Ray's Blog

Can a label edify?

My TGC ally Rick Phillips makes some good points in his post, “Church Discipline, Contemporary Grace Style”.  I thank him for those points.

Tullian Tchividjian is my friend too.  As far as I am concerned, he always will be.  Tullian, I believe, collapsed too much of his message into the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  That doctrine is a wonderful treasure, cherished by us all.  But the Bible has more to say to us.  Wise pastors receive the complete message of Scripture, from cover to cover, as sacred and life-giving.  Then, alas, Tullian also disqualified himself personally.  I literally groan as I write those words.  We all feel horrible for everyone involved.

Rick also made some points I have reservations about.  Here is one.  Rick drew in others, unnamed, as “the Contemporary Grace Movement (CGM).”  I don’t know who created that category.  And I don’t know if I am “a card-carrying member of the movement,” as Rick put it.  I did preach at Liberate several years ago, which was a privilege.  And I do lay my primary pastoral emphasis on “the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6), because God’s glorious grace stands as the banner over the whole of redemption.  To the praise of his glorious grace in Christ, God chooses, calls, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies the undeserving.  Maybe that puts the CGM card in my wallet.  But I never agreed to that label.  And no one likes being collected and grouped and categorized by someone else.  No one likes being told who they are.

Labels are a kind of verbal barcode, and that risks coming across as simplistic and even dismissive.  Labels can diminish openness.  Labels can discourage listening.  If they catch on as negative rallying points, labels can become divisive among true brothers in Christ.

What if someone created the “Contemporary Law Movement (CLM)” as a brand for others?  Would anyone’s heart be helped to rejoice in the Lord?

So here is my proposal: No more grouping of people into a collectivity they have not owned for themselves.  Instead, let’s walk forward together with discourse that can unify us around our Savior and Lord.  This is the spirit pervading The Gospel Coalition.

I sincerely honor Rick for his ministry.  And I will make that my last word.

This post was originally published on The Gospel Coalition