the law, is no less evident to us; for the law of creation, or of the ten commandments, which was given to Adam in paradise, in the form of a covenant of works, requiring us to believe whatever God should reveal or promise, and to obey whatever he should command; all precepts whatsoever must be virtually and really included in it. So that there never was, nor can be, an instance of duty owing by the creature to God, not commanded in the moral law, if not directly and expressly, yet indirectly, and by consequence.

    Does Dr. Jones’ view entail that this would be considered antinomian?

  7. Mark


    What you have written is quite wrong because if you listen carefully to the interview, I was very clear to make reference to the different ways the gospel was understood among the Puritans, and I referenced Anthony Burgess who speaks of the gospel most strictly, strictly, and generally.

    The quote you provide uses the words “taken strictly”. Thus, the answer to your question would be “no”.

    The evidence is overwhelming – both biblically and historically – that the gospel demands. Fortunately for us in the covenant of grace, the gospel gives what it demands, namely repentance, faith, and evangelical obedience, all of which are necessary for salvation.


  8. Bill

    I believe there is some major confusion here. Since when is obedience necessary for salvation? Mark writes, “the gospel gives what it demands, namely repentance, faith, and evangelical obedience, all of which are necessary for salvation.” i grant that the gospel gives evangelical obedience, albeit an imperfect obedience. That said this obedience is not necessary for salvation, otherwise we are adding to Christ’s work on the cross. It is Christ’s obedience, death, and resurrection that are necessary for salvation, our obedience is not necessary for salvation, neither can add one iota to salvation. Obedience or the righteousness of works can not add anything to our salvation. Is it evidence of our salvation? I grant it is. Good works are necessary as this lutheran writing on sanctification points out, but not necessary for salvation. Obedience is necessary for our neighbour, but not for salvation.
    Here’s the link to this article on the Concordia lutheran quarterly, where it explains why lutherans utterly reject that good works are necessary for salvation, as this lutheran article points out good works are necessary to help our neighbour, but not for salvation.


    Now also notice that biblical sanctification in biblical terms is being set apart, is actually being justified by faith alone through grace alone. This has to be contrasted with theological sanctification in the confessions, which is actually good works. Sanctification when understood as performing good works, as this lutheran article explains, is civil righteousness. This civil righteousness is performed by the old man and really can’t be accepted by God since it’s polluted by sin, it still needs to be performed to help our neighbour. I should add that unbelievers are also capable of good works (civil righteousness). the reformed call common grace what lutherans call civil righteousnes. And probably common grace is a more adequate term than civil righteousness, regardless sanctification when understood as the performance of good works falls in the civil righteousness (common grace) realm. it primarily relates to the old man and the unbeliever. Christian sanctification on the other hand, being set apart is related to justification, and it’s passive from man’s perspective. Here’s the link again to this lutheran article:


  9. David


    Thanks for responding. I’m glad that your answer is no. Perhaps I’m confused, but in the interview, when you reference Burgess’s understanding of the gospel taken “most strictly,” you say that this refers to Christ’s impetration (which I take to mean the accomplishment, as opposed to the application, of redemption). But the Marrowmen, in the section of their response that I quoted, seem to be referencing the application, since their focus is on the question of whether faith and repentance belong to the law or to the gospel. Does your “no” imply agreement with them that faith and repentance belong to the law?

  10. Mark


    Different theologians use different distinctions and sometimes different terms. But in my view it may be better to speak of the gospel “strictly” considered versus the gospel typically/largely/generally/properly considered. The latter use is the use by which all the orthodox Puritans and before them Ursinus (e.g., repentance belongs to the gospel) and the Canons of Dort (e.g., gospel threatenings) placed faith and repentance.

    Sometimes they spoke “strictly”, which is to speak of Christ’s impetration. That is what you quoted above re: the Marrow. If we talk in the realm of the gospel “strictly” considered then I doubt anyone would have a problem with limiting it to Christ’s mediatorial work. But the proper way of understanding the gospel is not to limit it to promise(s) alone, which is how some (wrongly) read the Reformed tradition.

    You can check out my post on the law and the gospel, which Jared links to above or you can wait for the book that Joel Beeke and I have written where I discuss these issues in a lot more detail.

    I’m not really a fan of throwing quotes around because you can prove almost anything that way. And, there were distinctions between faith and repentance “strictly” and “largely” considered that are probably worth discussing, as well. Antecedent and consequent conditions are also germane to this topic. And on ….

