It wasn’t until his recent exit from The Gospel Coalition that I started paying attention to Tullian Tchividjian. I’d heard his name before, read some of his blogs, and knew he was one of Billy Graham’s grandsons, but I couldn’t tell you much about him or what made him distinctive. But when he got caught up in the middle of a bit of controversy with TGC, I decided to start paying closer attention. There’s a bit of a debate/discussion in the Church right now over sanctification: what should the believer’s approach to it be, how should we preach on it, where does the power and motivation come from, etc. On the one hand you have folks who emphasize our own effort partnering with God in the process. On the other (and this is the camp Tchividjian is in), you have those whose sole focus is God’s grace-any effort on our part cannot be really mandated or exhorted but rather must come solely as a response to God’s grace. I personally think both sides are looking at the same coin and arguing that what they see on their side is more important. In other words, they are more similar than they would care to admit. But I had more of an outsider’s perspective on it than anything-I wasn’t up to date on what each side had said in the past and what they really believed. This is the lens that I read “One Way Love” through-what does Tullian say about the role of grace in our lives once we’ve trusted Christ with our life and salvation? But that’s not the only answer that I got in the process. First, the Pros of the book:
- Tullian shares much of his personal story throughout the book. To say that he identifies with the Prodigal Son is an understatement. I hugely appreciated his humility and vulnerability-not many believers, let alone pastors, would feel comfortable being so open about where they’ve come from.
- Tullian’s writing style is conversational and warm-he’s not writing from some distant ivory tower or insecurely lashing out at his critics, but rather sharing his life and beliefs. It’s easy to identify with and to like Tullian.
- Tullian uses many great sources to add to or flesh out some of his points. Tim Keller, Jerry Bridges, Brennan Manning, and Paul M.F. Zahl are just a few of those he references. You get the feeling that Tullian’s done his homework in researching what others have to say about grace and its role in our lives.
- Tullian champions grace. You can’t read too much of the book without his passion and love for the grace of God dripping off the page. This is a very good and refreshing thing.
There are, however, some Cons to the book:
- The book’s structure. Tullian says in the beginning that the book is adapted from a series of sermons…and it shows. It’s not a major flaw, but there are definitely ways where the book might have worked better if it had been designed as a book from the beginning. The book can be a tad repetitive at times.
- Tullian seems to generalizes those who are on the other side of the sanctification divide. This is, to an extent, unavoidable. But I couldn’t help but think several times “Do people really preach that way? Do people really teach that way?” I know Tullian has a lot of personal experience here that I don’t…but I don’t feel he backed up some of the claims he made about the “opponents of grace alone.”
In summary: I enjoyed “One Way Love” and had some definite personal takeaways. His descriptions of what unconditional grace looks like in marriage and relationships in general were especially convicting and inspiring. My eyes were opened to just how conditional my love often is and I was reminded of my constant need of grace. I also thought his discussion in Chapter 10 of how total depravity affects Christians both before and after conversion to be very interesting (and worth some more thought). As Tullian says, “We never outgrow our need for grace–ever” (p 219). This book is an excellent reminder of that, wherever we are on our journey of faith.