Friday, January 27, 2012

Why should Christians Perform Good Works? A Reply to Tulian Tchividjian

In Tullian Tchividjian's new book "Jesus+Nothing=Everything", one of the central claims made is that the only motivation for doing good works is thankfulness for the gospel. According to Tchividjian, having any other motivation for good works is equivalent to Pharisaism. I hear these kinds of statements a lot from the supposed "Lutheran leaning" Reformed crowd. However, much like the two kingdom theology of this group, I find that this approach to good works is far from the Lutheran tradition. Martin Chemnitz, in his Loci Theologici, outlines several reasons why the Christian should perform good works. They are as follows:

I. Good Works as they apply to God Himself
1. It is the command of God
2. It is the will of God
3. If God is our father, we should be obedient sons
4. Christ redeemed us that he might purify us
5. Good works are the fruit of the Spirit
6. We glorify God through our works
7. That we might become imitators of God
8. That we might walk worthily of God

II. Causes which apply to the Renegerate
1. Because they have been born again, and are new creatures
2. Because they are sons of light
3. That they might witness to the genuineness of faith
4. That they may be assured that they don't have dead faith
5. So that faith might not be lost
6. So that we may avoid the punishments of God in this life
7. We should have zeal for doing good

III. The impelling and final causes of Good Works as over against our neighbors
1. That our neighbor might be helped and served
2. That others may be invited to godliness by our example
3. That we give no one a cause for offense
4. That by blessing we may shut the mouths of our adversaries

All of these can be found in greater detail with scriptural proofs in Loci Theologici Vol. III, 1183-1184.

All of our good works should be performed with the gospel of Christ in view, and never without the recognition of our utter dependence on the grace of God. However, the language that is often used that thankfulness for the gospel is the sole motivation for good works is unhelpful. It does not exhaust the Biblical testimony or the teaching of the Lutheran tradition.


William said...

Excellent post.

W.A. Scott

skierace said...

All good reason. And now back to back all these: James 2: 14-26

skierace said...

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! This proves that we need deeds!

Martin Yee said...

Quoting Gerhard Forde "A theology of glory works like this..Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works..Theology then becomes the business of making theological explanations attractive to the will." - On Being A Theologian of the Cross, p16.
Quoting Luther "The thirst for glory is not ended by satisfying it but rather by extinguishing it" - Heidelberg Disputations.

Tullian is not dismissing good works as part of a Christian's life but that it should be motivated by the Gospel rather than the Law. There is a distinction between a Law-driven life and a Gospel-given life.

We need to be careful of the theology of glory trap.

Just a 2 cents worth

Martin Yee

Jordan Cooper said...

Martin, I don't think Chemnitz is becoming a theologian of glory by acknowledging that due to God's act of regeneration, man delights to do God's will simply because it is the will of his heavenly father. I agree that there is a difference between a law driven life and gospel driven life. Ultimately, the gospel always has the final say and should be our ultimate focus in this life. However, I think Forde goes far beyond the Confessional Lutheran tradition on this, and many other points.

Martin Yee said...

Jordon, agreed. Talking about good works does not make anybody into a theologian of glory. Certainly Melanchthon and Chemnitz are no theologians of glory. Point taken. Thanks.