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Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

Title:    Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Author:   Tullian Tchividjian
Rating:   4 stars

j+n=nAs odd as it is to say it, this book is sure to irk many Christians due to Tchividjian’s emphasis on grace. The objection will be that we have to keep grace in check so that we don’t take the position that we “continue to sin that grace may abound”.  Tchividjian does not relent on grace. He preaches it on every page of this book. However like Paul, Tchividjian answers the objection that preaching grace will lead to antinomianism not by pointing the believer back to the law, but rightfully pointing to our union with Christ. We are united with Christ, we bear His righteousness, and as a result, “how can we who are dead to sin walk any longer therein?” The antidote to our propensity to want to merit favor with then God is found in understanding the gospel; but we also have a tendency to want to add to the gospel. That is what this book is about. Differentiating between the effects of the gospel (a sanctified life) and the gospel itself (Christ crucified).

The basic idea behind the book, as explained chapter three goes back to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters when he is laying out his strategy to Wormwood. Screwtape tells wormwood that his goal is to keep believers in the state of mind which he calls ‘Christianity And’. What does this look like today? Christianity and modesty…Christianity and courtship… Christianity and Israel… Christianity and youth ministry . . . etc. We tend to take Jesus and add things which are very good and then make Jesus plus that good thing a part of the gospel. We do this in ways which would surprise us and we can recognize that this has happened when we find ourselves seeking affirmation (from others and from God) in whatever good deed we tend to focus on.

Tchividjian argues that Jesus alone is the essence of Christianity and all of these other things which are good things must be subordinate to Christ. This is especially true for the believer in his/her battle with ongoing sin. Rather than returning to the law for Sanctification, Tchividjian encourages us to return to the pure gospel of Christ which results in good works motivated by gratitude.

If I have any complaints about the book it is Tchividjian’s style. He tends to be very repetitive, which is great for sermons but unnecessary in a book since the reader can go back and re-read something if they feel they missed a key point. He also tends to engage in hyperbole in order to illicit a reaction from those who might disagree with him (this insight was gained from a Reformed Pubcast inteview) and it is clear that he uses this tactic in the book. For what it is worth, I find that unnecessary and a bit distracting.

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