Unfashionable

Tullian Tchividjian has just written a book by that name, and it will be available at the WTS bookstore sometime this month. I got a pre-pub copy and read it very eagerly. A book that has encomiums by J.I. Packer, Ravi Zacharias, Michael Horton, Kent Hughes, Luder Whitlock, Thabiti Anyabwile, and D.A. Carson (among many others!) ought at least to hold my attention. I was not disappointed.

The book is about Christians relating to culture. There are many books available on this now, many of them outstandingly scholarly. This one fills the niche of saying those things that Carson and Wells (for instance) say in a way that a brand new believer can understand. And the message is exactly what the modern church needs to hear. The book may be summarized by Jesus’ proverb that the church needs to be in the world but not of the world. Fortunately, Tchividjian spends most of his time on the “not of the world,” since that seems to be the greater danger in the church today. Churches think that they need to be “relevant,” and so that usually means looking just like the world. But if the church looks just like the world, it is no longer relevant, argues Tchividjian. Salt can only be salt is if it is not the same thing as that which it is trying to salt. And yet, on the balance side, salt cannot salt unless it is in close contact with that which it is trying to salt. So Tchividjian gets this balance exactly right. Tchividjian obviously cares a great deal about this subject; his passion is evident. The book is therefore a clarion call to churches to be rooted in God’s truth, which is perennially relevant, even though unfashionable. Also laudable is his emphasis on the Christian faith permeating every aspect of who we are and what we do. We don’t check out Christianity at the door, as if it was a borrowed library book that we have to leave at the library when we leave. Instead, when we leave church on Sunday morning, we enter the mission field, whatever vocation one might have.

I have only a few questions for Tullian concerning this book. First, piggy-backing on his laudable balance of truth and unity, I was wondering if he could be a bit more specific about what constitutes truth. Obviously, there are many factors in our quest for catholic (small “c”) unity. A PCA church can have a greater unity with a Calvinistic Baptist church than it can with a Roman Catholic Church; and a greater unity with a NAPARC church than with a Calvinistic Baptist church, and a greater unity yet with a PCA church than with, say, even an OPC church. My question is this: what is the basis for each of these different levels of unity? All these groups would claim to believe the Bible and would claim the Bible as at least a standard, and most would claim it as the final standard for truth. My question really aims at the confessions. Are the Westminster standards our basis for unity in the PCA? He quotes a post written by Reggie Kidd which is certainly directed against certain kinds of confessional voices in the PCA. Indeed, that post was heavily modified (and retracted, it is important to note) from its original version, which had brutally attacked several well-known voices in the PCA arguing for confessional teaching. Does Tchividjian agree with that kind of assessment of confessional thinking or not? Understand that I am not presuming the answer one way or another, nor am I saying that this was a lapse on Tchividjian’s part in the book. His argument was to keep the balance between truth and unity. Amen to that. And you cannot say everything in a small book. But it does compel us to ask the next question about confessional truth.

The book should be read. I think it is the easiest entrance into the question of Christianity and culture that we have. It is eminently sane and biblical. And I would like to thank Tullian for writing it.

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