An Interview With Tullian Tchividjian-Part 1
Several years ago, God allowed my path to cross with a young pastor in South Florida named Tullian Tchividjian. We share a common love for the local church, theology, and preaching God's word. I've been able to spend time with Tullian on several occasions, including a chance to meet his grandfather and recently deceased grandmother, Billy and Ruth Graham. Tullian has just finished a book, Do I Know God?. I'm so glad he is writing because I love his passion to bring scriptural truth to bear on peoples lives. I'll be interviewing Tullian about his book in the next several posts—I hope it encourages you to learn about his ministry and love for the gospel.
Josh: Why did you write book? What need did you see in our culture that you wanted to address?
Tullian: I wrote the book to answer two basic questions: 1) is God knowable, and, if he is, 2) how can I know that I know God. The bulk of the book deals with this second question. In theological terms, it's basically a book on assurance of salvation. Sadly, I meet so many people who are confused regarding whether or not they truly know God. In the book I say that if you don't know God, he wants you to know it. If you do know God, he wants you to know it. The two things God does not want is for you to think you know God if you don't and for you to think you don't know God if you do. It's very sobering, but the Bible makes it clear that we can possess false assurance. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that there are multitudes of people who go through life thinking they know God when in fact they don't. They enter eternity thinking they will hear "well done good and faithful servant" when in fact they will hear, "Depart from me I never knew you." C.S. Lewis describes this horrific event as "being banished from the presence of him who is everywhere and erased from the knowledge of him who knows all." Scary stuff. So I try to identify 6 ways that someone might be deceived into thinking they have a relationship with God when in fact they don't. And then I move into three ways one can know that they know God. Knowing that you belong to God, having a deep sense of your eternal security, not only provides a sure and steadfast anchoring for your soul, but it radically changes the way you live here and now. There's nothing more vital, nothing more satisfying, than knowing God and knowing that you know God. I also have a chapter on how to practically pursue assurance (I quote you in that chapter, by the way) and a chapter on "the dark night of the soul"-- How can I trust that God is present in my life when I feel only his absence? I then close with a chapter on heaven--what does truly knowing God promise for my eternity? That's my favorite chapter, by the way. You'll find a few surprises in there, I promise.
Culturally, we find ourselves at an interesting time. On the one hand, we live in a society that won't commit to anything but uncertainty. On the other hand, there are increasing amounts of young people especially who are now hungering for truth. Ironically, postmodernism's rejection of absolute truth is creating a hunger for truth that is unprecedented in recent generations. Many young adults are realizing the shallowness of the politically correct approach to life and reality. They want something they can sink their teeth into; they want to live for something worth dying for. So they are asking deep questions like: Is it really possible to know God? Is being "spiritual" or "religious" the same thing as having a relationship with God? What is faith? What role, if any, do my feelings play regarding whether or not I know God? And can a relationship with God assure me of a secure future? I don't know about you, but I get questions like this all the time from 20 somethings and I wanted to write a book that took those questions seriously and sought to answer those questions thoroughly. This is that book.
Josh: What trends do you see among Christians today that encourage you? What do you find concerning?
Tullian:On the one hand, I'm thrilled beyond expression to see a new groundswell of interest in theology among young adults. I was telling a friend of mine the other day on the phone that the real difference between this movement of interest in theology and past movements of interest in theology (at least in the 20th century) is that this new movement of interest in theology has not only a strong intellectual dimension to it, but a strong emotional dimension too. These young adults are not simply thinking deeply about God, they are feeling deeply for God. I actually talk in the book at length about the relationship between thinking and feeling as it concerns our knowledge of God—and how indispensable God-centered emotion is in our relationship to God. Jonathan Edwards used to say that people not only need to hear about the holiness and majesty of God, but even more importantly, they need to sense his holiness, they need to feel his majesty. These young adults are "getting it," and I couldn't be happier.
As far as what I find among Christians today that concerns me, geez, where do I begin? I don't say that to be critical. Rather, because we are sinners living in a fallen world, nothing is sound. Everything needs to be recalibrated—especially me! But if I were to identify one trend in the church today that concerns me, it would be our fascination with "fitting in." In fact, the next book (the one I've only started to think about) will be entitled Unfashionable. The working subtitle is Following Jesus in the 21st Century. The sad fact is, we've come to believe that the best way to reach the world is to become just like the world. When in reality, we make a difference by being different. We don't make a difference by being the same. We need to remember that it is the calling and the privilege of Christians to be against the world for the world. In fact, it is, in the words of theologian David Wells, "those who are cognitively and morally dislocated from worldly culture that alone carry the power to change it." Christians should be encouraged and challenged by the historical reminder that the Church has always served the world best when it has been most counter cultural, most distinctively different from the world. I would love to see a radical commitment to being unfashionable. How's that?
(To be continued...)
• Visit Tullian's church website or listen to his sermons
• Read Tullian's new blog.
• Buy the book
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Matt Chandler Video: My family listened to one of Matt's sermons as we drove to Ohio for Thanksgiving. A few days later we were shocked to hear of his seizure and need for immediate surgery. Matt and his family and church have been in our prayers since. This is a video Matt recorded for his church right before the surgery. In it he's exalting Jesus and pastoring his people. I thank God for this man and pray for his quick recovery. Watch.
Calling Christian Actors: Vinegar Hill is casting for the NEXT 2010 conference promo video right now. Check out the casting call.
Pilgrim's Progress Musical: Pilgrim is a modern musical adaptation of John Bunyan's classic work, Pilgrim's Progress. It was performed in spring 2009 by the high school students at my church. They did a great job. The script is by theatre professionals (and members of our church) Janice Mays and Cathy Mays. The music is by various artists, including Bob Kauflin, Zach Jones and Mark Altrogge. You can order a DVD of the production here.
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