Tullian Tchividjian is booted from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website while C.J. Mahaney and Josh Harris quietly leave TGC council amidst ongoing sex abuse lawsuits in which a former Sovereign Grace Ministries volunteer is found guilty of sex abuse charges.
Confirmation bias regarding one’s friends can become a powerful weapon against the truth. It gives way to black and white thinking which makes the hard work of discernment easier. “This person is my friend and has given me quite a bit of money in their kindness towards me, so I am more inclined to believe that they are incapable of gross wrongdoing.” But people are not simply all or nothing – much the way children understand people when they are very young. Complicated people are quite messy, and the more complicated they are, the more we need to work at figuring out “who” they are. We may agree with them on A,B, and C – but not on D,E, or F. And the more reason we are given to like someone, the greater our bias. Could the Gospel Coalition hold a more favorable opinion of Mahaney than of Tchividjian because of “attitude polarization”? Could the “Mahaney Money Machine” be a factor?
There has been a lot of activity going on at The Gospel Coalition.
Dee at The Wartburg Watch recently reported in her article, Twitter Wars and Predictions Surrounding SGM and the Nate Morales Conviction:
Over the weekend, a firestorm erupted on Twitter. #IStandWithSGMVictims was started by Zach Hoag. A number of people sent tweets to The Gospel Coalition which promptly blocked a number of people using the hashtag.
This was indeed a firestorm. The hashtag: #IStandWithSGMVictims was quite popular and became a Twitter “trend.” Take a peek at the scores and scores of people in solidarity for the SGM victims and also those who are tired of church leaders not taking action against sex abuse in church.
The sad part about this was response by Joe Carter, spokesman at The Gospel Coalition. One of the most common signs of high-controlling behavior is when someone attempts to control conversation by shutting it down. That is exactly what happened over the weekend. Many people were “blocked” from following The Gospel Coalition after they sent out a tweet that included #IStandWithSGMVictims in the tweet. I’ve been blocked a long time ago from The Gospel Coalition (@TGC), but this time, Joe stooped to a new low and personally blocked me.
Here is the tweet where he accused me of slander. If you click on Source, you can see where I asked Joe to provide proof. He never did. Instead he blocked me.
Keep in mind, shutting down communication is nothing new at The Gospel Coalition. It has been reported here and at Wartburg Watch numerous times that if anyone mentioned anything regarding C.J. Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace case on TGC blogs, many (if not most) of the time these comments were removed. And why would they be removed? Because they have long defended Mahaney who until this last weekend was on The Gospel Coalition council.
That brings us to another unfolding event over the weekend. Along with a newly designed website at TGC, some noticed that C.J. Mahaney and Josh Harris were no longer listed as council members. Several have reported this story. Harris responded about it on Twitter:
I resigned the @TGC Council because I don’t want the present challenges at my church to distract from this terrific ministry. Godspeed, TGC!
— Joshua Harris (@HarrisJosh) May 19, 2014
Harris voluntarily left TGC apparently because of the current sex abuse legal case his church is involved with (and its former ties with sex abuse cases within Sovereign Grace Ministries). We have not heard a statement from C.J. Mahaney as to why he has left TGC. This was long overdue, if you ask me.
However, Harris and Mahaney are not the only ones to be missing from the council. Late last night, I read this note from Tullian Tchividjian about how he was apparently booted from TGC. He mentioned that he had earlier told TGC of his plans to move his blog from TGC and transition to his own blog site, but TGC gave him no notice that they were booting him now:
None of the powers that be, however, ever mentioned anything to me (either by email or phone) before Thursday when I was simply told that the transition needed to happen now. I know I have had some differences with some of the other contributors to this site but my goal has always been to do nothing but preach the Good News with every post, to bring relief to the burdened and broken, and rest to the weary and heavy laden by fixing the readers’ eyes on the finished work of Jesus. You’ll have to judge for yourself if I succeeded or failed in this regard. (Source)
Now, why would TGC want Tchividjian to leave? Some have suggested it is because Tchividjian’s gospel has too much “grace.” Dee of The Wartburg Watch mentioned this in the following Twitter conversation:
Dee noticed something unique about Tullian Tchividjian in her excellent article, Grace and Obedience: Why I Agree With Tullian Tchividjian and Not With Jen Wilkin and posted this quote from Tchividjian. Tchividjian’s grace message is not the same kind of message we hear from other Neo-Calvinists:
So when I say “Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail”, I’m NOT saying “go out and sin more so that grace may abound.” I’ve never heard anyone say that. What I AM saying is that you ARE failing and that if you are in Christ, your failure does not condemn you (Rom. 8:1). Furthermore, your failure cannot separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:31ff). So, because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail without fear of being cast out, abandoned. Even our most cataclysmic failures won’t tempt God to “leave us or forsake us.” Perfect love casts out all fear.
Jonathan Merritt interviewed Tchividjian about his book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World and once again, also notice the grace theme:
Tchividjian takes Christians to task for their legalistic focus on performance. But he also casts a vision for a more grace-filled future. Here, we talk about what he thinks is wrong with the Christian church today and what he believes the answer is.
I love this quote from Tchividjian on morality and free grace.
The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home. (Source)
Tchividjian continues by touching on a common issue that we have dealt with in high-controlling church environments:
Furthermore, it seems that the good news of God’s grace has been tragically hijacked by an oppressive religious moralism that is all about rules, rules, and more rules; doing more, trying harder, self-help, getting better, and fixing, fixing, fixing–—ourselves, our kids, our spouse, our friends, our enemies, our culture, our world. Christianity is perceived as being a vehicle for good behavior and clean living and the judgments that result from them rather than the only recourse for those who have failed over and over again. (Source)
It’s interesting. The Gospel Coalition has never had any problem with C.J. Mahaney on their council all this time – even through this sex abuse case has been:
“American evangelicalism’s biggest sex scandal to date.” ~Janet Mefferd
Throughout the Sovereign Grace lawsuit and sex abuse cases there has been one underlying theme that seems to be prevalent. It is the idea that as long as someone has the right doctrine, nothing else matters. It seems that The Gospel Coalition has long sided with Mahaney because he has the “correct” views on complementarianism, he has the right views on Reformed doctrine, he has the right views on the Cross, and sin, and the Gospel. Since Mahaney had all of those really important doctrinal matters correct, it seems they were willing and have been willing to overlook the fact that C.J. Mahaney likely knew about sex abuse cases that occurred in his church and that he and his pastors failed to address those problems appropriately.
T. F. Charlton in his article, Sovereign Grace Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Just Got More Complicated remarks:
T4G and TGC’s defense of Mahaney have left critics asking what it would take for evangelical leaders to consider the possibility that one of their own might be complicit in the coverup of child abuse. (Source)
I’m really struck at the irony here. It seems that C.J. Mahaney should have been the one booted from The Gospel Coalition, not Tullian. We’ve heard nothing but crickets from The Gospel Coalition on these issues. It does seem to appear that “correct” doctrine over grace and victims is what counts for The Gospel Coalition.
I think “Martin Luther’s Disciple” sums it up succinctly in his comment over at Phoenix Preacher blog regarding this situation: