The grandson of Billy Graham and Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Tullian Tchividjian recently told a panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the pulpit is not the place to speak out on social issues.
“Over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, evangelicalism, specifically their association with the religious right and conservative politics, has done more damage to the brand of Christianity than just about anything else,” he told the MSNBC panel.
“That’s not to say that Christian people don’t have opinions on social issues and we shouldn’t speak those opinions, but Sunday morning from behind the pulpit is not the place,” he added.
“It’s not so much religion in the public sphere as much as religion in the pulpit, behind the pulpit, that’s my primary concern,” Tchividjian continued. “As a preacher, my job when I stand up on Sunday mornings to preach, is not first and foremost to address social ills or social problems or try to find social solutions. My job is to diagnose people’s problems and then announce God’s solution to their problems.”
There is an incredible irony that Tchividjian’s predecessor, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, was diametrically opposed both in orthodoxy and orthopraxy to Tchividjian’s statements. For Kennedy, the gospel addressed not only the individual, but also the nation and government. He was a man known for confronting social issues from the pulpit week in and week out. And he was feared by the godless people of our society.
It is precisely pastors like Tchividjian that are part of the problem. Let me explain.
I agree with the description of his book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News which states, “God’s radical grace is unbelievable, unexplainable, and definitely undeserved. But it’s the foundation of our faith. In this new 365-day devotional, Tchividjian reminds you every day that the Gospel is good news.”
The question I have for Tchividjian is, what is grace? Is it just a syrup that God pours over us when we sin, almost a license to sin? Or is it biblically defined as the empowerment of God to unworthy sinners to obey Him? Let me contrast mercy and grace because many people mix them up. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve. Grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve God changing our hearts, quickening us, nor empowering us by His Holy Spirit to obey Him and turn from sin, but that is exactly what He provides in Christ.
Now, taking that a step further, once we are true believers, we must see that God speaks to every area of life, including every social ill we face and to government. As the apostle Peter stated:
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” -2 Peter 1:3
Does God speak to the issue of marriage? Does He speak about murder? Does He speak about perjury? How about sodomy or theft? Does God provide law for society? Does He speak to how that law is to be carried out and what punishments are to be associated with the violation of His law? In all of these, they definitely apply to the individual, but they are to be understood as governing a people.
For Tchividjian to first claim that the pulpit is not the place to address these things is a denial of the very gospel he claims to preach and its power. Apparently, Tchividjian is one of the vast amounts of preachers in America who think God has answers to society’s ills, but they shouldn’t be preached from the pulpit.
This is a far cry from the Black Robed Regiment that believed God spoke to every issue of life through His Word and they faithfully preached it from their pulpits. Or consider men like John Calvin or the great Scottish Reformer John Knox, who instigated a Christian revolution in Scotland because of his preaching. Just get a taste of how Knox preached.
“No man denies, but that the sword is committed to the magistrate, to the end that he should punish vice and maintain virtue. To punish vice, I say: not only that which troubles the tranquillity and quiet estate of the commonwealth (by adultery, theft, or murder committed), but also such vices as openly impugn the glory of God, as idolatry, blasphemy, and manifest heresy, taught and obstinately maintained, as the histories and notable acts of Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah do plainly teach us; whose study and care was not only to glorify God in their own life and conversation, but also they unfeignedly did travail to bring their subjects to the true worshipping and honouring of God; and did destroy all monuments of idolatry, did punish to death the teachers of it, and removed from office and honours such as were maintainers of those abominations. Whereby, I suppose, that it is evident, that the office of the king, or supreme magistrate, has respect to the moral law, and to the conservation of both the tables.”
Oh, it gets more intense as Knox continued,
“Now, if the moral law is the constant and unchangeable will of God, to which the Gentile is no less bound than was the Jew; and if God wills, that amongst the Gentiles the ministers and executors of his law be now appointed, as sometimes they were appointed amongst the Jews; further, if the execution of justice is no less requisite in the policy of the Gentiles, than ever it was amongst the Jews; what man can be so foolish to suppose or believe, that God will now admit those persons to sit in judgment, or to reign over men in the commonwealth of the Gentiles, whom he by his expressed word and ordinance did before debar and exclude from the same? And that women were excluded from the royal seat, the which ought to be the sanctuary to all poor afflicted, and therefore is justly called the seat of God (besides the place before recited of the election of a king, and besides the places of the New Testament, which are most evident), the order and election which were kept in Judah and Israel do manifestly declare. For when the males of the kingly stock failed, as oft as it chanced in Israel, and sometimes in Judah, it never entered into the hearts of the people to choose and promote to honours any of the king’s daughters (had he never so many); but knowing God’s vengeance to be poured forth upon the father by the taking away of his sons, they had no further respect to his stock, but elected such one man or other as they judged most apt for that honour and authority. Of which premises, I conclude (as before) that to promote a woman head over men is repugnant to nature, and a thing most contrary to that order which God has approved in that commonwealth which he did institute and rule by his word.”
Ha! I’ll bet there aren’t many pulpits you would hear that from, especially with all the feminism and women’s liberation proponents out there, and even among supposed “conservatives,” who wish to put a woman in office as president.
Friends compare the kind of preaching of Knox with the milquetoast version of Christianity being offered by today’s “hip” preachers (God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life). It is not those that are bringing the Word of God to bear on the social issues of the day that are “tarnishing” Christianity (which is not a “brand”), it is those who are too cowardly to preach the whole counsel of God to all men, regardless of whether they want to hear it or not, who are tarnishing Christianity.
Fox News’ Todd Starnes rightly commented, “I may be wrong, but this sounds like some sort of left-wing isolationist theology. It’s the idea that whatever you do – don’t engage the culture – lest you offend someone.”
If you want to know why we are losing the culture war, Tullian Tchividjian just gave us the answer.
Watch the interview: