Good Works: Vertical and Horizontal

Though his books, sermons, and articles have become wildly popular in Reformed-ish circles, for quite some time now I’ve been thoroughly perplexed by the one-note emphasis Tullian Tchividjian has been “pitching” (for the lack of a better word).
In a recent article, Tullian claims that “[t]he aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical”. By “horizontal” Tullian means towards our neighbors. By “vertical” Tullian means towards God. He then proceeds to imply he is uncomfortable with talking about “effort, action, working out our salvation, practicing Godliness” on a vertical plane.
The biblical message, however, is that the aim and direction of a believers good works are BOTH horizontal and vertical.
Tullian here is creating an unnecessary dichotomy between biblical truths. This is not an isolated incident. Tullian has raised a small but profitable “cottage industry” of creating such dichotomies.
In his response to Tullian’s article, David Murray points out three texts that contradict Tullian’s claim. They show that even our “horizontal” works have, embedded within them, an aim and direction which is vertical.
  • Phil. 4:18 – “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
  • Heb. 13:16 – “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
  • Heb. 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
 Just as effort in sanctification need not conflict with dependence on God’s grace (another dichotomy that Tullian thrives on creating), likewise, aiming/directing our good works horizontally (to our neighbors) need not conflict with the vertically aimed/directed aspect of our works (to God).
Along with, David Murray, I’m perplexed by how Tullian is incessantly putting articles out trying to pit Biblical truths against themselves.

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December 11, 2012 | Posted in: Theology | Comments Closed

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