April 16, 2014

Steve Lawson's train wreck at Shepherd's conference 2014

(note 6-22-2015): I have since come to the conviction that even though I don't believe all the critiques of Tullian are fair, they do have some good points. Tullian's message has been going off the rails for a while and his associations and messages are getting more vague.  He seems to have gone from assuming the gospel to assuming the law.)

original post:

I listened to Jordan Cooper take this apart but he didn't play the whole thing. I listened to the whole thing. TOTAL TRAIN WRECK. LAW LAW LAW.


About 22 minutes from the end, he called out Tullian Tchividjian explicitly by quoting and then paraphrasing several portions of his book Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything.  He also called out Tullian's preaching prof Steve Brown from his book Scandalous Freedom.

I have issues with both those guys sometimes and how they sometimes shy away from naming specific sins except self righteousness... and virtually no third use of the law (which we really do NEED to hear) but the characterization Steve Lawson employed was unbelievably skewed and twisted. It was shameful.

At one point he actually said with derision
"How often should you have to look back at your justification?" 
All of us in this house were pretty much agog at that. He also used himself as an image of drive to perform (his sports career in college).

I felt so many times through this message that if I took him seriously then I could never measure up to the standard of perfection embodied by ... not Jesus, but Steve Lawson and if I didn't, well then... am I even really saved?

I heard all Tullian's Jesus Plus Nothing sermons, but I'm going to have to get ahold of the book now so that I can see exactly how Lawson quoted the beginning of one portion and then seamlessly seems to have lapsed into 'paraphrase and caricature' of the rest without indicating where the end of the quote was.  I would also like to see how 'in context' the passage was.  Tullian is of course speaking about justification so it would be silly for Lawson to apply what he was saying to sanctification.  Such would be a confusion of Sanctification and Justification, exactly the same thing of which  he was accusing Pastor Tullian.

He even had to acknowledge (though it was done very cursorily) that one's salvation was secure in Christ.  But then he took such peace away again by going back to Jonathan Edwards and his drive to be the theoretical "Best Christian" on earth and demanding we answer to ourselves whether we are fully surrendered to Christ.  The answer, if you are human and honest, is no, to all those questions he posed.  Jonathan Edwards' line of prayer speaking to God and telling him he's fully surrendered to God's will is just silly and self deluded.  Yeah, I know, everyone thinks well of him.  I guess I don't follow the conventional wisdom, I'd rather go with Scripture.  Paul admits he is the chief of sinners, at the end of his life.

For some reason we think being sanctified has only to do with outward conformity to house rules or some other moral code.  Well, no, sanctification is far more than that.  And the longer you are a Christian the less likely you are to claim moral progress because your understanding of morality gets deeper and bigger even as you are leaving certain obvious sins behind.  I fear for anyone under a pastor or elder who doesn't realize that.

This past week some bloggers for Pulpit and Pen insisted needing to hear the gospel is a sign of immaturity.  An elder from a Sovereign Grace church in Helena MT actually said "I pity people like you."  So exactly what is the need to hear the law over and over again to tell us how to be good? I find I'm telling little children how to be good more often than my adult family members!  But adults family members still need to be told they are loved, even if you don't have to tell them constantly how to be good or even remind them to be good.

I suppose it might in some cases be a sign of immaturity, or it might be a sign of them being convicted of sin, or it might be a sign of some other struggle in their life, stuff that a large percentage of us are going through at any one time. And because pastors are invested in the lives of their flock, they are going through it ALL the time with the flock, and so probably need to hear the gospel even more!

But what pastor who cares at all for other people would just tell a struggling saint or discouraged fellow pastor to buck up and strive and beat their bodies to submission like he's doing? It should be their pleasure and honor to set the table of God's grace and beckon the weak undeserving people (just like himself) to be filled!

An hour and 20 minutes hammering these guys with the law, and no gospel for them. What encouragement for burned out and despairing pastors. I guess pastors don't need Jesus.  Thank goodness there weren't ANY of those burned out despairing pastors present at that conference.  (Yes, that's a bit of sarcasm.)  If as Lawson says, being a good pastor is all about beating yourself into submission and giving till you have nothing left to give, I guess Rick Warren is doing a bang up job.  Lots of the very pastors he is concerned about dishonoring the name of Christ present a very law/moralistic driven message of personal transformation. (Mark Driscoll, Dough Phillips, Bill Gothard, Steven Furtick) How come it's not working for those guys?  How come he didn't quote any of those guys or examine their message to see what is wrong with it?

It is rather interesting though to be reading Bo Giertz's "The Hammer of God" and see how these guys sound exactly like the young ' full victory mode' preachers before they figure out how to dispense grace rightly in their parishes. They are bound and determined to root out sin in themselves and their hearers by firing at people with God's law and skimping on the gospel. And the result is disharmony, dissension, infighting, class warfare, and bitterness. And the young pastors just cannot see what they are doing wrong at first. By the end of each novella they have at least begun to figure it out. Sadly, many pastors go forever without figuring it out. I am grieved for the people who have to suffer under such withering moralism.

I am only partway through the first novella. All three novellas are supposed to illustrate the same point, so I expect the rest will be equally good. Here is the young curate from the second novella, as he realizes there is great trouble brewing in his parish.
"Friends," he said, when he finally turned to his companions, "I want to look upon this as God's call to holy warfare against the flesh for all of us. And I propose to begin with myself tonight. There must be no sin remaining in us. We have responsibility also for others. And for the revival, too. Those who wait for the Lord must not be put to shame because of us." -- Pastor Fridfeldt, The Hammer of God,  by Bo Giertz p 140
huh, sounds like Steve Lawson. Maybe in a few years Steve Lawson and all his defenders will get to the end of their personal novella and understand more fully 'there but for God's grace go I.'
Then Jordan Hall, of Pulpit and Pen, decided to fire off a Facebook status saying "Preaching holiness is not preaching Law. Only an antinomian can't distinguish between the two."

So I guess if you disagree on a legalistic message, you're a heretic. Great. Kinda like his tweet about Lutherans -- if you're a Lutheran you worship tradition, robes, ritual, and alcohol...?

To which I would simply say Preaching Holiness is indeed preaching law. It might be done rightly and it might be done wrongly. Only a pietist would not be able to tell the difference.

Contrast Lawson's man-centered-performance-driven-pastor message with this beautiful blog post (which ironically I received from someone who didn't seem to see the problem with Lawson's message):

Weaning Christians off the Gospel

also see
The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church