    Plus, there is the added issue of Thomas Boston, who may have consciously dissented from Rutherford on a few issues. But polemics in the 18thC were different than polemics in the 17thC and we have to be mindful of that. It is interesting to me that the Marrow was viewed with a great deal of suspicion in some Reformed quarters in the 17thC but in the 18thC things were very different. Yet most treatments of the Marrow focus almost exclusively on the Scottish context and not its original English context.

    But, alas, I don’t have time on a website to get into that sort of detail, so forgive me.


    It is a Reformed commonplace to insist on the necessity of good works for salvation (not justification). If you make salvation synonymous with justification then you will have a problem with my comment. But, the Scriptures are quite clear that salvation can be something that involves good works. Check out Francis Turretin for a good discussion on this issue.


  11. I’m a bit confused. Mark wrote “on the necessity of good works for salvation (not justification)” and also “the Scriptures are quite clear that salvation can be something that involves good works.” Can involve or a necessity? Where does one find in the West. Standards the phrase or teaching of the “necessity of good works for salvation?” If the meaning is that “These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith…” (WCF 16), then I would agree, works are necessary evidences of faith. Taking it further than that seems to point towards salvation as received through faith and good works. Which we don’t want to be affirming.

    Eph. 2 seems to make it pretty clear that salvation, not limited to justification, is a free gift of God received by faith alone and not by any works. Good works surely follow a true and lively faith and are a necessary evidence of one who is saved. But a “necessity” for salvation?

    7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:
    8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
    9 not of works, that no man should glory.

    WSC Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
    A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace,[178] whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

    Our good works do necessarily follow because-
    10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. Yet these good works do not merit pardon of sin nor bring us eternal life for the reasons stated in 16.5.

    My concern here is in conflating faith and works, as well as law and gospel, which subtly begins to shift us away from the ground of our salvation through faith alone, in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone.

  12. Mark


    I really don’t have the time to get into this too much and I am a little wary of people who troll around various websites posting comments and have nothing better to do. Surely that doesn’t apply to you, but I don’t want to give the impression that it applies to me because, as a general rule, I don’t comment on blogs.

    I was merely pointing out that salvation is broader than justification and therefore can involve means such as good works. The question of necessity of good works for salvation is affirmed in the standards and in the New Confession of Faith (1654).

    One way of looking at it is this way: are good works the way of life or also the way to life? The way “to life” speaks of necessity whereas to only say “way of life” might imply that our works are merely a “thank you” to God for salvation. The WLC 32 uses – clearly arguing against a view held by Tobias Crisp – the words “to salvation” to describe holy obedience. Crisp rejected that sanctification was the way to Heaven, but the divines affirmed that good works were not merely evidence of faith.

    Let me also suggest that you read Turretin on this topic (see Institutes 17th topic, third question) for a typical Reformed answer to this question.


  13. David


    Thanks for the interaction and the food for thought. I read your essay on the law-gospel distinction. If the main point you want to make against those who use the “do”/”done” terminology and who identify the gospel with justification is that the gospel has conditions and that it also includes sanctification, then fine, point taken. But I am sure that Horton, Clark and others (I hope it’s not too impolite to name names) who speak like that would not disagree.

    As I view the big picture: I think they’re speaking in shorthand and that they’re speaking into a context in which the law-gospel distinction has been hopelessly blurred, e.g. broad evangelicalism, FVism and NPPism, etc. They’re applying a corrective. But then others like you come along and want to apply a corrective to the corrective, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    But unless we’ve got the space and time to be ultra-precise (like an Owen or Turretin), all of us are going to utilize some shorthand. For example I imagine that Horton and Clark could have a field day with your formula: “[T]he difference between the law and the gospel is not a distinction between demanding and forbidding, which was an Antinomian position, but rather a difference between the kinds of acts that are demanded.” (BTW, you did mean “promising,” right?)

    But since this too is shorthand, there are important pieces missing which you could easily fill in if given a chance.

    Anyway, that’s how this all looks from my vantage point. Again, thanks for the food for thought. I look forward to your future input.

  14. Mark


    Perhaps they could have a field day (I’m certain one of them could), but I think it is pretty easy to affirm that the gospel commands and then speak of the acts that are demanded, namely faith, repentance, and sincere (evangelical) obedience. I often read of do (law) and done (gospel), but not of the gospel in its proper biblical and, dare I say, Reformed historical context.

    BTW, no, I did not mean “promising” instead of “forbidding”. It’s not that the gospel forbids acts. It’s that the acts demanded are also freely given, which safeguards the gracious nature of salvation and, at the same time, does justice to the Scripture.

    Mike Horton has penned a great deal on this matter and I have a work coming out that sets forth the views of the Puritans. Since they are not “shorthand”, you can decide for yourself after reading them which schema fits the biblical data best.


    1. David

      I don’t see that Horton denies that the gospel commands faith, repentance and evangelical obedience. For example, in his essay “Which Covenant Theology?” he says:

      Further, all these challenges [i.e., FVism, NPPism and covenant nomism in general] ignore the careful way in which mainstream Reformed theology has dealt with the obvious conditionality in Scripture, including Paul. This tradition has never said that there are no conditions in the covenant–or even in justification. Rather, it argued that the condition of justification is faith and that the conditions of salvation as a whole process are many: lifelong repentance and faith, sanctification, and glorification. This theology, however, emphasized that these conditions are fulfilled by the gifts that come to us through union with Christ. Thus, God promises to give faith and perseverance, justification and sanctification, throughout the whole course of our life, all the while distinguishing justification from the process of inner renewal.

      Mark, if you’re still around, I would be interested in knowing whether you view this as accepable.

  15. Bill

    Thanks Mark for pointing this out. II think there’s a broad spectrum of theological views on sanctification in the reformed camp from Tullian to Mike Horton to you and other folks at the reformedforum. I believe the same is happening in lutheranism. From Gerhard Forde, which is very similar to Tullian’s view outlined here http://pastormattrichard.webs.com/Forde_Sanctifcation.pdf (similar to the view I provided on my previous post). Now John Brug (WELS – Wixconsin lutheran) slams Gerhard Frode’s view on sanctification on this presentation http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BrugLutheran.pdf and embraces a view of sanctification very close to the one at reformedforum. So it’s not about lutheran or reformed. Thanks Mark again for taking the time. This is an important topic and I can only pray to God that he will make his word clearer on this important part of his Word.

  16. Mark,

    Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to graciously respond. Your further comments to David were helpful to get a better idea of the distinctions you are and aren’t making regarding law/gospel. Do you have a tentative release date and title for the work (Puritan views) that you mentioned? I would be interested in reading it.

  17. Bill

    Mark, we can not include good works in salvation and claim to be part of the protestant reformation. Sola fide, faith alone refers to salvation (not to justification). We re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The gospel is the proclamation that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15) and at most we can say that it includes definitive sanctification beside justification. Both given at conversion when the gospel is received by faith, this happens instantaneously. Good works or progressive sanctification follow salvation, but they can not be part of it, unless you are roman catholic where salvation is a process that involves good works. For the reformers salvation was an event, not a process, and is received by faith alone,

    I know you keep saying that God supplies what he commands. This doesn’t matter, salvation is not only by grace alone but faith alone. Including progressing sanctification or good works as part of salvation would be considered heresy by the reformers, accompanied by a let it be anathema. It’s the heresy of the federal vision which adds works to faith.

    1. Bill, you get to the crux of my concern, (My concern here is in conflating faith and works, as well as law and gospel, which subtly begins to shift us away from the ground of our salvation through faith alone, in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone), brought up in my earlier post, referencing Eph. 2:7-10 based on Mark’s phrases, “on the necessity of good works for salvation (not justification)” and “necessity of good works for salvation”.

      You framed it much better. Well said, and thanks.

  18. David

    Here’s a pertinent selection from Bavinck (translated by Kloosterman):

    It was in terms of this [law-gospel] distinction that differences arose as to whether preaching for faith and conversion which presented a condition and demand really should be considered as belonging to the Gospel, or rather (according to Flacius, Gerhard, Quenstedt, Voetius, Witsius, Coccejus, De Moor, et al.) to the law. And indeed, in the strictest sense there are in the Gospel no demands and conditions, but only promises and gifts; faith and conversion are, just as justification, etc., benefits of the covenant of grace. Still, the Gospel never appears concretely this way; in practice it is always joined to the law and in Scripture it was then always woven together with the law. The Gospel always presupposes the law, and needs it also in its administration. For it is brought to rational and moral people who before God are responsible for themselves and therefore must be called to faith and conversion. The demanding, summoning shape in which the Gospel appears is borrowed from the law; every person is obliged to take God at His word not first by the Gospel, but by nature through the law, and thus also to accept the Gospel in which He speaks to the person. Therefore the Gospel from the very beginning lays claim to all people, binds them in their consciences, since that God who speaks in the Gospel is none other than He who in His law has made Himself known to them. Faith and conversion are therefore demanded of the person in the name of God’s law, by virtue of the relationship in which the person as a rational creature stands with respect to God; and that demand is directed not only to the elect and regenerate, but to all men without distinction.

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